Now, I’ll admit the title of this blog has been inspired by the hashtag for Greta Gerwig’s amazing movie Little Women– #ownyourstory. I think it’s fantastic that we’re living in a world that encourages us to be ourselves, to be proud of our story and who we are. A world that is starting to embrace individuals, this is so important for the future and that of our children.
I think that this essence of “owning your story” is equally important in parenthood but it can be so much harder to do this when we become a parent. After all, it’s such a new and, in many ways, alien concept. For the majority of new parents we’ve had a lifetime of being responsible just for ourselves, and even if we’re in a relationship, we’re not responsible for our partner or spouse. Then – even though after nine months it’s expected – BAM! Our life changes forever, a little man or lady is now totally dependent on us, our story becomes blended in with theirs, we become their responsible adult 24/7 and life as we knew it no longer exists.
When I first became a mum I went from someone who knew her own mind, was fairly confident and not afraid to make decisions to someone who was asking questions about every little thing. Now, I know that is probably a fairly normal reaction, even if it didn’t feel that way. It was almost as though I was afraid to be a mum, my little man was (is and always will be!) so precious that the thought that I (along with my husband) was responsible for him scared the hell out of me. What did I know? How would I know? Would I ever know? Was I still going to feel this way when he turned 5? 15? 25?!!! To be honest I think I felt that I wasn’t up to the job and so I constantly turned to people who I knew were – my mum, my friends who were parents, parents online. I was scared to make any decisions all by myself. In fact I think I felt that I, Colette, the new mum, shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions all by myself. After all, I had no experience. You wouldn’t get a job if you had no experience so why should you become a parent?
Naturally I found a lot of comfort in talking to and reading about other experienced parents. They gave me guidance when I needed a guide and reassurance that I was only doing what can be expected of any parent, my best. But in that early parenthood bubble I didn’t stop to think about the sort of parent I wanted to be, what I could bring to my son’s life. The positives of me, Colette, being someone’s mum.
However, as time has gone on I’ve started to become more confident as a mum. I’ve begun to “own my parenthood”, realising that the way I will do things will differ from others and that’s ok. As long as my little boy is happy and well cared for I can be a parent in my own unique way, the same unique way that I own my life story. Of course there will be times when I wish I’d done things differently, made different decisions but that’s ok too, that’s a part of parenthood, a part of life. I’ve already made one decision, to do my best not to compare myself as a parent with others. I hate comparing myself to others anyway – although there are times when I just can’t help it – and it does sap the joy out of life, after all – “comparison is the thief of joy”. I think this is especially hard in this era of Instagram and Facebook, but it is counterproductive. I enjoy following other parents on Instagram but more for information than anything else. To be honest, I don’t have the money to compare myself to them – why do Instagram parents all seem to have endless pots of money when we’re constantly counting the pennies?!
One big way that I’m attempting to own my parenthood is by trying to not get stressed about things. Now pre-baby stress should have been my middle name, especially when it came to work, I’d stress about everything, I began to realise that I never actually relaxed, even when I was lying in bed at night relaxing I was actually clenching my jaw! It had become such a natural state for my face to be in I didn’t realise I was doing it! But it wasn’t a healthy way to be, both physically and mentally.
However, over the last few months I’ve starting to surprise myself when it comes to stress. I’m now starting to leave work where it should stay – at work. I generally don’t bring it home with me. Home is too busy for that! Then there’s being late, before I had my little man I wasn’t exactly known for my great time keeping but since having him I’ve got a lot better at it, but if for some reason I am late, be it because a dirty nappy delayed us getting out of the door, or that the traffic is worse than expected (there’s a lot of roadworks around here at the moment), I just accept that I can’t do anything about it. Even when the little man is crying because we’re stuck in a traffic jam I don’t panic; I just make sure that the soundtrack from The Greatest Showman is on as that’s guaranteed to calm him!
I know that I’m more than likely going to constantly look to other parents for advice for the rest of my life and that’s fine. I don’t have all the answers, none of us do, and it’s wise to ask for advice when we need it. However, at the same time that’s not going to stop me from owning my parenthood either. In order to be as good a parent as I can be I have to have confidence in my parenting abilities too. I believe that parenting is a mix of taking or seeking advice as well as having confidence in yourself.
It’s still early days and every day throws up new challenges, often making me question what I should do and whether I’m doing things right but then I look at my little boy’s happy smiling face and think, you know what? I think so far you’re doing ok.