There’s never been an easier time than now to believe you need to do it all, and to do it well. If not for your own sake, then for the sake of those watching. It’s like there’s a well-trodden path at your feet you need to take. One step off course and… what happens? I’m not quite sure because, like many before me, I decided to take that path. To focus on my career, to be a mother, to have my own passions that need nurturing. I am happy I took that path, don’t get me wrong. Every aspect in my life fills me with purpose, and what are we without a purpose? Personally, it makes getting up and face the day that much easier. But I wrote this post because I wanted to share one very, very invaluable lesson I learnt in the last 16 months.
That “doing it all” is alienating. It can disconnect you from the ground beneath your feet and from yourself. And purpose can also look like too many loose ends that need tying up.
Before I became a mother, I had tried to prepare myself. To brace myself more like. I read testimonials, books, I tried to wear the shoes of friends who already had children of their own. Nothing prepares you for the physical shock first – and the mental and emotional ones later. Trauma is a big word, and one I luckily never had to use to describe anything I’ve been through. But that’s what it felt like, in those first few weeks. It was traumatic. And by the end of my three-month maternity leave, I hadn’t yet figured out how my new role would slip back into every day motions. I hadn’t yet figured myself out. But there I was, sitting at my desk, pretending everything was fine as my son cried in the next room with my mother and I tried focusing on work.
I believe now that my guiding emotion, the one that instilled energy in me (albeit the wrong kind of energy) was fear. I was scared I was way off the mark with what was expected from me at work. I was terrified that I wasn’t giving my son a proper routine to help him thrive. In short, I was very conscious of the fact that I was trying to do everything – and nothing was being done well. I decided it was time I send my son to childcare, going against my initial plans of waiting a year and I grappled with my guilt for such a long time, I’m surprised I never physically broke down.
I talked about my experiences, or rather, I wrote. I shared quite a lot of my journey, though I never really sought to understand it fully. When I decided to seek therapy, it wasn’t as a result of me feeling at my lowest. I wanted to seek answers and I wanted someone to listen to me talk, someone who could put order to my thoughts. Some of my closest friends had been going to therapy for years. One of them called it a “mental hygiene”. That’s what I needed. Someone to help me string together reasons for why I still felt lost, despite the months that passed. Despite what anyone could see from the outside – that I was managing.
I learnt so much after a few sessions of therapy that changed my whole outlook on myself;
- That you could be surrounded by well-meaning people, have exciting projects in the pipeline, and still be lonely.
- That I’m so rushed I’m not even realising the tension that lies on my chest the whole time
- That I am essentially disconnected, and the feeling of being “scattered” stems from it
- That writing is therapy, especially now, and that whatever I decide to prioritize, this should never be at the bottom of a list
- That I never really gave myself time to recover after I gave birth because of the fear that was driving me forward, with no time given to reflect
- That I’m doing great things – but that I need to make time to pause more often, to gather my thoughts. To breathe.
Talking about my experiences unlocked something in me I had never thought was there. Not only was I making time for myself – literally carving time out in my schedule to sit and talk – I was slowly unfurling a tightly rolled up part inside me that was begging for release.
Talking helped. Having someone who listened, who empathized, who guided me to discover more of myself, that helped even more. Very often, we don’t need someone to solve our problems or to take away our challenges. Sometimes, we just need someone to hear us, to say I see you and to help us be better mentally prepared to face the days that come. With therapy, I feel I can be a better mother to my son, a better wife to my husband. I can be a better me to myself – and that just trickles down to every other relationship. Once you start showing up for yourself, everything else improves. You just need to make that time, to take that first step. All else follows, not easily perhaps, but gradually. All good things take time.
I might have had a better time of it if I sought help earlier, but I don’t think it’s ever too late for anyone. What I’ve been through might not be every mother’s experience (I’m pretty sure it isn’t actually) and if you’re going to be a mother or you aspire to be one, then I hope your journey is as smooth and as rewarding as you imagine it will be. Because it is – in so many ways it is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. It just so happens that the most beautiful is also the hardest. That the most rewarding is also the most challenging.
The wonderful thing I’ve learnt, is that you don’t have to go it alone. That there is help if you look for it, always. You don’t have to do it all, but if you decide to try, if you don’t want to sideline your career or your passions while still giving your baby the best of you, then there’s a community waiting to embrace you and share your struggles, and people ready to listen and to help you stay grounded and connected to your true self.
We see you, mama x
Links to therapists I can personally vouch for below (definitely not an ad)
Beatrix Psychology A boutique private practice with a modern approach to Therapy
Indigo Psychology. Their practice covers both adults (psychotherapy and children (assessments and psychological intervention.)
Reproductive Psychiatry with Dr Edith Agius
Perinatal Mental Health Clinic, Mater Dei Hospital Malta:
2545 7410 / 79701767