I feel a little bit like I have been living in a bubble for the past six and a half years. A bubble of sleep deprivation and interruptions and nappies and arguments about peas and Lego. I was vaguely aware that there was stuff going on outside of the bubble, but it was blurry and out of reach. I suspect this bubble exists for all women as they become mothers, but for some it seems to last those early, milky, sleepy weeks, and others it lasts for many years. I think my mother may just be escaping hers now, aged 67.
You know how some conversations stay with you forever. As a teenager who had just bought my first album by The Clash I asked my Mum about punk. I was hoping to be regaled with stories of mohicans, safety pins and spittle. Instead, quite dismissively Mum said she didn’t really know anything about punk, she had been too busy having children. I remember feeling so disappointed, and frankly quite disgusted at my mother for this response, how could she have lived through such an exciting time for our culture, and completely missed it? Now I understand.
The crazy, all consuming, overwhelming early days of motherhood seem to be finally easing for me, all these years later. I still love being with my children, I have one asleep on me right now after some poorly-boy boobing. I have no intention of stopping being a totally involved, attentive, connected Mummy. So far, I am not planning on a solo round the world trip. But seriously, if I stay in this bubble for much longer I will go crazy, and in ten years time my daughter will ask me if I have an opinion or an experience or a story about something, and I will look blank, and say I have been too busy with children to do anything else, and she will feel that same disappointment that I felt all those years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully expecting her to be thoroughly disappointed in me when she’s a teenager, whatever I do in the next few years, but I’m hoping that I won’t need to be disappointed in myself.
It is all about the small steps, the positive choices. I am starting to look after myself better physically, as I’ve said, so that I will hopefully still be physically capable of having experiences for many years to come. I have read three books in the past three weeks – now this is more than I have read in years. I want to start getting out to the theatre more, the cinema, discovering new writers, new music that makes my heart sing. I don’t want to keep replaying the same things that I knew as a teenager, when my life, when I, was unrecognisable from myself now. I want to start moving forwards again now, with my family there by my side, to find those things that make me feel like I am really thinking about things, questioning, learning, growing, that I am a whole person, not just a mother with a job.
So far, with a bit of proactive work on my part, we have had the first meeting of a book group, hosted at my house. It was just such a wonderful feeling experience after all these years, to have a really thoughtful discussion about a book, moving on through politics, religion, feminism… I am thoroughly excited about the next meeting, and whilst slowly making my way through this month’s book, I’m actually managing to analyse it as I read, thinking my way through what I really think of it, rather than just being proud that I’ve managed to struggle my way through it at all.
After feeling pretty proud of myself for putting myself out there, despite that real fear of nobody showing up, or feeling really awkward, having nothing to say, being a terrible host etc, I have allowed the momentum to take me and propel me onwards. I put a post on Facebook saying how much I loved going to the theatre, and how I’d love to have a theatre buddy. I have been so thrilled by the gorgeous response I got from people. In less than a week, I have been to an incredible outdoors theatre experience, and in a couple of days I’m off to the Minack Theatre with another friend, something I have always wanted to do. Not only that, but I now have a list of people who are up for future trips too.
I am trying to listen to more music, and have bought some new (to me at least) albums, though still feel entirely clueless about anything that has actually been released in the past six years. I’ll work on that one – open to any suggestions guys!
My next big aim, and one that I feel huge trepidation about, is to try and do some physical activity, with other people!! I have been doing a Pilates video at home a few times, but would really like to do some yoga or Pilates classes. That feels like a big step though as it’s something I just have no experience of. Also very tempted by the thought of adult ballet classes, for absolute beginners though obviously, as despite many years of classes as a small child I was completely useless at it, essentially a drunken giraffe trying desperately to be graceful. It feels much harder as an adult to put yourself out there to do something you know you’re no good at, but that you might really enjoy and will help me be more healthy.
My last big aim, is to maybe actually get a little involved in the local political situation. I don’t intend to run for council or anything, but having become an actual member of the Labour Party, and having felt so excited and frustrated and bewildered by the recent election, I feel maybe I should actually show up, in person, and feel able to speak up for what I believe in. That’s still an idea in progress, but hoping this momentum (no pun intended) helps to propel me on towards this as well. And maybe one day I will be able to tell my kids that yes, I showed up when I felt it mattered.
I have not found this easy, attempting to be brave, attempting to reach outwards, to people, to new experiences, new ideas. In fact it has felt pretty damn terrifying, but also exciting. And I have felt really honoured that people have shown up for me, come to the book club, invited me to the theatre, listened to my ramblings. I really appreciate it, and one small step at a time I am finding my way, gently forwards.