Motherhood…Doesn’t really come with a job description.
It invariably includes:
- Sorting everyone else out to make sure they are fed, watered and happy.
- Refereeing tantrums.
- Soothing ruffled feathers.
- Taxi-ing children to clubs, parties and events.
What about yourself?
Well, once the children are in bed, everything’s cleared away, those other jobs are sorted, you get to spend some time on yourself, right?
More than likely, you fall exhaustedly into a TV induced coma then stumble up the stairs to bed, ready for the next wave of energy-zapping requirements tomorrow.
On top of those requirements you may work, full or part-time too.
Before I had children, I was financially independent and proud of the fact. As a couple, and a family, we took the decision that my primary focus should be our children, which meant, for me, sacrificing that financial independence.
Eight years in and I still have not fully come to terms with this.
I work part-time, around the children which earns me some pocket-money and making, what I feel, is an insignificant contribution to family finances.
I really beat myself up about this.
Do I value myself?
I’m gradually starting to question my stance. My husband supports me fully so why do I give myself such a hard time? In fact, my husband couldn’t do his job, if I didn’t operate this way.
What really brought it home recently was applying for a new life insurance policy as part of moving house. My honest view was it wouldn’t really matter to us financially if I were to be incapacitated.
My husband was shocked!
I just didn’t get the issue.
Now I’m starting to.
My worth is not measured by the money I provide the family with.
It’s measured in terms of what I provide in non-paid services to my family.
Getting my boys ready for school and delivering them safely through the school gates. Being there for them at the end of the school day and dealing with whatever issues have impacted their day.
- Feeding them, hydrating them and ferrying them to their clubs and activities.
- Ensuring a nutritious tea is provided for them to replenish depleted energy levels and support their growth and development.
- Scooping them up in a cuddle when tiredness makes everything oh so difficult.
- Tending cuts and bruises. Bathing dirty bodies. Reading stories. Snuggling and tucking them into bed. Getting up to chase away midnight monsters and tend blocked up noses.
- Supporting and surviving homework.
- Encouraging positive behaviour and manners.
- Washing them and their clothes.
- Braving Lego laden floors to retrieve expressive children.
The list just goes on forever.
I don’t begrudge doing any of it. In fact, I do feel privileged to have the opportunity to do it …most of the time.
It’s only when I spell it out, I realise what I do and start to appreciate my worth.
So how can we value ourselves?
When I started writing this I thought of valuing these activities in monetary terms. Surely I could work out what someone would be paid to provide these services and activities and then tot them all up as a means of gratifying my worth?
I actually started doing this in my head – then I stopped.
Thinking back to my own childhood – I was lucky enough to have a stay-at-home Mum who did all of these things and more for me, and my brother. Would I demean all her efforts by assigning an arbitrary £ sign?
Thinking a bit deeper, I realised that whilst I could work out what someone would be paid to do all of this – there are salaried nannies and au pairs after all – it wouldn’t be the same for me as having my Mum do this.
That is and was, quite simply, priceless.
Don’t get me wrong, in no way am I knocking women and families that use Nannies or au pairs or any other childcare facility – my own boys go to a before school club twice a week.
All any parent strives for is happy children and we all achieve this in the best way we can.
In so doing from my perspective, I had completely devalued my own self-worth simply because this new ‘job’ didn’t provide a payslip, pay into my pension or have any monetary references at all (at least not in terms of money coming in!).
Making myself work this all through has just made me appreciate a little more, the value of what I do for my own children.
It’s made me re-evaluate my own self-worth.
This low self-worth can translate into low self-confidence and self-esteem too.
If you spend all your spare time tending the needs of others, pushing your own ambitions and desires further down the priority list, it can affect your self-respect.
Similarly, I know and have heard of stay-at-home Mums who feel immense pressure to prove their worth by having spotless homes, over-achieving children and to-die-for-physiques.
Pressuring themselves to stick to unrealistic diets that impact their enjoyment of the rare social occasions they are able to enjoy.
Pushing themselves into endless hours of monotonous workouts in the gym to get that ‘ideal’ figure.
Stressing over nights out in case it takes them over their allocated calories/points/’sins’.
This is no way to live!
We all need a focus.
For some, our children can be enough of a focus particularly before they start school. Once they’re at school though, what do you do with those hours….there’s only so much housework anyone can do!!!
It’s easy to see how the need to feel valued can bear down on you. Your other half comes home and innocently asks what you did with your day and you instantly see it as an affront on your chosen activities.
Finding a focus
Having a goal based on ‘reclaiming your figure’ helps fill this gap, gives you something to concentrate on and work towards. It can give you an identity, a purpose that you may not otherwise feel you have.
If, however, you are relentlessly sticking to a ‘diet’ that causes you stress, question whether it is
(a) delivering the results you are really after
(b) what will happen when you stop this ‘diet’ and
(c) is it really worth it????
Are you striving for this arbitrary image of yourself to fill another gap as a result of having relinquished some personal independence and control on becoming a mother? Does it provide a distraction from the boredom of your daily routine?
Being a Mum is the hardest job in the world.
You are the one that sorts out the shit (quite literally sometimes), is the recipient of the worst behaviours and probably receives the least gratitude.
Do the children love you though?
Do you love you?
Well, do you?
Is stressing over your appearance going to make the difference that will magically restore your confidence, prove your worth and make you feel happy?
Personally, I don’t think so.
Actually, I know it won’t.
Find your worth. Re-discover yourself.
You are amazing.
Looking after children is no mean feat. It takes patience, persistence, resilience and automatically qualifies you as a UN Peace Ambassador (that bit is not widely publicised so keep it to yourself 😉 ).
Just because being a Mum does not offer a payslip, pension, holiday pay, health care cover or a company car, it doesn’t reduce your worth – not by a fraction.
Want to feel confident, fulfilled, happy, worthwhile and respected… start with yourself. Look at what you do now, what you want to do more of, what you’d rather do less of. Start there.
Deciding to work part-time or to give up work altogether for the sake of your children is a huge, selfless decision. It does involve sacrifices beyond losing the paycheck and financial independence.
It does not diminish your worth in any way. If anything, it increases it.
Find your hobbies.
Appreciate and value yourself – your whole self, not just your figure or how much you weigh.
There is so much more to you than that.
Relish your role within the family.
You are more than just the shape your body currently forms.
You are a complete, unique person.
Be healthy, be happy.
Enjoy your life – you only get one.
Real life, real women, OptiMum Health