#MoreThanAMutha is all about celebrating the things that women are, as well as being amazing mothers.  In a world where many women feel like they lose their identity when they become a mum, it is important to celebrate and shout that we might be mums, but we are not only that and we are still a force to be reckoned with.

What makes you more than a mother? 

My Father brought me up with my 2 brothers, so really I have no benchmark of what makes a Mother, good or bad. Thinking about it maybe that has made my journey into Motherhood easier as I have no shoes to fill, no big expectations. Emotionally it might have made things easier even if practically its been very hard to have zero support! In terms of what make’s me more than a mother it would probably be that while bringing up my son I have tried to continue working Freelance in TV (an industry that does not mix well with family life), while also selling our backyard honey and making gifts that I sell in a Local Art Gallery. On top of this 2.5 years ago, my other half got very sick so I have been labelled a ‘carer’ on top of all of the usual challenges of trying to bring up a young child, in a new town.

Are people surprised when they realise you are more than a mum? Does that bother you?

I think people have been surprised at how resilient I have been over the last few years, and when I look back I have surprised myself. But really I think it’s true of anyone, you don’t know what you can achieve untill you are pushed to your limits. I think people are surprised that I had a good career before having my son as anyone that meets me in Colchester now would think I’ve just crawled out from under a bush! I guess that just goes to show you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. It doesn’t bother me when people are surprised about my past life, it has just taught me to realise that everyone has their own story and you can’t guess what that is just by standing next to someone at the school gates

What challenges do you face when you’re juggling motherhood and being more than a mum?

Our little family has faced enormous challenges since having my son. Career challenges and mental health issues. After working in a chaotic, fast paced environment and living on London for 20 years I thought that when I had my son I would take some time out to focus on being a stay at home. I wanted to be the mum I didn’t have and the mum I thought my son deserved.
We moved from Hackney to Colchester when my son was 6 months old, bought a wreck of a house to do up. I thought I would do up the house and mooch around Essex with my baby but the reality was very different to how I’d imagined and the grass was not greener on the other side. It was isolating, I didn’t find any baby groups I liked, and I missed working. I’ve worked since I was 13, paid for myself to go to Uni, done everything for myself and felt very lonely and unfulfilled. I knew lots of people who were struggling to conceive so didn’t think I could talk about how hard I found those early days. It seemed ungrateful.
I had my son when I was 37, as I was so caught up in my London life that I was putting it off, but my Aunt said something quite interesting to me about how I was feeling. She said that her generation got married and had families young (early 20’s), whereas now, we seem to be having kids later and when the baby does come you feel like you have had more to give up. That totally made sense to me. I was no longer travelling the world, socialising, working hard and playing hard, I was stuck on what felt like another planet.
After about a year I decided to go back to Freelancing but it was very hard. Long and unpredictable hours and now with an expensive commute. And I missed my son. I missed him like I was missing a limb. When I got home after the first shoot I did we cuddled on the sofa for 2 days and it made me realise I needed to find another job. I couldn’t be away from home basically.
That’s when I started making gifts to sell alongside the honey, so I got a Market Stall but I found it pretty mind numbing standing around all day. I then got a job in a local Gallery but it was not a good fit for me. It turns out I have quite a strong work ethic and when I was told to “lower my expectations” I walked out, and reluctantly went back to TV work. I came to the realisation that you can have to all, just not at the same time. I believed I had all these work skills but they would not translate to any other industry. (I also tried Event Management and Wedding Planning but no one wanted to give me a chance). Now I work whenever I’m offered it alongside retraining to be a Social Media Manager. We just cobble child care together with 1 very kind school mum. Not at all practical, and I have had to turn work down as we have no regular childcare options, but it’s the only way to survive at present. I often wish I was a Plumber.
So now, at 43, I feel like I’m starting again. I’m still looking for a job that I can do that doesn’t mean I have to choose between my son and my bills. And I still have to keep an eye on my other half so doing long hours away from home is not really possible anymore.

How long did it take you to remember you were more than a mother after you had your child(ren)?

Not got there yet…

Who, or what, helps you to make time for yourself? What do you do to escape the stresses of motherhood?

I do nothing for myself and that is something I am trying to address this year. I have been to Malta to visit a friend and am visiting another friend in Spain later in the year but that is really all I’ve done in 6 years! I’m not a Spa type person, and I’m not good at smalltalk so a visit to the Hairdresser or to get my nails done fills me with dread. I don’t have ‘girl gangs’ or ‘tribes’, I’ve turned into a bit of a lone wolf I think. The last few years have been all about survival and I have spent so much time looking after everyone else I have forgotten what I like to do! I’m a work in progress.

What advice would you offer a mum who might not be feeling like they are more than someones mum right now?

There is a tendency to feel like we are not doing enough, as a mum, as a partner, as a career person, as a friend and we can all have periods of feeling deeply inadequate. And that’s important to remember, very few people share their true selves / feelings when they are out and about and especially not on Social Media. Some days if I feel overwhelmed by life and the never ending list of things I have to do I try to give myself a break and think ‘ What is the absolute minimum that needs to happen today?’ It’s always, take my son to school, pick him up from school and feed/water him. and just spend time with him. EVERYTHING else just has to wait. Very few things are that urgent that they can not wait another 24 hours.

Any advice for someone who is going through the same things as you are right now in their quest to be #MoreThanAMutha?

Being a Mum is the hardest job in the world and everyone’s experience will be totally different. I never really subscribed to any ‘How To’ books / lists as I realised pretty early on that one size most definitely does not fit all. The priority for any one regardless if they are trying to be ‘more than a mutha’ or just trying to get through each day is to look after your mental health.
Last year, after the dust had settled on my other half’s illness, which ultimately resulted in his business closing and us losing the house we left London for, I cracked. After some interventions from some very old friends I went to the Dr, got put on medication and did some CBT (which I have done before and think EVERYONE should do. I actually think it should be taught in school). Life is hard generally, and being a parent adds to the pressures but there is no shame in seeking help. Don’t assume you are the only one struggling, because you never are. No one will know how you are felling if you dot tell them, so don’t be a martyr.
Also, the tough times don’t last forever, its important to remind yourself of this. Only you know what you are capable of and if thats focusing on your child for a few years and spending that short time together (and if you can afford it), that’s enough. Equally if you are not fulfilled by that and want to take on other projects, then that’s great too. The main thing though is to look after yourself if you can and the rest will follow.

Who would you like to see featured next in the #MoreThanAMutha series?

Jack Monroe would be a great scoop.
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