Rounding the Martello Tower and down the slipway, we run. The only sound is the rhythmical pounding of footsteps on the concrete at the water’s edge as Dublin Bay spreads out in front of us, silent on this early Saturday morning and awash with light from the rising sun. Enthusiastic bathers are wading in soundlessly as we slip by, the only others crossing our paths are your older garden variety of South Dubliner, early risers by nature now that their aging bones dictate their waking hours. They too preserve the silence, instead nodding or gesturing warmly as we all agree wordlessly what a beautiful day it is. Howth is as clear as bell in the distance as the heat of the unusually warm summer sun burns off the haze to reveal the Head in all its wild glory.
We ran with ease, with confidence and for pleasure, now that the mini marathon was behind us and deemed a roaring success all ’round. Six months of training together with an end-goal in sight and yet, here we were, still running. I felt such a huge sense of achievement. Not just because I had gone from not being able to run at all to running 10k and in a time faster than I ever thought I was capable. Or because I had become part of a community of women that had flourished around our collective small-time ambition to not just run but to have something for ourselves. On that beautiful summer morning as I took in the breathtaking views of my hometown as a bone fide early morning runner, a sense of achievement dawned on me that maybe I had finally cracked it. After nearly two years of being a mother, I realised I have carved out an imperfect balance of me the woman, me the wife and now me the mother.
In the first few months after my little man arrived, I was consumed not just by him, but by heaviness of the burden I heaped on myself in my new-found mothering status. I read parenting books, I scanned online articles, discussion forums, blogs. I worried. And most of all I tried. I spent all of my energy trying.
Trying to do my best.
Trying to make sure I was doing the right thing.
Trying to manage.
Trying to cope. Often failing miserably.
I remember visiting a friend who had also had her first baby a few months after me who scolded me for not reading any books that weren’t baby related. I couldn’t imagine finding the time. “You have to” she said.
She was right. My focus was too narrow. I was just being me the mother, when I was still also me the woman, me the wife.
So I did something about it.
I started this blog.* It had been on my mind for months and months before I was brave enough. I wanted to share all the things that me and my friends had learned since becoming pregnant, giving birth and having babies, because there was so much stuff that none of us knew until it was happening – or all over – that we wished someone had just been thoughtful enough to tell us. (Like this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this). But now it’s become so much more than that. Yes I write about parenting and being a mother, which is hardly off-topic, but it’s a creative outlet for me. I’m writing, I’m expressing, I exploring thoughts and ideas that otherwise would just swirl unexcavated in my head. I’m also engaging, sharing and learning. It’s like loosening a pressure valve.
So I write.
I go to Pilates once a week.
I’ve been working on the 42 weeks project for a few months now which I find incredibly rewarding.
I socialise with my friends, but in a whole new way to before I became a mother, and that’s fine because life is different now and I’m at peace with that.
I’m also getting better a reading book-books.
I’ve carved out me time. When I’m doing these things for me, I’m doing them for me the woman. Now that I give her attention and nourish her until she’s full, it makes me the mother a better mother.
When it was just all about me the mother, I would be resentful about sleepless nights, about not getting to the end of a cup of tea, eating every meal after it had long gone cold, about having to pause the film so many times we’d just end up turning it off, about desperately needing to go to the loo but being terrified to move in case it all kicked off again.
Now when I’m me the mother, my energy is high, my stress levels are low and I am relaxed, calm and almost self-indulgent in what used to be pressure points. So what if bedtime took two hours last night? We cuddled and giggled and spent quality time together. So what if the house is like a bomb hit it? So what if I miss Games of Thrones, I can catch it later.
That list of “time for me” things probably sounds quite long but it’s not really. They’re all bite-size activities in the grand scheme of things in a week, cut out and slotted in to my life to have a balance. I’m taking care of me so that I can take the best care of everyone else.
*Incidentally, you might find this interesting – A new study published in October 2012 found that blogging may improve new mothers’ well-being, as they feel more connected to the world outside their home through the Internet. All the details are here. I had been blogging for six months before this was published and anecdotally, I’d have to agree with the findings. Social media interaction – particularly blogging and twitter – was hugely beneficial to me as a new mother.