I was recently asked to describe my ideal day. I thought about it for a while, and for some reason, I felt that my answer should be something along the lines of, cuddling in bed with my children, a day at the beach with my children, a picnic in the local nature reserve with my children… You can sense the theme here. As a mother I felt an intrinsic sense of guilt that if I am completely honest, my ideal day actually has nothing to do with my children.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children, I love them, they make me laugh, and simply being in their presence makes me feel whole. I really do enjoy spending time with my children, so much so, that I do it continuously. I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work from home, and as a result I am able to be with my family almost twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. As much joy as this situation brings me, it is also not easy.
What is easy I have found, is to become lost in the fog of constant parenting. Your little people are so important that it is almost effortless to put things like relationships and friendships by the wayside. Your role as a mother is so important that the small things that you enjoy, or the unique qualities you have that you once nurtured can seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It happens so gradually that you may not even realise it is happening at all.
At first you put of the things you enjoy out of necessity. When you bring your bundle home there is simply no time between the relentless care of a baby. The nurture of relationships and friendships must take second place to the nurture of your child. Sometimes the mere thought of having to nourish anything other than the needs of your child can be unwanted and exhausting. Add a few more children to the mix, and the small things that you used to enjoy, the unique qualities that made you an individual person and not a parent seem like a distant memory.
I found that keeping these things as merely a distant memory made me feel less confident; I had almost forgotten exactly who I was as a person before I had children. I felt an almost gratuitous sense of resentment that I could not explain nor could I justify. Surely I was a person capable of much more than cooking, cleaning and tending to the never ending needs of the small family I had willingly and under no illusion entered into caring for.
These resentments were almost always squarely pointed at my husband. I mean it would hardly be considered fair to be resentful toward the children. They played no part in this. My husband however, was an easy target.
There was the unfair distribution of domestic responsibility, the illusion that his life seemed to have been affected by far less change, not to mention his body was still his own, the same as it was before the children came along. His job remained the same; he got to leave the house for eight glorious hours a day. He had a reason to wash his hair, and to get changed out of his pyjamas daily! I went as far as to actually seethe as I counted the amount of uninterrupted toilet breaks he had the privilege of taking during the day. Add to this the veiled current of who I used to be as a person seemed lost, the person he had met and fell in love with simply didn’t exist anymore.
I found respite from these feelings of resentment however, when I began to take the time to nurture my friendships again. Not just catching up for a coffee with other parents, or enjoying the company of other adults as our children played together, but taking the time to separate friendships from parenting all together. Taking the time to spend with my group of friends, the group of women I affectionately refer to as ‘My Girls’.
My girls are an odd mix of people, some old friendships such as my best friend since childhood, some newer friendships, people I had met along the way and we had all utterly and completely gelled. We were a team of like personalities. Never in my life had I known such supportive and nonjudgmental relationships outside of my marriage. They are the kind of people who will tell me what I don’t want to hear in the kindest way, they are honest and loyal; they have my back, even if I am in the wrong.
Slowly but surely, with nights out, dinners, catching movies together, sometimes just laying on each other’s couch I was reminded of who I was before I had children. They reminded me, I was funny, I was smart, I enjoyed listening to live music, I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy that. I enjoyed being creative and they indulged me on this as we spent many a night piecing together invitations and alike to the various hens, weddings, baby showers, birthdays we had among the group.
They reminded me I was compassionate, and capable of nurturing those other than my family, in return they nurtured me. I was reminded of who I was as a person, of what I enjoyed and the unique qualities that made me a person in my own right, not just a mother and a wife. I felt more confident, more capable, I felt more like the person my husband had met, and I felt proud knowing who I was outside of being their parent.
So if I am really honest about how I would spend my ideal day, it would be spent doing anything and nothing with my girls.
My misfit group of women, who allow me to be myself, who remind me that I am the person my husband met and who give me the opportunity to miss my children, and be a more settled and less resentful parent when I return to them.
Whilst nurturing friendships may seem like an unwanted and exhausting extension of your nurturing skills when you become a parent, it really is an important and rewarding effort to make.
Take the time for friendships mama. xx