Today is International Women’s Day.
But what does that really mean? It’s not a bank holiday. We don’t swap gifts, we don’t plan special family meals. We don’t go to religious ceremonies and we don't give all women the day off!
For me, in the past, this day has come and gone without even an upward glance. I’ve never really marked it, or paid much attention to it other than sending a tweet or joining in on a hashtag. You might think that’s so very apathetic of me. In part, yes it probably is. But I can say that this year for the first time in my life, I’m going to stop and pause. I’m going to make sure to take a moment to think about how incredible women are. How far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
So why the sudden change of heart?
The simple answer is that since becoming a mum, I’ve learned more about myself in this past year than I have in my entire life. On the one hand that sentence is at odds with everything I believe in, because I don’t believe that a woman’s worth is defined by whether she becomes a mother or not.
We are more than mothers, wives, sisters, daughters.
We are individuals.
In truth, I never thought I’d have kids. I always wanted kids, but you know, when I was all grown up and mature not when I was a 30 something year old girl! I always just assumed that by the time I settled down with a partner that it might be too late or I might not be able to conceive naturally.
Turns out I was wrong.
Because at the end of 2016 I became a mum. And all of a sudden my world shifted on its axis. But it wasn’t this euphoric moment where cherubs descended from on high and all of a sudden I found my purpose. It was the reverse. My own mind conspired against me and it was as if my identity was erased overnight. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
Overwhelmed and overcome, I was plunged head first into the hellish depths of post-natal depression. I drowned in darkness for months. Alone. Terrified. Hopeless. And yet somehow I kicked my way back to the surface. I had to find new depths of inner strength I didn’t know I had. Quite simply becoming a mum has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s changed me in so many ways and much as I hate to admit it, it has been a defining period of time in my life. I can’t deny it. Becoming a mum and overcoming PND is something that’s always going to be attached to my character and when I look into my sons deliciously blue eyes and hold him in my arms, I feel a love that I cannot put into words and I know he is always going to be my greatest accomplishment.
But does that mean my other achievements aren’t as important? I this all that I am? If I'd never become a mum would I not be worth as much?
Because as proud as I am of what I have achieved in my journey into motherhood, I’m also damn proud of my 30 odd years before that. Those things define me too. I’m proud that I worked my arse off to get a first class honours in my BA and my MA and write an award-winning thesis. Every time I have a feature published and see my by-line in print, it makes me smile inside. Every time a corporate copywriting client is happy with my work, it’s a huge win for me. Every time my writing gets shortlisted for an award, I celebrate. Every time I write a blog that helps another person, I feel happy. I'm proud that I rode horses for the best part of 25 years and got back up every time I fell off. I'm proud I challenged myself by competing at regional and national level jumping some massive jumps that I'd never consider doing now. I'm happy I travelled to so many wonderful countries, that I have a metal plate in my ankle, that I've snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef, that I've learned how to bake, that I failed in business, that I started again, that I mastered shorthand and have plucked up the courage to start a podcast and even go on the radio.
Every failure, every challenge, every success has shaped me as a woman.
What I’ve learned is that no matter what we do with our lives, be it motherhood, be it career, be it both, be it something else altogether, women are incredible. This past year I’ve met and encountered some truly inspiring women. Women who have inner strength beyond measure. Women who are mothers, women who are not. Women who define themselves by their character, by their accomplishments, by their determination and by their love. And when we come together to support each other, I mean really support each other without any bitchiness, without any malice, without any judgement, without any other agenda other than support, there really is nothing we cannot do.
So today, I will pause and salute you my fellow women.