Prior to pushing two humans out of my person, I had a fairly decent idea of who I was and what I stood for. I was the cheery, chatty, curvy, clumsy, and hungry member of my peer group – naive, bighearted and optimistic. I loved loving, dancing and curry chips. I formed lifelong friendships in the queue for garlic/cheese chips at Abrakebabra and I once shared a car boot with a sheepdog when I accepted a lift to Ballincollig from a random farmer I met on the street at 3 o’ clock in the morning. I knew the blurb from the Buckfast label off by heart. The world was a friendly place and I was at the centre of it. However, my optimism and naivety got me pregnant at 22, living with a man I had known for two weeks, scrambling for funds and too frantic to care about myself or what my personal goals were. I hobbled out of the Royal United Hospital in Bath (UK) with an unwanted fiancé (no offence Sean) on one arm and a little person whose life depended on me in the other. It was bloody terrifying. I sometimes wonder if the midwife binned my old identity with the placenta? It started from the moment I took my first pee after childbirth. I went to tentatively wipe my bits and was horrified to discover that my bits were no longer present. The hospital had somehow replaced them with someone else’s less neat and perfect vajayjay. I didn’t like this new one at all. My old noony was a pavlova and this new one was more of an Eaton mess. They had also attached a kangaroo pouch to my formerly taut stomach and it had welts on it. I didn’t remember getting whipped during the labour but then again, it had all been so chaotic and generally unpleasant that I might not have noticed. I was also coming to terms with the fact that I had peed on my husband’s flip flops during the delivery. I was now apparently someone who peed on people.
For the first year, I read every parenting book I could get my hands on in an effort to mould myself into an alpha mum like the ones I met at the baby and toddler group. Bugaboo pushing, blow dried, fresh faced Pilates pioneers who somehow managed to prepare exotic, organic baby meals from the contents of their abundant vegetable patches while simultaneously executing squats and lunges with a child hanging from either nipple. In hindsight, I don’t know why I wanted to be like them. Bath is very affluent. Each baby and toddler meeting was like a chapter of the Hunger Games. Mothers forming temporary relationships to move up the pecking order but essentially going head to head against one another. It was a death match to determine who could shift the weight the quickest, who went on the most family activities, breastfed the longest, looked the least tired and was under the least financial pressure. No one talked about tv, music, personal interests outside parenting or future plans. At the group nights out, everyone discussed what they had done with their babies on the days that they hadn’t been “at group”. I remember going for a meal with them before leaving the UK and seeing my friend across the restaurant. He was attending a get together for recovering alcoholics and I was so envious. I knew their stories would be so much more entertaining than the ‘mom diaries’. Don’t get me wrong, I love motherhood but I’m aware that I’m the only one who found the colour of my baby’s stools interesting.
I, like so many other mammies have spent years in a whirlwind of responsibility and duty, chasing my tail and just trying to keep the show on the road. It wasn’t until recently, now that the kids are a bit more independent that I started evaluating who I have become and I realised I was a bit of a nobody. I’ve taken on work to pay bills. I had gotten in such a habit of accommodating my kids’ needs that it became a habit that applied to all aspects of my life and I would do anything for anybody (even when I didn’t really have the time). When a local bully heckled and intimidated me on the street or spread crazy stories about me, I avoided going out or went to my parents rather than confronting the issue. I wasn’t fiery or emotional. I was just nobody. My life had become a survival mission and another day to get through as opposed to the mad, exciting adventure that it was supposed to be and had been before I got into this slump. Getting naked, painted and cycling around the city, wearing only my flab and insecurity was what it took to shake me out of my apathy. I wasn’t just disgusted with my sweaty, saggy form. I was pissed off that the Naked Bike Ride was the first mad thing I had done in years and I didn’t recognise the boring, emerald green ogre in the giant mirror. (Nothing will depress you like the site of your painted self in a wall of mirrors)
The great thing about having no identity anymore is that you can make the new one as impressive as you want. So I recently sat down and asked myself who the feck am I? Who do I want to be from now on? I genuinely believe that this is a conscious choice we make. I am the proud and accepting owner of a vagina that has childbirth related PTSD..a vagina which loudly protests when I try to do a shoulder stand or plough pose. I am someone who is glad she peed on her husband’s flip flops because he was the cause of her temporary incontinence and his bits didn’t have to suffer. I regret not following through with a turd. I am an imperfect mother with stains on my clothes and floor, crumbs on my worktop, an overflowing laundry basket, disheveled children and no routine. I am not a gardener. In fact, as far as plants are concerned I am Jeffrey Dahmer. Sometimes I am a Masterchef and other times I feel like I am putting the heirs to several convenience food brands through college…It generally depends on where I am in my menstrual cycle. I hate exercise. I feel smelly and unattractive while I’m doing it. I have no grace or coordination and I am the the weak link in every exercise class but I love the results. I love my friends. I love my friends to the extent that if any of my best friends called me at 4am, told me they had somehow ended up going home with a pensioner, had inadvertently killed them during rigorous sex and needed help with the body…I’m thinking I’d be there with lime and a shovel within the hour. My kids fry my brain, are ensuring my gradual descent into madness and mentally abuse me through constant demands and complaints on an hourly basis but they are my biggest achievement, my best friends and my favourite part of being alive. I am consciously deciding not to react to the bully on my doorstep. She showcases her weakness through her mean behaviour and I show my strength through my silence. I wish her well because that’s how I roll. I am more patient, reasonable and competent since becoming a mum but parenthood doesn’t define my personality and it is only one of lots of skills that I’ve acquired (like fanny farting while doing a shoulder stand and balancing a mop handle between my boobs). I want to try new things and have hundreds of adventures. I want Gerard Butler to eat peanut butter off my person and I’m going to remain open and positive so that the Universe makes that happen for me. That’s who I decide to be.
So if you are just Mum or Dad today, you’ve lost your mojo amongst the nappies, playdates and school runs and you have decided there might be more out there for you, why not sit down right now and decide who you want to be tomorrow because the only limits out there are the ones you give yourself.