I've been struck down by something recently. It's had a really powerful affect on me, it's pulled the rug from underneath my feet and made me feel, well a bit like I'm on some sort of drugs (well what I imagine drugs to feel like as the only drugs I've ever had have been administered in a hospital!). And yet the feeling makes me want to dance in the street, stop strangers and share this profound feeling with them and sing from the rooftops. Yes, I've fallen in love.
Now you may be a bit confused. I have been with my partner for five years and I love him dearly, although his empty sweet packets on the floor, stupid adult onesie 'bed outfit' and weird television choices do tend to, frankly, drive me nuts. I do love him, deeply. However he is not the recipient of my gooey-eyed adoration. My son is.
I'm not saying I've only just started to love him obviously! He's 18 months old and if I'd taken this long to love him then I would have hoped I'd have had a knock on the door from social services and the men in white coats! Of course I've loved him, protected him etc as we all do. But it's really feeling like now he's got this amazing personality I'm just falling more and more in love with him. He's the true love of my life.
Oddly though, I'm not writing this post out of dedication to my love for him (otherwise I would have advised you to reach for the sick buckets already!) it's actually sort of the opposite. After all, we all love our children like this don't we. That's what being a mummy is all about. That and the joyous sleepless nights which tend to be the trademark.
What I am talking about though is not letting being a mummy define us. I have found this harder than ever before since my love and adoration for Joshua is multiplying on an hourly basis. I feel like I want to dedicate every element of my life, soul and being to Joshua. He deserves every single part of me. He's my child and I would give him my life if he needed it. But, this has likewise had me thinking recently, what about me, Chloe? There are days when not a single non-mummy thought enters my brain. At all. Those days are consumed with toddler meal times, nappy changes, playing games, occupying said toddler, banging head against brick wall over unconsolable toddler in full tantrum mode etc. In fact I would say most days tend to go like this. But I've realised how important it is to keep a very tiny bit of myself back. Just for me. Up until this point I've felt a teensie bit guilty over it. But now I realise this is actually the key to being the most succesful parent that I can be. Rather than it being a sign or failure that I don't let my son have every single element of me and my life.
I'm happy to let being a parent be my top priority, let it consume me, drive me, motivate me and make me question everything, including myself. But what I can't allow being a parent to do is to control everything. I liken it to this simple equation: Chloe= 99% parent and 1% person. That ratio is fine, because I'm giving a much higher portion of myself to Joshua but also retaining something, however small just for me. We all need to do this because if we wrap ourselves up in our children too much then we are effectively loosing touch with ourselves and the world too.
I have several friends who are excellent parents. But, I see they are only parents now. They don't really have a relationship with their partners, they don't have interests or hobbies, they don't seem to do anything that isn't for their childs benefit. And deep down I feel sad for them. As great as they are at parenting, there is still a person behind the parent label that they have forgotten or even worse chosen to cast aside. I want to shake them and tell them to go out for dinner with a friend, go to the cinema and watch a rubbish film just for the sake of it or even just go for a walk around town and a mooch around the shops on their own. Anything that gives them something for them. But I don't because it's not my place. But what I do take from them is seeing this and not wanting to be perceived like this. Not only do I not want people to think I am like this, but I also myself, don't want to be like this.
Being defined by labels is easy to be done. But it doesn't make it right. Most of the time I am happy to be defined as Chloe the Mummy but it's important that occassionally I remind myself that I'm Chloe the writer, the scrapbooker, the film watcher. Chloe who picks rubbish films and pretends they were great, Chloe who cries at songs that touch her and Chloe who would love nothing more than a shopping spree on her own and some major pampering time! I feel that by reminding myself I have a personality outside of the parent label I'm also able to offer something to my partner, my friends, myself and most importantly my son.
For me it doesn't take much, the odd hour when my son and partner go for a walk and I can laze on the sofa and watch something rubbish on tv during the day and know that I should be doing the ironing/cleaning/washing etc but to hell with it! I take those moments and watch tv, do some scrapbooking, do some writing etc. I do these things to remind myself of who I am. And you know what? It's those times when I really, really like me. I like who I am. And it's also those times when I really, really love being a mummy. I guess it's nice to be able to reflect on being a mummy sometimes, rather than spending every second being consumed by it.
So what is it that you do to 'switch off' from time to time? Do you agree that it's important to hold something back for yourself and to have some snippet of a life, of an interest away from your child? Or do you think that you have to cast aside yourself to be a parent? I would genuinely like to know what you think.
Love Chloe xx
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