A beautiful friend of mine, Tammy, so kindly wrote a guest blog for my website that I just love and so recommend to read and reflect upon!
Tammy, thank you so much for this reminder!!!
Everyone said that having a baby would be life-changing. What they didn’t say is how it alters your own perception of self. I am 5 months postpartum and am only just coming back to feeling like myself in the last month or so. I know that I still have a way to go to fully feeling like ‘me’ again, but the question is: Will I ever feel wholly like myself now that I have gone through a fundamental change? Should I even be trying to? Or should I be aiming for something different?
While these questions floated about in the sleep deprived ether of my brain, I was also keenly aware of the ‘bouncing back’ narrative that was suddenly everywhere. It was what people were saying to me in the office, it was in the instagram ads on my feed, and it was also self inflicted. I would hungrily look for how many months postpartum other mums were and compare myself to them. This is wrapped up in society’s authorship of the female body, and is just another dichotomy we feel we need to make ourselves fit into: sacred, caring full-time mother, or doing-it-all modern mum. But it’s never that black or white.
So the first thing I want to say here is – this is you. It is normal and you’re doing great. You want to bounce back – I applaud you, get out there and shine. You want to hibernate – I applaud you, settle in for ‘slow mothering’. You can also be anything in the spectrum between those, and you can also be different things on different days. Because in truth, we can’t dictate our experience or control what feelsright. We have a tiny person to listen to, and we should respect them and what they need as well. What we can do is accept our experience and, wherever we can, find beauty in it. And where we can’t, we can find wine, ice cream, coffee, mac’n’cheese, Netflix… whatever it takes.
Another thing I kept hearing was ‘women are superhuman’, or ‘mothers can do it all’. And while I agree wholeheartedly with this, I do NOT agree with what goes unsaid with this kind of thinking. We are superhuman, so we can function with a handful of fitful hours of sleep, and still take care of the house, clean, cook, work and keep a tiny human alive? Nope.
I mean of course we can, we are pretty great after all. But that doesn’t mean we should. I am more than a Superwoman, more than a Mum. I love a walk around exhibitions, I love all things food related, I love getting stuck into debates over bottle(s) of wine, andI am also lazy, greedy, vain and reckless. Sometimes I just want to be those things, and being a perfect mum doesn’t allow for it. So let’s claim being imperfect, and let’s allow our partners to step up to the plate, because they sometimes want to be superheroes too.
On the subject of partners. Another question knocking about is how do we raise a child in an equal household? Being the caregiver and traditional ‘mum’ character in a house tends to mean you don’t have the time and headspace to be the clown, the spontaneous one and the fun one because you’re the one making sure there are clean clothes, a comfortable house and healthy meals ready (not to mention all the planning and admin that comes with having children). But now and then, I would like to be the one that throws caution to the wind. In addition to this, I would like my son to see a male figure being a homemaker and caregiver, so that he can be the same when he is older. Most importantly, I don’t want my daughter growing up feeling that this is the role that is expected of her gender.
Mum’s need not be one dimensional caricatures that fit into society’s ideals and dictates. Let’s celebrate the differences we all have.
So when I ask the question ‘do I feel like myself?’ the answer is no, not yet, but yes, that iswhat I want. I don’t want to be ‘Mum’. I want to be Tammy – all the things that go with being Tammy, and now a parent as well. And I want the same for my partner, and for my children. We should make space for us to exist just as ourselves, and for all of us to be superheroes (if and when we choose).
Tammy Le Vasan (follow @tammymeaculpa for more mum thoughts)