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  • Writer's pictureNiamh O'Reilly

Remember You're Not Just A Mum...

Since I became a mum, I’ve begun to realise the importance of getting in the picture. I talk about it often because it’s crucial that mums get out from behind the camera and into the pictures.

I adore looking back at the old photo albums in my folk’s house. I love looking at the flares, the retro haircuts, the flowery shirts, but mostly I love seeing the un-posed, real pictures of us all together. The red eye, the bad lighting, the questionable fashion choices, all of it; because it’s our lives. It's not flaws. It's us. Living, loving, laughing, the good, the bad; being a normal family.

I know when my boys grow up, the idea of a physical family album is probably not going to exist in the traditional sense. It’s more likely to be in some cloud or even more abstract piece of technology I probably won’t be ofay with, but even still, I want them to have pictures with their mum in it. Even on the days when I look like absolute dogshit, because they won’t care. They won’t scrutinise over my double chin or dark circles, they’ll see their mum, loving them, living life with them.

But that said, when someone gets the camera out to take a picture of just me, not mum me or wife me, my first reaction is to hide. I immediately think, ‘oh no I look awful, or I’ve no makeup on, or I’ve a bad breakout, or my hair is greasy, or I look really fat today,’ etc, etc. Yet if it’s a ‘mum and kid’ picture for future posterity I make an exception and try and shut off my inner critic and get in the picture. Yet if it’s me alone, I can’t. It’s too much scrutiny. It’s just me. There’s nowhere to hide.

But that’s got to change.

Think about it. When was the last time someone took a picture of you? Just you. Not a goofy selfie, not you being a mum or a wife. Just a picture of you doing something you enjoy that has nothing to do with your kids?

So long you can’t remember???

Me too. Until last week that is, when a friend took a snap of me in the sea.

Part of me thinks I look a bit like a well-nourished seal popping her head out of the waves, but nevertheless, I love it.

I love it because it’s ‘just me.’ I’m not Mammy in this picture. I’m not a wife. I’m not the multitude of worries, demands and anxieties that normally reside on my shoulders each and every day. I’m just Niamh. Swimming. By herself. Smiling. Living. Remembering there’s a world outside my children. Remembering that I’m my own person too.

I’m happy. In fact I think you can see that happiness is radiating out of my salty face!

And that’s not to say I’m not happy any other time. I love my boys, I’m lucky to be their mum and I’m very happy to do it most of the time, but on my way along this whole motherhood gig, I’ve definitely lost a bit of my identity. At first much of that was due to the post-natal depression I went through. But as I got better, I began to realise that becoming a mum means that you don’t truly belong to yourself anymore. I think I struggled with that at the start. I think I panicked. I think due to my post-natal depression, I saw it as a loss instead of simply a change.

These days, I’ve reconciled the fact that sometimes I don’t really belong to myself anymore, I belong to these two small humans I created and that is truly amazing, but I now recognise that there are times I need to feel like me again.

Being a mum to two smallies can be all consuming. If I’m not with them or looking after their needs, I’m thinking about them. It’s all about them and not so much about me. And that’s motherhood in a nutshell. You put the needs of your children before your own and they come first. I happily do that, but there has to be room for mums to feel like their own person.

Simply put, mums just need a break to be themselves again and over the last year or so that’s been practically impossible due to Covid-19. Pressure has been magnified, while opportunities to get time away from motherhood has been expunged from existence... if anything the blurring of the work / childcare lines has ratcheted the demands on mums up to 11!

I would urge you mamas, to take any and all opportunities to do something for you. Something where you’re not being a mum, or someone’s other half. Something you’re doing just for you. Something that brings you joy. Something that reminds you that you’re still you.


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