My name is Julia and I am a mum. That sounds as if I should be saying, “My name is Julia and I’m an alcoholic” (and believe me, there are many times when I understand how you could be a mum AND an alcoholic), but that’s not me. Not me today at least. Today I am Julia, mum of 2, trying to get my world to be more than it is. Because I want my world to be more than it is.
At the moment my world really isn’t enough for me – and it’s ok to say this. Actually, I think that it’s more than ok to say this; I think it is absolutely essential for me to say this. I feel that I should be screaming it from the rooftops…. It’s ok to want more. It’s normal to feel that being alone with small people all day is not enough, especially if you are used to making decisions, chairing meetings, having an opinion, having a life. It can be a very lonely place. Somewhat controversially, I feel that you don’t have to like the other mums that you meet – you might like some of them, some of them could even become your friends (and in the way that you may have been friends with them without the introduction of tiny people), but some are just going to irritate you. And it’s ok to feel that too. I’m sure I irritate the hell out of some of the other mothers – but, to quote Barbie, “what other people think of you is none of your business”. (Who knew that such pearls of wisdom could come from a source such as Barbie? If you haven’t got girls, or your girls have either not reached the Barbie film stage or passed it by, you are missing a treat. She does come out with some absolute gems).
So – my world is not enough, and it has taken me a while to accept this. I love my children, completely adore them; I talk about them all the time. And yet I come from a generation of women that were among the first to be brought up to think that we could do as well as men. It was expected that we went to university, that we got degrees and then a career. I have been brought up to see myself, and the women around me, as more than just a stereotypical housewife. (If that’s what you want for your life then absolutely go for it – no judgement from me. If you want to do it, can do it well and it makes you happy, then I am really pleased for you. It’s just not enough for me.) But when I had children I became sucked into the idea that to be a good mother I had to cease to exist in the way that I had done. I had to be hand rearing my own vegetables to put in my children’s homemade purees…. I even got my name on waiting lists for several allotments. (Believe me, that is not going to happen. Not now I have discovered the delights of a gel manicure that can last 4 weeks.) I went to a million different baby and toddler groups spending time with people who the only thing that we had in common was that we had procreated at the same time. (Apart from Tinytalk, run by the wonderful Jane, fabulous fun group, lovely mums – especially Elise and Debbie. That really was my oasis in a desert of exclusive groups full of a lot of Alpha Mothers). I wasn’t happy, I was used to working and bringing in my own money. I missed my friends and my colleagues.
I understand that for a lot of people my lifestyle choice was a luxury and a privilege. However, it came at a cost. That cost threatened to be my sanity. Whilst staying at home has been the best thing for my children, I’m not sure that it has been the best thing for me. So last year I started to think about going back to work. Before I had children I managed Mental Health Services and I started to apply for those roles. I didn’t even get an interview (and having done many rounds of recruitment I know that I was fulfilling the criteria, so something was putting them off – probably my 7 years out of the workplace and a responsibility to 2 small people….). A friend of mine suggested volunteering and I discovered coaching the long term unemployed at a local charity (somewhat ironic, given that technically I haven’t been employed in 8+ years). To cut a very long story short, I realised that coaching is what I love; being with people, hearing their stories, putting my emotional wellies on and wading round in their stuff to help them make sense of it all. A year on I am a fully qualified Certified Professional Coach, starting my own business, working on my world to make it enough. It’s not enough yet, it’s only the beginning – and there are many days when I feel like I’m drowning under a tonne of ironing, homework and shopping, but it’s a start – there’s plenty of places to go.