I discovered Teya Foley in a Facebook group barely a week ago. She’s the person who gives positive feedback and makes uplifting comments when you’re sharing your successes or expressing your insecurities. She’s interesting and inspiring. Her site, andsoshethought.com is about “exploring and embracing all that is women by sharing their voices in an environment that is free from judgement and full of appreciation of our diversity.” Teya lives in Australia with her husband and two children. I am guest posting on her blog this week and thought it’d be fun if she did the same. This article struck a cord with me . . .
Motherhood – The Loss and Emergence of You
Before I became a mother, I had been working my way up the corporate ladder in the banking industry, and was a Senior Change Deployment Analyst when I fell pregnant. While I was good at what I did, and had generally enjoyed working for the company, it never felt quite me. Despite this, when I fell pregnant with my daughter Cadence I had every intention of returning to the company full-time when my year of maternity leave concluded to continue climbing that corporate ladder.
After Cadence was born, I felt my career ambitions drifting away. The idea of returning to a job I didn’t love and needing to travel to the city each day at the expense of time with my daughter filled me with dread. I felt disconnected from the old version of myself, my priorities had changed; my world had shifted. Speaking to other mothers in my mothers’ group made me realise that the majority of us were experiencing this to some degree.
My life had obviously changed drastically in other ways too. Being a new mum is absolutely amazing; my little girl had made my heart swell with love and I could easily stare at her for hours on end. I had camera rolls full of hundreds of versions of the exact same photo. As loved up as I was, I was also beyond exhausted. In the first week after arriving home from the hospital there were 3 nights where I was still attempting to get my daughter to sleep at 4:30am, 6:30am and 7:30am. I had spent each of these nights in a cycle of breastfeeding, rocking and pushing a pram up and down the street. I was so exhausted that even the idea of making myself toast was too much and I found myself on a diet consisting predominately of Arnott’s Family Assorted biscuits, something I had never really even bought before.
Thankfully my husband Joey had the first two weeks of work to help me, as that at least allowed me to nap while she did. He would also get up in the middle of the night to change her nappy before bringing her to me for a feed; those extra 2 minutes of sleep each nappy change where unbelievably amazing! Thankfully after doing some research and changing my diet, we were able to gradually move bedtime earlier and earlier each week, and my exhaustion levels became somewhat manageable.
Being a new mum is also very isolating. You go from being surrounded by co-workers, having meetings and going out socially at night with friends, to suddenly being in a house with a baby most, if not all, of your days. Having a dog forced me to get some social interaction at the dog park most nights, which I credit for helping to keep me sane. However, catching up with friends becomes really hard once the new baby visits start to dry up. As much as I still made every effort to at least pop by for special events for my friends, I completely stopped initiating plans. Balancing the needs of your baby and your constant exhaustion really kills your drive to socialise. Unfortunately, it also leaves you feeling really lonely at times, and frustrated about being too drained to do anything about it. I was lucky enough to be placed in an amazing mothers’ group which gave me at least one outing a week to connect with other adults. However, the topics of conversation were a little different from what we were all used to. Forget stories about bad dates, work and world events; insert sleep talk, poop talk and a whole lot of other baby talk.
In additional to these challenges, you also find yourself in body you don’t recognise. Like most new mums, after giving birth I wasn’t quite prepared to still look so “pregnant”. Your body doesn’t magically snap back, your belly is rounded and squishy. As much as you appreciate why your body looks the way it does, it doesn’t stop you longing for a body that looks more familiar. Add to this a sense of guilt for even being so “vain” and self-indulgent, that the way you look is having an impact on you, particularly when you know there are so many women out there battling with fertility problems that would give absolutely anything to have a body like yours.
It’s not surprising that these factors all combine to have a fairly dramatic impact on your relationship. Not only has someone new come into your world who is soaking up so much of your love; you also tend to be less tolerant of each other due to your mutual exhaustion, and have very little time or energy to have any meaningful time together. The relationship you knew is completely change; however, if you’re lucky enough you’ll find a new groove. You’ll watch your partner as a parent and fall in love with them in a whole new way.
The old me was gone, however a new me was beginning to emerge. I found myself longing to do something that aligned with my soul. As corny as it sounds, I truly wanted to be doing something to make the world a better place for my daughter. I found myself increasingly gravitating towards other women who were either also questioning their future career paths post becoming mums, or were in the process of building their new careers. For me, this is what a mumpreneur actually is. Rather than just being a business woman who also happens to be a mum; I see a mumpreneur as someone following a new path after a change of perspective, due to becoming a mum and discovering where they really wanted to be.
Fast forward post the birth of my son Ezra, and I am finally working towards making that a reality by studying counselling and by creating this site. Fostering the connections between women, and sharing stories that women can relate to and that help remove that sense of isolation, truly does feed my soul.
I’m a mum, so I’m still exhausted… I think that’s just my new way of being. However, I have adjusted and am more functionally exhausted now. Also, I have so much appreciation for what I’m capable of on very little sleep, particularly given my son took almost a year to sleep more than 2 hours straight.
Socially, well I’m feeling quite comfortable that my clubbing days are well and truly behind me. Now that my son is finally sleeping through the night, I’m starting to venture out for the odd dinner here and there with friends. I’m still catching up with my gorgeous mothers’ group friends whenever I can. I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet lots of beautiful mums through my daughter’s day care and kindergarten. Since creating and so she thought, I’m also starting to meet lots of inspirational women who are also aspiring to empower women through their new upstarts and career ventures.
Not surprisingly, my body still looks different than it used to. It’s a little bit wobblier, my belly a bit more pokey, my pelvic floor, well… However, this body allowed me to grow and birth two incredible babies and I’m growing to appreciate my body more what it does, than what it looks like. Having kids has been a big part of my consciously working towards a healthier relationship with my body. I need to be able to role model body positivity, so I’m learning to accept my new body and to truly be thankful for it.
My relationship with my husband continues to grow. Of course, it faces challenges like all relationships do, however we keep a very open and honest dialogue and work through anything we need to together. We absolutely need to start having the odd date night though, as it’s so important to stay connected within your relationship and to give yourselves the opportunity to have conversations that don’t revolve around your kids.
So, to all the new mummies out there, and to those who aren’t quite ready yet. Through motherhood it’s very likely that you too will lose your sense of self. That’s okay. A truer sense of self is waiting for you. You will grow in ways you don’t expect. While you may feel that you’ve lost your career drive, you may just be making room for a new career that is more aligned to you. While you’ll feel so exhausted that at times even your bones ache, you’ll survive and perhaps even thrive. You may feel isolated, but push yourself to reconnect with the world; ask friends to meet you nearby, meet other mums, connect with like minds on social media. Your body may never be the same, but let your mind get strong enough to help you stop comparing yourself to others and to let you appreciate your body for what it does. And finally, keep the lines of communication with your partner open, let them know when you’re struggling, forgive each other when exhaustion brings out your worst and do your best to make the time to stay connected as people.
Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find the real you.
Visit Teya’s site here.
If you want more positivity in your life, follow her on instagram @andsoshethought.