#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?
I recently took ill health retirement from my job as a secondary schoolteacher – a job I had loved and that had been tied up in my identity for twelve years. The job had, however, become incompatible with manging my health. I have Multiple Sclerosis and relapses hit my vision, my strength , my balance and in the case of my last relapse, my emotional well being. Leaving work left me with a huge whole in my life and I am still desperately trying to figure out what I am now.
I am a mother to two. I recognise that this in itself is a full time job and the most important thing that I do. But when people ask me, ‘What do you do?’ they don’t want to know that I am a mother. They want to know what I do for eight hours a day to pay the bills. The truth is that I am a retired teacher. At thirty five years old, however, that answer is bound to lead to me explaining myself further. So although being a mother is what takes up my eight hours a day and more, I am #morethanamutha.
I am the founder of Mums Like Us – a network for disabled mothers. I write a blog which can be found at www.mumslikeus.org. I maintain an instagram account aiming to open the conversation about disability and motherhood up to a wider audience, My dream is to make disabled mothers feel like they are part of the mainstream! I also have a facebook group which is exclusively for disabled mothers. It is a platform for us to share our fears and concerns, to big each other up for the bloody brilliant job we are doing and to help each other out with advice and support. It is an amazing space and something of which I am enormously proud.
Since Mums Like Us started I have been trying to get the message out there! I have spoken on the subject at the Women of the World festival at London’s Southhbank. I have written about it for NCT Matters and the #makemotherhooddiverse project. I have also been really lucky to have a blog I wrote on the ‘silver linings’ of being a disabled mother published by @selfishmother in her instazine. Mums Like Us is doing what I wanted it to. It is providing community for disabled mothers and it is starting to show others that we are here and that we have a valuable experience to share.
Are people surprised when they realise you are more than a mum? Does that bother you?
I think people are surprised I am not more than a mutha in their eyes. They expect me to be in traditional work. I am slowly learning to explain who I am and what I ‘do.’
What challenges do you face when you’re juggling motherhood and being more than a mum?
I am at home full time with my (very strong willed) toddler and my eldest outside of school hours. Time is not something I have in abundance. I also have many many medical appointments in my schedule. I work on Mums Like Us in snatches of free time, usually on my phone. I do this in waiting rooms, during nap times, when grandparents are helping out and in the evenings. Mums Like Us is not a business. It does not make me money. I don’t rely on it in that sense so I can fit it around the rest of my life. I find it invaluable, however, for providing me with self worth beyond motherhood.
How long did it take you to remember you were more than a mother after you had your child(ren)?
After nine months or so I felt ready to return to work having had my first daughter. I remember feeling the need to be valued for something other than parenting. To be honest though, I felt I was a better teacher than I was mother! I knew what I was doing in the classroom, whilst parenting threw new and wildly different challenges at me each day. I never felt that I was defined simply by motherhood, despite it being the most important part of my life.
Who, or what, helps you to make time for yourself? What do you do to escape the stresses of motherhood?
I am very lucky to have an extremely supportive husband. He helps me take the time I need to breathe and to focus on other things. I also have the help of grandparents each week and at the moment, the little one sleeps in the day! I am not sure how I will feel when that stops soon enough!
What advice would you offer a mum who might not be feeling like they are more than someones mum right now?
You are. You are you but amplified. If you are working, you are a full time mother AND a working woman. If you are not, you are a full time mother AND you are dealing with a million other things. It is difficult to reclaim your sense of self, particularly in the early days. If at all possible, carve out some time for you to do something that you enjoy without your kids in tow, even if that’s half an hour with a book after they’ve hit the hay. We all need some time to ourselves. Don’t let the mum guilt win.
Any advice for someone who is going through the same things as you are right now in their quest to be #MoreThanAMutha?
If you are a disabled mother, join Mums Like Us – a network for disabled mothers on facebook! You are not the only one! There are hundreds of us on there and we are sharing brilliant tips and advice to help make the juggle a little easier!
Who would you like to see featured next in the #MoreThanAMutha series?
Are you #MoreThanAMutha? Get in touch to share your story.