I’m writing to you from the comfort of our cosy living room, just after the kids have all gone to bed. It’s properly cold outside as winter’s death throes remind us that spring is coming, but certainly not here yet. The flu is slowly passing after weeks of intense sickness: chest-tickling, night-interrupting, energy-sapping bastard that it is. It’s honestly the first time I’ve been sick like that since pneumonia about 20 years ago. Not rating it highly.
This sickness has had one other symptom as well: it has stripped me bare.
I suddenly had to rely on the kindness of others to actually get through the day because, as they say, ‘mums who work within the home don’t get days off‘. It is often said in a kind of ironic way, even though it is just true. I was literally unable to look after the one-year-old that has been my day and night companion since he was born, let alone my other two kids, nor myself. I was very lucky to be able to eek out a couple of days of rest simply because my husband refused to go to work and leave me on my own. I don’t know what I would have done back in the days when I was a single parent (before Family Part II happened).
We have a simple and beautiful life here in Bath. My main challenges over the past year have been related to the basic daily trials of parenting three children and a husband who works away most of the week.
It’s occasionally trying and difficult but on a scale of things, I’ve been cruising from weekend to weekend. Then I got ill and suddenly remembered how nothing is a given.
Absolutely nothing can be taken for granted, and at the centre of our entire experience of life is how we are in ourselves.
Since being sick for just a few weeks (not even with anything serious, let’s be honest), something has changed. I don’t feel so driven to achieve some of the frivolous things I was considering important. I’ve come back to myself.
Somehow the coughing all night and subsequent lacklustre days in bed have awoken a memory of who the woman within the mum really is.
The wildness is returning. I don’t know if it’s because the baby is now one and in some small part less dependent. Even if that’s the reason, something more esoteric is definitely shifting. I am recalling that we often make choices in the daily conundrums of life that sell ourselves short.
Sometimes being a mother eclipses all other parts of our being. Sometimes we just don’t feel we have time to be ourselves amidst the nappies, wash cycles and mundanities of life at home. And then a small roar rings out. That part of us that yearns to say “fuck” instead of, “oh really, that’s nice” begins to stir.
The authentically messy and imperfect elements of my inner-self are resurfacing.
I no longer wish even a little bit for the perfect Instagram-worthy home. I no longer yearn for children who are clean-faced and wear pressed clothing. Instead, I stand here, just me as I am, telling it like it is, authentically exhausted and happy – struggling one moment and laughing ecstatically the next.
The truth is, I am a photographer who hasn’t been taking pictures and an educator who has taught too few classes.
I am a writer who can barely manage one blog post a month. And who cares? I refuse to put the box on and narrow my parameters. I can be a mum who says “fuck” from time to time. I can be a whole person, and still be a fantastic parent and stay at home mum. And woe-betide anyone who tells me, ‘yes, I know, I know exactly how you feel’…. because NOBODY does. We are all different and we are all creating our existence one small moment at a time with infinite variations.
So from now on, I promise I will never say, “yes, I know, I understand” until I really have listened to you. I will rather give you ultimate permission to be YOU, and do YOU and bring up YOUR family in YOUR way. I would much rather see you bring all of yourself to the table and tell me the story of your day that includes the awkward farts and the knots in your daughter’s hair that you had to cut out because you didn’t have the time nor patience to comb it. I want the real version. I want you to ROAR it to me like the lioness that you are.
As a woman and a mother who works in the home, there is so little time and space for me to be just me. In some ways, I run my own race, but in others, I feel completely beholden to these small humans we have created. They dictate when I shower when I toilet, and when I eat. They decide my schedule with their sleep and their multitude of needs. Although I’d have it no other way (truly, I do love it), that doesn’t mean it’s not the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. And yes, I can easily lose myself.
So here and now I declare, I’m reclaiming my authentic self to come along for this ride with me. Let my children see me as the wild and woolly creature that I am. Let my daughter understand that perfection is a muddy boot and a howling cry at the moon more than a sparkling clean kitchen. Let my son understand that this woman he calls ‘mum’ is a multi-dimensional and whole person.
It is a season of love and regrowth – valentines day and the end of winter (here in the northern hemisphere). Bring on the sun, I say. Bring on the warmer and longer light of day, and while we’re there may you find the glow of your true self so you can bask in it.
Let us do us, and leave the being somebody else to somebody else.
I wish you all the power you need to bust out of your shell and bring your authentic self with you to the supermarket, the mother’s group and the school pickups. I hope you find your perfect way to shamelessly and authentically express a little bit more of who you are in your day-to-day.
Please tell me your stories, tell me your truths, I am excited to see your sparkling souls shine through.
Photo by Rich Turley Photography