TUESDAY TIPS

Motherhood can strip away your identity. Here’s how to get it back!

Annie Ridout is founder and editor of The Early Hour – a digital parenting and lifestyle magazine for people who are up early. I was introduced to Annie last year when she ran a story about our family gap year on her site, and we have stayed in touch ever since. She is also a freelance journalist (the Guardian, Red Magazine, Stylist), copywriter and speaker. She has two children (a three-year-old daughter, and nine-month-old son). 

Annie reached out to us and offered to give us her expert tips for regaining her sense of self after becoming a mother, and we thought this would be a wonderful topic for our Tuesday Tips series. I love her tips below — especially the one about spending two hours alone each week. I could not agree more about how beneficial it is to have time to yourself! Read below for more great tips (and feel free to leave your own tips in the comments section below!)…

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When my daughter was born, I was instantly infatuated. She amazed me in every way possible; I’d never known love like this. It was powerful. But her birth coincided with the loss of my full time job as a copywriter (I was freelance, so had no maternity rights).

Until this point, my social identity had been largely associated with how I was spending my time. For the past few years, I’d been a freelance writer. Before that, a Masters student. And now I was a mother. An incredible job, a rewarding and fulfilling job, but it felt like ‘mother’ didn’t encompass the whole me.

When my daughter was 10 months old, I started working two days a week for an online magazine. The following year, I set up my own (The Early Hour). Now people saw me as a writer and editor again – and I began to feel more visible. It added a new layer to my life.

It’s ludicrous that full time mothers should feel as if what they’re doing doesn’t matter, but that is often the reality. We’re not paid for our work. I know how it feels to submit fully to motherhood, but then feel you’d like something additional, for yourself, that doesn’t involve your children. If you feel similarly, these tips may help…

Here’s how to regain your sense of self as a mother:

1. Spend two hours alone, each week

Two hours sounds like nothing, right? Well you’d be amazed how few hours you get entirely to yourself each week. What with the baby that won’t sleep, toddler who wants another snack, partner wanting to offload his work issues. So set aside two hours and leave the house.

If you’re in a relationship, ask your partner to put this time in his diary – he’s on child duty. And go for a walk, or to the cinema alone, or for a coffee and to read your book. If you’re a single parent, ask a friend or family member to help out for two hours; it’s a tiny favour to ask. You could even do a swap.

2. Write down your goals and dreams

What does your perfect future look like? Would you like to live in another country, in a bigger house, out in the countryside, or in a bustling city? Would you like another baby, or a new job? Do you dream of starting your own business? Get it down on paper.

Create a mood board with images (cut out of magazines, printed off Pinterest) or draw a picture. If you’re not feeling creative, simply write a list. Once you’ve committed it to paper, you’ll automatically make changes to your life to enable these things to happen. You’ll be amazed.

3. Make a new friend

As a mother, you’re faced with loads of potential new friends, but you may not feel hugely confident when it comes to introducing yourself. However, that mother across the room at soft play is probably feeling EXACTLY how you are: a bit lost, keen for a new mum friend.

So get talking to her. If you don’t know what to ask, start with her child’s age or name. Or tell her something about your kid (eg. my daughter always heads for the ball pit first. My son loves to just sit and watch from the sidelines). A new friend can feel as exciting as a new love interest.

4. Take a look at your wardrobe

If you’re slumping around in tracksuit bottoms and old trainers, you probably won’t feel your best. Putting on a new outfit can make you feel (and look) like a completely different person. It’s great for self-esteem. So get some new clothes, and feel transformed.

You don’t need to buy expensive designer wares, you could raid the rails at your local charity shop, pick something up on Ebay or borrow a sewing machine and make something. You can find inspiration here on Babyccino or on Pinterest.

5. Ask your friends for help

Sometimes motherhood can feel like an endless list of chores; like you are simply the person who puts food on the table, laundry on the line, washes dishes and fills out forms. But to your friends, you’re much more than that. So ask them what you mean to them.

Meet a friend for a coffee and tell them you can’t remember who you were before you became a mother. Ask them what three words they’d have used to describe the ‘old’ you. That might be ‘fun’, ‘spontaneous’, ‘reliable’, ‘kind’. Now remember: you are still all these things, alongside being a mum.

 

Photo above of Annie was taken by Emily Gray


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