Close mates of mine are considering trying for bambinos soon and they’ve been asking me questions, a lot of questions, so this post is for them, and for you, if you’re worried that having babies might take over your brain and warp who you are.
I’ve known some of my best friends since we were children and we often remark how despite birthing a classroom of kids between us, we’ve not really changed. Not that much. We’re still silly and immature when we want to be (my dad is still immature in his 60s bless him), love a night out, chatting for hours on the phone/Fb and frankly having a LAUGH in caps. If anything, kids make life more fun because you get to be a kid again, living vicariously through the little people you made. Move over kids, Mama wants a go on the swing!
Straight up, I’m still the same person I always was, now I have two boys. My personality is intact. My mates without kids are often surprised by this. It’s as if the media has sold them this story that becoming a parent is so flipping transformative, you end up becoming a completely different person. Alien has a lot to answer for too, obvs.
I was sure that would happen to me too, before my first son was born. That I’d wake up more ‘mumsy’ somehow, less motivated, creative, not as interested in fashion and music, more muted and boring somehow.
Look, motherhood is transformative. It does irrevocably change you but not to the extent you might imagine, and 7 years on as a mum, I can say definitely not for the worse either (despite the eye bags and the tougher times).
You still have same dreams and desires once you become a parent. If anything, kids made me more creative, ambitious and focused, you become savvier with your time as it’s more limited and you become stricter with who and what receives your energy because it’s so precious.
After the tough first year (it’s tough for most) where hormones, sleep deprivation and caring for your baby takes over your life for the most part, things get easier and you adapt to the dysfunction.
I returned to directing when Oliver turned 1 and then my blogging career started when he was 10 months old, turned full time by the time my second son, Alexander was born. The shock of new motherhood dissipated eventually and I got into the swing of things. I slowly began to feel I was doing a good job of motherhood. I got the hang of it. How to survive the sleepless nights and function in a body I didn’t quite recognise, even learning to love myself again.
This post isn’t dispelling how tough motherhood can be. I suffered a traumatic birth and never felt worse after the birth of my first son. Yet, once the sun came out again thanks to a super therapist, this blog and move closer to home happened, I rediscovered my old self and felt content. More content than before.
Once you’re through the sleep-induced ‘who am I, anymore?’ phase, the physical and emotional changes, at the core, you’ll find you’re the same person you always were.
I still love cocktails with my girlfriends, even if those times are less frequent now, when they happen they’re MORE fun and wild because I don’t get out as much and value you them more. I’m the last on the dance floor and the latest to bed. Yes hangovers hurt more the next day when kids jump on your head at crazy o’clock, but they’re worth it for all the laughter from the night before.
The same goes for my annual girly holidays usually timed with the Cannes Film Festival merging my love of film and partying in one.
Whilst my kids are my life, it’s important to state that my children fit into mine and my husband’s lives.
Of course I’ve become more selfless as a parent because my kids are my biggest responsibility: keeping them healthy and happy means everything to me, but that doesn’t mean my own aspirations and goals go out of the window now I have parental duties. My kids often accompany me on work trips on weekends and in the holidays which expands their minds, inspires creativity in them, and gives them a greater understanding and appreciation of what my job is (although it no doubt doesn’t feel like a job to them). They’ve holidayed in countries all over the world, attended film premieres and festivals, accompanied me on charity visits and even cooked with Jamie Oliver. Talk about an education.
They also value the ‘real me’, the person, not a fabricated mum persona I’ve appropriated just because I’ve procreated.
They know me as their ‘slightly embarrassing’ (as my 7 year old informs me), artistic mama who blogs and vlogs her way through life- someone who likes to learn dance routines to Justin Bieber’s music videos (enduring a bout of sciatica after, no less) who always speaks that bit too loudly (and honestly) and loves to sing along to Sean Paul, Ed Sheeran and the non-sweary tracks of Drake in a car she’s renamed ‘the club’.
By being myself, I’ve taught them to be themselves too.
Recently, they’ve watched some of my film and TV work, from my directing days (asking me millions of questions and importantly, when I’ll make my next film) which was quite surreal-my own kids watching stories I got on screen, before they were even born, and they relish bedtime story time, where we flit between Roald Dahl classics and my own invented narratives bursting with characters created just for them. Who knows, Ninja Mama might make it into the pages of a kid’s book one day…My sons are literally the only people in the world who appreciate my singing voice too, demanding the score of Bugsy Malone most nights with dance moves from Tallulah, of course.
Oh how I love them for it. I love me for it, too. The fact I let them see the real me and didn’t stop sharing who I was or what I loved, because of them, and more so, that they love me more for it.
Most importantly, we have a laugh together. My kids are my best mates and I don’t care if that sounds strange to some people, it’s the truth. Yes I impose boundaries and practise discipline but we have a heck of a lot of fun together as a family.
It’s the same with my husband, whenever we get 5 minutes together or 2 hours if it’s the rare date night, we revert back to the olden days, meeting as uni students, pre-kids. People don’t ever really change.
So if you’re about to have a baby, please know this, yes your life will change, how could it not? You’ve gone from running your own schedule and owning your free time to birthing a baby who will change all of that. Who will change your life in a profoundly emotional way too. That you can’t live without them. They become your limbs. That you will experience unconditional love that buoys you up and brings you down in equal measure because you love so deeply and will no doubt worry incessantly because that’s motherhood..
This new normal is scary at first, being assigned a baby without a manual, feeling out of your depth and unsure you’ve got this… and with that is an unspoken pressure that you can no longer be the you you’ve come to know until this point. That it’s time to be ‘mum’ whatever that means.
Well, we all feel that way at first, that a part of us died during childbirth (but really a mama was born too) and soon enough, you’ll rediscover yourself again and will find, like I have, that you’ve really not changed that much at all.
That you don’t have to feel guilty for being you and still wanting all the things you did before your child came along. You’ll just be more tired. A lot more tired. For like 18 years but that’s OK. Sleep is for the weak right *wails.
Now go ‘do you’. Your kids will love you for it, I know it.
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Mumboss: The Honest Mum's Guide to Surviving and Thriving at Work and at Home (UK 2nd Edition)