Kayla a mindset coach, shares her fluctuating sense of loss of independence after becoming a mother and how the simple act of walking outside with a pram or baby carrier should be celebrated.
Before I was a mum, the main impression I had of motherhood was mum’s walking prams. It looked fun, it looked easy, it looked social. I was envious that as I was going to work, they were walking along the beachfront – outside, in nature. How lucky were they?
I’ve heard people judge “yummy mummy’s” for “wearing their fancy active wear” and strutting down the street with their prams and their keep cups. Oh! If only they knew the incredible array of scenarios that may have happened before that point. There’s no need to conjure up these scenarios when you’re not a parent but wow – you learn a few once you are!
For me, getting out with the pram means:
• I got enough sleep to function that day
• I got dressed* that day
• I’m not inside on the same couch, staring out the same window, at the same tree
• I don’t have a small human attached to my breast
• I am feeling a decreasingly familiar sense of freedom and independence
* ‘dressed’ is a loose term that usually means a top that smells like milk and one of the three pairs of tights I have on rotation.
Essentially, I am getting a well-deserved break from the relentlessness of parenting a newborn/parenting full stop.
Never have I experienced such a paradox, or such duality, as I have in motherhood. Every day feels like an equal combination of the most heartfelt love, elation and wonder – as well as helplessness, frustration, loneliness and, for me, also a deep sadness at times. Oh, and there’s resentment towards my partner creeping in there as well. Ironically, the two are mutually exclusive. The love I feel for my son, and the privilege it is to parent him, is one thing. The fluctuating sense of loss I feel in terms of my independence and sense of self is another – and this is what I’m struggling with.
There is an element of fear that crops up when I consider talking about this side of becoming a new mum and I’ve noticed the same fear in other mums too. Perhaps it’s fear that people might think we don’t love being a mum or that we don’t love our babies as much as we do? Maybe we don’t want people to think that our babies are difficult children? Maybe we don’t want people to think we can’t cope/are weak? Maybe we don’t want to sound ungrateful for the miracle that it is or make any negative associations with something so beautiful?
Whenever I talk about the hard parts, these fears are compensated by deliberate counter-comments that I catch myself saying like “oh but he’s an easy baby” or “being a mum is the best thing that’s ever happened to me”. These things are true, but why do I feel like I must assert them? Why can’t I just talk about how challenging being a mum is when I know that every other mum is experiencing the same as me? Why do I get the sense that it’s a competition?
Staying extremely present and taking everything as it is ‘now’ is allowing me to be a relaxed, attentive and loving mother, and this is reflected in my baby’s nature, but that doesn’t mean I am exempt from moments of total isolation and a painful grieving process for my previous life – the life that has now passed. RIP old life. I am a mindset coach and I am passionate about my business because it feels like the work that I am meant to be doing in this lifetime but every moment I’m in my new role as a mother is a moment I am not in my role as a business owner and coach because it’s impossible to do both – I’d be doing one badly if I tried. That is painful for me. Watching my partner and friends go to work every day, watching my peers have successes in their business knowing that every single day I am 100% committed to my baby is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced.
It’s like I have two emotional bodies living inside me at once. One feels nothing but unconditional (and I mean that in the absolute definition of the word) love but ironically causes another which feels like the world is moving forward without me.
Today I got a quote for sending my 14-week old baby to day care for two half days a week. The guilt I feel about that is horrendous. “Make the most of these precious moments”, “they grow out of this stage so fast” people say. I appreciate that, but it doesn’t make it easier for me to sit on a play mat for hours and hours and hours thinking of ways to entertain a small human and keep his brain and body stimulated. There are days where I run out of ideas – done the mirror, the swiss-ball, aeroplanes, outside time, toy time, rolling – and it’s only 1pm! I’m paranoid that I am hindering his mental or physical development with my lack of creativity and I feel so bad when I cry in front of him. I feel even worse if I am on my laptop sending an email while he is awake.
As a mindset coach myself, should I not have all the answers? At times I start questioning my credibility and even though I know it’s perfectly ok to take a while to adjust and transition when changes happen in our lives, when you have no adults to talk to you can have some pretty crazy conversations with your mind!
Google says that post-natal depression is: depression suffered by a mother following childbirth, typically arising from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue. Yup, I’d say that’s accurate. There’s also this other small thing that happens where life as you knew it comes to a complete and abrupt end and you must re-calibrate any ideas you had for your future.
Who wouldn’t struggle with that? My sense is that all Mum’s must to some extent. Does that mean we all have post-natal depression (or post-natal anxiety)? Or does this just come with the hormonal territory?
Once you cross the threshold of birth you become part of an ancient sisterhood of mothers who just know. Deep understanding, empathy, love and support can be shared between mothers who have never met by simply making eye contact. It’s like learning the secret handshake of the Freemasons. You join this unnoticed daylight underbelly. Thank god, or this would be the most isolating journey of my life.
Oh, but now it’s a few days since I wrote this piece and I feel completely different! What will I feel tomorrow?
Will he decide that his timings are all different and make me read his temperamental signals?
Will he poo through to two outfits and his car seat?
Will he cry? Will I cry? Or will it be all smiles?
Only tomorrow will tell.
Three months into this roller-coaster and there are two things I know for sure:
1. They say you don’t know someone until you’ve walked a day in their shoes and I now take back any judgments I ever made about mothers, and their shoes; and
2. A parent outside with a pram (or baby carrier) should be celebrated!
Kayla is also the co-founder of @consciousactionnz; a conscious community raising awareness and inspiring meaningful action.