It started when I was pregnant, “will you be joining the NCT to make some friends?”, “don’t you want to go to groups to socialise?”, my job meant I had a pretty good reason not to go to pregnancy groups – I worked in a hotel on shifts that changed all the time so I couldn’t commit to anything but really, I just didn’t want to go. With my job I had to talk to strangers all the time, some days we would have 90 check ins plus all of the other walk in guests and conferences or people that just wanted to come and have a beer and watch the football – and that was fine – what wasn’t fine was me having to walk in to a room full of people and be me, the ‘mummy’. It’s no secret that when I was pregnant I hated children, any age, any size, if they didn’t belong to my closest friends I didn’t want to know. I had no interest in children or babies, I had an interest in the small person growing in my belly but I didn’t give two hoots about any other babies and I have no shame in admitting that.
Obviously when Oliver was born it all began again, although I’m not sure the questions would have been asked so much if I were living in a place where my friends were, but my friends aren’t here – they are all in the North. I grew ever closer with a woman, K, I had worked with in my first job down South – she had 4 kids and was generally just the kind of person I like to be around, she’s a straight up genuine woman with one of the biggest hearts I have ever encountered and she works damned hard too. K helped me a ridiculous amount during pregnancy and also in the first few months of Oliver’s life her help was invaluable – in fact it still is! The thing is, I don’t get along with her because she’s a mum, I get on with her because we clicked when we worked together – we just seemed to hit it off almost instantly and she now even works in my pre-maternity place of work after a sparkling recommendation from yours truly. This friendship seems to keep most people off my back, in all honesty, without her I probably would be a bit of a hermit.
The difficult part for me though, is the anxiety I feel in social situations. Ever since moving down South I have had real issues with it, my partner has an enormous group of friends and I really struggle when I am around them – I think he probably expected I would slot right in like all the other WAG’s (yes, that’s what we call ourselves), but for me it has taken time and I’m still not 100% comfortable. I need to observe people for a while before I feel comfortable around them and judge how I should act in their company (some people don’t appreciate my genuine level of sarcasm or dry humour). Weirdly I never felt this was a huge issue in the North or at University, perhaps because of the complete mix of people I encountered. I am more aware of being judged here, perhaps because of my Northern accent or the fact I’m not quite as smart as a lot of them. However, I at least had an identity – I was the hotel boffin, I knew what I was talking about and I loved what I did. Then of course the focus becomes on being a mother, something I wasn’t particularly comfortable with because of my fear of failure due to the (lack of) relationship with my own mother. Now I am ‘just’ a mother, I feel I have lost my identity and I am only just finding out who I am outside of my job because hotels have been a passion for so long.
So here I am, the mother of a 21 month old toddler who went to a group once (and he wasn’t even bothered by it) because it was quiet that week (me and one other lady). He’s happy, he’s energetic, he’s exceeded all physical milestones and is starting to catch up with his verbal communication. He’s confident, he’s great at socialising with other children of all ages, he is everything people told me he wouldn’t be because I wasn’t going to those groups. Sure, I don’t have a group of mummy friends who I meet up with to complain about bad nights sleep or not having time to do the things I used to, but I have an amazing, well rounded child who I love spending time with. I have had the time to figure out who I am and how I want to parent without other people telling me I should be doing x or y. That time has given me confidence to talk to the other mums at the park instead of just looking at the floor and chasing after Oliver focusing only on him as I did in the early days. That time has given me chance to learn about being a mum, but also about being me outside of the hotel. Time to learn how to become efficient, what my priorities really are and to also appreciate my life for what it is.
I am truly blessed to have a bright and happy child and be confident in the decisions I have made about parenting. And I am blessed to have friends, family and a truly amazing partner that stands by me through all of this, giving me the confidence to be the best mother I can be.