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  • Niamh

Struggling To Be A Selfless Mammy

I’m selfish.

There I said it.

It’s not something you’re supposed admit to being, when you are a mum. There’s this image, especially in Ireland of the ‘selfless Irish mammy’, who always puts herself second and her kids first.

Sure I’m grand,’ is her response if anyone enquires about how she is.

She takes on an almost divine quality in our minds, because when most of us think back on our own mums during our childhood, she was completely selfless.

I can never remember my mum doing nice things for herself when I was small. She never got to have a spa day or a girl’s weekend away. She didn’t complain about never getting a lie-in or not being able to go out with her friends or simply go shopping for herself when she wanted. She never lamented about not being able to have lazy brunches with my dad, or longed for a lavish mini break on a whim.

She never did any of those things.

She was always there for me and my brother. We came first in her life above anything else.

She was the epitome of the selfless Irish mammy.

Now that I am a mum, I can truly appreciate how self-sacrificing she was, because being less selfish was something I wrestled with after my son was born.

I’ve blogged before about how I struggled after I gave birth to my baby boy last December. I was completely overwhelmed, I was anxious, nervous, stressed and I felt as if I lost my identity. I believe I was suffering with some form of post-natal depression and for the first couple of months things got very dark for me. Thankfully, I came out the other side, but part of my road to recovery has involved me writing about my feelings. I like to examine what happened as a form of catharsis. As I’ve gone further along my motherhood journey, I’ve realised that part of my struggle was getting to grips with this huge responsibility, as up until then, I had been a completely selfish person.

I became a mum at 33. That was 33 years of putting myself first. That was 33 years of pretty much doing whatever I wanted, when I wanted without having to really consider anyone else’s wishes too deeply. And when the reality of motherhood hit me last December, it was a short, sharp, shock to my senses and it made me realise how selfish I had been. I could no longer do anything without considering my little boy first.

Even a trip to the shops or simply bringing the dog for a walk involved my son. I couldn’t make a cup of tea or jump into the shower without considering him. I had to, for the first time in my life, truly put someone else ahead of myself. And it was a massive adjustment. What compounded things was that I didn’t bond with him from the word go. In my mixed up, terrified, overcome, hormonal mind, he was this little invader who had come along and changed every facet of my body, my mind and my life. Truly, it wasn’t until we started to bond that the transition to being less selfish became so much easier, because I found that I would literally do anything for this precious baby boy of mine.

Today, I don’t know whether I’m anywhere near the level of selflessness of my own mum, but I do put by little boy first every day, in a million different ways and the amazing thing is, I enjoy doing it. I now don’t resent the fact that my sons needs come before mine. I don’t mind not getting to eat my own dinner until 9pm, or that my back and knees hurt from carrying him around all day. I don’t resent that I can’t turn on my laptop and write when the mood strikes me. I don’t begrudge the fact that a shower is now a luxury and that lie-ins are a thing of the past. I don’t pine for the days when I could go shopping on a whim or feel bitter that the height of my social life is now falling asleep in front of Gogglebox on a Friday night.

I still miss a lot of those things of course and the thoughts of soaking on a hot bath for an hour or getting to read a good book by myself are luxuries I value a lot more, but I don’t feel this sense of resentment about the huge change to my life either.

It’s the strangest feeling in the world.

Does it make me selfless or selfish?

I don’t know…

I think it just makes me a mum.

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