I’m a happier mum when I work.
For some reason, it’s been really hard to admit that to myself over the last 19 months of motherhood. In fact, truth be told I’m only really getting to verbalise it now. It’s as if it’s a thought that’s been rattling around at the back of my mind for the last while and has only now found the courage to surface.
Why do I feel at odds with the statement though? Because, it’s 100% true.
I think for me, saying it out loud is an indication that on some level, I’ve failed at being a stay at home mum. As a freelance writer, the nature of my work is such that it's done from home, or really anywhere I've got my laptop and wifi with me. When my son was born I made the conscious decision to be a stay at home mum, who still worked part time from home. It sounded like the perfect solution, but it's a tough juggling act to perfect. Indeed I've still not perfected it and there lies the problem. By admitting that I'm happier when I work somehow felt like I am saying being a mum is not enough to satisfy me on it's own; that there’s something wrong with me because deep down in my DNA, being a mother is supposed to satisfy me… isn’t it?
Isn’t that what society tells us? Aren’t we all subliminally raised to be mammies? The hidden subtext of the social order is that women are supposed to take on this monumental moniker of motherhood with open arms and not just accept it, but embrace it? And if you don't, you're the suspicous 'other.'
It’s no secret that I struggled with the transition to becoming a mum. I suffered with Post-Natal Depression after my baby boy was born. I was drowning in a feeling over being completely overwhelmed. I was scared, I didn’t recognise the person staring back at me in the mirror. I cried every day and felt no connection to my baby. It was as if, on some level that I felt I wasn’t meant to be a mum. That I was no good at it that. I just didn’t have that maternal gene or instinct and there was something wrong with me for rejecting it.
Slowly but surely, things improved. I clawed my way out of the darkness and into the light. I started to find myself again. It wasn't the same me, she was a new person, but over time I allowed myself to accept her. However much I've recovered though, I do think my experience of PND makes admitting that I’m a happier mum when I work, so much harder.
Even though I know my PND was not my fault, that I did nothing wrong, that it was completely out of my control; anything admitting that I’m less than 100% enthused about being a mum seems like a defeat.
But here’s the thing I’ve come to realise - the two are not mutually exclusive.
I do love being a mum. I adore my little boy with every fibre of my being. I sometimes find myself staring at him, my eyes wide with a pure love I’ve never felt before. I want to eat his cheeks, getting his poop on my fingernails doesn’t bother me, the sound of his snores melt my heart, his farts are hilarious, his laugh is the best thing I’ve ever heard and sometimes when he lets me cuddle him I think I could die happy.
And that’s motherhood. It’s an insane, down in your bones sort of feeling you can never deny.
But in order for me to be whole, I need to remember that I’m also Niamh. I’m a person. I’ve given up a lot to be a mum, I’ve sacrificed a lot of personal freedoms and interests for my little boy. Most of that is gladly done, but I also need a little piece of something just for myself and my work as a writer is it! It refreshes my soul, gives me a creative outlet, allows me to think about something else other than my toddler for a few hours and allows me to come back to him with a little more light in my eyes.