Three and a half years ago, with two Terror Tots under my belt, I composed a rather sobering post about my lack of self-fulfilment after becoming a Stay at Home Mum. If truth be told, it was a self-indulgent, miserable piece. And since all Mums know best, I listened to the advice of my own and did not publish it.
Fast forward to today however, and the feelings which are typically associated with Mums who aspire towards #more, but who simply don’t have the time, energy or confidence to make it happen, haven’t gone away. Stripped back, what are these feelings, are they justified and what the hell can Mums like me do about them, to positive effect?
So let’s talk about the Mums who #wantmore. These are the Stay at Home Mums, the career Mums, the Super Mums, the half-dressed Mums, the Mums with PHDs and the Mums with no qualifications, who answer to Mum first, their given name second. These are the busy women from all walks of life who, by default of having children, have become Mums, parents, carers and guardians first; intelligent, creative, ambitious and successful individuals second.
And as controversial as it may sound, when there are many women who want so desperately to be #justamum, there are plenty of us who #wantmore, in addition to our perfectly formed 2.4 families. Behind our stoic faces, our tarnished eyes and our hard-earned wrinkles, there is a struggle of two sides. Beneath our solicitous smiles, our knowing nods and our fragmented chat, there is a tale of two lives. And tucked away under the pillows which cushion our heavy, sleep-deprived heads, there is a dream of something #more.
Whatever the hell #more is. There is no set formula for #more. It is not as simple as a basic equation involving addition or multiplication. Trust me, I’ve done the maths. In fact, the #more that we all want so desperately is unique and specific to each and every one of us. For some, it might be the privilege of being able to pick up children from school, a flexible career or a comfortable work-life balance. For others, it might be the promise of a full night’s sleep, a helping hand at tea time or the chance to read a book in peace. Some understand their #more. But for others like me, the question of #more remains unanswered, as we toy with a myriad of interesting but ultimately empty ideas, which pass through our fingers as effortlessly as sand through a sieve, simply because we lack the confidence, energy and self-belief to hold on to them.
For in the humdrum of daily life, be that on the school-run or during the desperate commute home, from in front of “The Wiggles” or from behind a computer screen, we have lost sight of who we, as individuals, really are and who we have always aspired to be. We have become trapped in the sepia-tinged memories of our youth, the successes, hopes and dreams of our past now imprisoned as mere figments of imagination in the fortress of our Mummy minds. And we have become victims of our own self-limiting beliefs, quashing any ounce of motivation and sucking out any shred of ambition towards the bright, successful and independent future we had always dreamt of.
How can we see beyond what is in front of us now? How can we possibly be anything #more than who we are now? And how can we give to ourselves first, when there are others who need us #more? The feelings of selfishness are palpable, so much so, that Mums like me can be numbed into apathy, suppressing the yearning, snuffing the flame of ambition and stifling any sense of individuality we once laid claim to.
Call it #Mumguilt, if you like.
But the fact of the matter is, there is no need for guilt. Mums like us don’t love our children any less. We are no less happy, nor do we feel any less #blessed. And we don’t treat our children with any less love than they deserve. We are simply suffocating under piles of washing, burning under the heat of the iron and tiring under the strain of our load. Dare I say it, we have become slaves to what we are doing and are at risk of robbing ourselves (and everyone else) of the rich value we are so able to impart.
But what are we to do about it? How can we dig ourselves out from under a catacomb of cynicism towards the light and plant the seeds of self-confidence that will enable us to grow again? How can we wipe out the sense of defeatism that threatens to crush us before we face our greatest challenges? And most importantly, how can we become who we so desperately want to be, at the expense of nobody and nothing else?
The answer is right now, we possibly can’t. But in time, when our circumstances dictate, we will be able to. In the meantime, we need to create space for ourselves where there is a vacuum. We need to spark up belief from where there is just a flicker. And we need to derive value from where we stand right now. We must remind ourselves that we are hugely valuable simply by being Mums to our children. It is seriously OK to #wantmore. In fact, it is normal and bloody brilliant to #wantmore, whoever the hell you are! So forget #Mumguilt, this is #self-development, #self-care and #self-love, for the benefit of everyone around us. Let’s call it a #mumvestment. And only once we allow ourselves the space, self-belief and self-worth that we all deserve, can we begin to reclaim the #more that is rightfully ours.