Hannah Davison almost lost herself in motherhood but a subtle shift in time-management made all the difference to her identity.
Ours was a ‘car fails to take the bend’ conception directly followed by a "Darling, are you sitting down?" conversation. To be frank, previous to having children I was not in possession of a single maternal bone. Whilst going into labour I was still panicking that I’d not yet found one.
When our prodigal son arrived, however, I was duly besotted. But – and this will be no surprise to most – in my naivety I had failed to prepare for the all-consuming nature of babies. Things were not going as planned. I had even ceased to be able to spell my own name! Dear God, was this permanent? I was convinced that having a baby had given me brain damage. Could there be any other explanation for this total discombobulation of my fragile mind?!
Previously, I was firmly in possession of my own individuality and prided myself on being a productive and efficient member of our household. I was competently managing two family companies, freelance writing, plus maintaining an avid equestrian hobby.
Naturally, I imagined that when our son arrived, I would continue as normal and he would sit contentedly in his bouncer while I jiggled it with my toe. Wrong! Deal with it, you are now, first and foremost, a mother.
Unfortunately, I did not deal with it with any modicum of dignity or poise. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say, there were some fairly low points. I soon realised that many of the things I identified myself by would be suspended. I felt I was staring down a long road of indeterminate length. I believe I actually went through the grieving process for a perceived loss of self.
The demands of keeping businesses ticking over and completing a dairy farm conversion during our son’s first year left room for little else. Our world had become pretty small but we were coping and utterly in love with our tiny tyrant. I had virtually let everything else go, leading to what would become a two-year hiatus from writing. I felt I had cast my craft aside. Writing and riding were the two things I chose to do to really honour myself. Determinedly, I managed to go for intermittent rides, but I simply couldn’t get my brain to function for writing.
Our son is now three and we also have a daughter who is one. Recently, things have turned a corner – I can spell my name again! While life remains demanding and complex, I’ve found ways of re-establishing parts of myself I had feared were lost forever. Even with one child toilet training, and the other in a constant state of motion, every day the grasp on my own individual self becomes firmer.
Quite unexpectedly one afternoon, inspiration struck and I was compelled to write. Out poured a children’s story. I felt alive again. I made a commitment to return to my craft by enrolling in a distance learning course. Monday mornings are now for study. The whole idea terrified me. Would I have the discipline? Could I make the time? Will I have any creative energy and headspace? However, to my surprise I discovered pursuing my interest did not sap my energy, but rather it fed and nourished it. I felt like a better form of myself; a better wife and mother.
Time is the hardest resource to come by as a parent, however I’ve found helpful ways to make it work along the way:
Reignite the flame by introducing small things you can work into a busy day. Even simply discussing your interest with someone who shares it can be inspirational.
Try listening to relevant podcasts or audiobooks. Mundane tasks become a joy when accompanied by fascinating information. You can’t stop me from doing the dishes, driving is a pleasure and walking with the pushchair tightens both glutes and grey matter! You may not be able to steal yourself away for time alone but this is one way to keep your mind engaged.
Don't find time, make time
I’ve checked down the back of the sofa, I can locate neither my spare time nor my dignity. I think I left both rattling around the maternity ward and have little hope of seeing either again. We need to create discipline around our daily routine. Are you a morning or an evening person? Could you get up an hour earlier or watch less TV at night? Could nap times be put to better use? Perhaps you could agree on a play date exchange with a friend, or is there a doting grandparent who could give you a regular opportunity? Even if you can only commit to two to three hours a week, much can be achieved. Try to draw clear boundaries around the time that you have made to keep distractions at bay.
You are in the midst of one of the busiest, most demanding periods in your life and you can’t do everything you once could. It is easy to be hard on yourself but be reasonable and realistic. Choose a few things that really matter to keeping the show on the road. Let some of the other stuff go. I sit here writing this looking out through dirty windows. I’ve moved on from chastising myself for being a poor housekeeper, now I think "Here is a woman who knows how to prioritise!".
I firmly believe that our children will be all the better for getting to know who we are as people. Becoming a mother will always be the thing that has enriched my life the most, but I want my children to be proud that there is more to mum than a fine Marmite sandwich. It is important to honour ourselves as individuals and the little things that make us who we are. You don’t have to be extraordinary. Embrace the ordinary, then find a few extraordinary things to do.
Hannah Davison recently returned to freelance writing after a small hiatus which saw the arrival of two young children and a dairy farm conversion in North Canterbury.