Hello lovelies, fancy a cuppa?
Yes, I know it’s been a while. I said I was popping out for a bit and that was four months ago. Sorry! Turned out I needed more than just to refuel. I needed to stop. And regroup. And set out on a different path.
It seems that a lot of my friends have reached a similar place, almost as though at some point after having children you reach a crossroads, and you have to decide what it actually means to be you. Not a wife or partner, not a mother, not whatever role you’re doing to pay the bills, but actually you. It doesn’t seem to happen to everyone at the same time – it’s not the age of the children that brings you to that place. But at some point motherhood gives way to “so who am I again?”. And everyone has a different answer.
For some people this is a time of huge change. Relationships that felt like they would last a lifetime are no longer what we want. Or are undergoing massive strain, as a husband or partner reaches the same crossroads and wants to take a different path. Wedding season seems only a few summers ago but already some of those relationships are coming to an end. This is obviously emotionally devastating for those involved, especially where children are concerned, but can be and hopefully will be the start of new and healthier lives to come.
For others it is a gentler time, but still one of reflection. New hobbies, new interests, new careers, new training opportunities – there are lots of ways to reset and rediscover what you actually enjoy and what gives your life meaning.
We spend so many years searching for the right person with whom to share our life. Then we work out how we want to cement that relationship, often with a wedding being the result. Then, or perhaps before then, come children. That’s it, job done, credits roll, everyone lived happily ever after.
Except as we know, motherhood (and fatherhood) creates enormous challenges, and happily ever after is not the overriding experience. The early years of parenting are draining as well as joyful, and many posts on this blog explore the different aspects of those challenges. Many of us find the experience so defining that we make it a part of our lives to help others to face the same time period – setting up charities, campaigning for change, coming together to push for improvements and to stand together with other parents who are having similar experiences.
And then at some point, and again it is different for everyone, we emerge. Blinking into the sunlight, having either put those experiences behind us or feeling as though we have done everything we can to contribute to the ongoing and never ending work of making parenting and early family life just that little bit easier. And we wonder, as our children grow into little people of their own, who we were before parenthood engulfed us, and who we are going to be from now on.
For me, I have been re-discovering joy. Not that I have not been joyful for the past five years – there have been moments of intense joy. But I have not been carefree. Mental illness and the health of my youngest son have seen to that. And whilst no one in their mid to late thirties can ever be described as “carefree” I have certainly been remembering what it is like to kick back, dance on the sand, sing to the music and run in the fields. I have been remembering what it is like to love – both others and myself – for the pure joy of loving, instead of clinging on for dear life as the waves crash against us.
I am ready for new adventures. I am ready to be me without feeling a sense of obligation to try to change the world every day. I have contributed a fair bit. I am sure I will do so again. Right now I’m taking back. I thought I needed to refill my jug. It turns out I needed to put the jug down, leave it to get dusty, and go and run around in the sunshine.
I am still working with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital when it comes to breastfeeding support. I am still a part of the Growing Families team. I am still working with health visitors and parents to try to improve relationships between the two. But you will rarely see me on Twitter. I am not pushing against the tide so much these days. I have great affection for everyone I met on my campaigning journey and I love to see the things they are achieving and the changes their passion is creating. But I won’t be rejoining the party any time soon.
I’m just going to sit here and watch the sun set over the water. And feel thankful for all of the people who love me. I never doubted that I had wonderful people in my life. But some periods highlight that more than others. I am a very lucky lady. And I intend to enjoy that.