Advice

We’re Not Just Mums: Reclaiming your Personhood while Being an Awesome Parent

I don’t know about you, but when I tell people I have kids, suddenly I stop being seen as an individual person and start being seen as a mum. And, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that on the surface.

But when we start to look at the mostly innocent, well-intentioned messages we receive through family, friends, coworkers, and social media, we realise at some point we lost who we were and became ‘just someone’s mum’.

When my youngest started kindergarten, I decided it was time for me to do a course so I could hope to find a job now that all my kid’s days were happening away from our home. And as a single mum, any extra money I could have brought in would be a bonus. I decided on Community Services work as I loved helping people.

On our first day, our teacher (who legitimately changed my life) asked us to describe who we are. The first thing I said is, “I’m a mum.”

And she asked me what else. And I didn’t have an answer.

We had a short back-and-forth where I tried to defend my stance that I was a mum. It was who I was, it was what I did, and it was what I was known for in the circles I associated with.

She challenged me. She asked me to think about who I am outside of being a parent. Her challenge stuck with me for weeks because I had nothing.

I’m more than just my kids’ mum

My entire being was being a mum. I forgot about the things that fired me up or made me happy.

It was wake-parent-sleep-repeat. And I wasn’t even an amazing parent at the time. I did what had to be done and I didn’t enjoy it.

I couldn’t have even told you how long it had been since I had lost myself in a good book or made a dinner I wanted to eat. My entire being was keeping these small humans alive. We would occasionally do something fun like dance around the loungeroom or go to the park, but mostly it was the same thing day in and day out and we fell into a rut.

more than just mums
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Becoming a mum came with pressures and expectations that seemed to swallow me whole and rob me of my zest for life. I spent a couple of years trying to find myself again between my second and third child and an emotionally abusive relationship.

I was definitely not being my best self at the time. But when I fell pregnant for the third time, I settled down and just did the parent thing. I pulled away from so many people because they were living a life that I didn’t think was allowed to be part of, now that I had a young child again.

I didn’t think I was allowed to have fun anymore because I had kids.

People would say things like “You had them, you raise them”, “Mums don’t do that”, and “If you didn’t want kids, you shouldn’t have opened your legs” and more.

It was very apparent that many people held the belief that since I chose to have kids, I wasn’t allowed to complain about how hard it could be. And let’s be honest, parenting isn’t a cakewalk. It is hard, especially when you’re doing it without a partner.

We are allowed to be more than ‘just mums’

But it’s not all we have to be. We are allowed to do things for ourselves, leave our kids with our parents or our partners, and have hobbies outside of what our kids are into. We are allowed to pick the movie at night or buy a flavour of ice cream that only we like. It doesn’t have to always be about the kids.

This is something I forgot until that one teacher reminded me.  After I sat with her “being a parent is one thing you do, but it isn’t who you are” comment for a week, I started to make some changes in my life.

Here are a few things I did to reclaim my personhood, womanhood, and happiness.

I got back in touch with friendships I let wane.

I can count on one hand the number of people I still talk to. And he’s one of my best friends. I reached out and invited him over for coffee and we began to get our friendship back on track.

I started doing one thing a day for me.

Even if it was as simple as drinking a cup of coffee while it was still hot. I had a movie night by myself or with any of the kids if they wanted to join in. I got back into reading and remembered why I loved it so much.

I started writing again, primarily romance novels, but also poetry and I have about a dozen files on my computer about my life and the trauma I survived.

I left the house.

I started taking my kids to the park or library on weekends. While my kids were at school I would meet up with my family or a friend for lunch. More recently I’ve started having coffee with my mum and one of my sisters each week.

I got back in touch with myself.

Sex isn’t the be all or end all of a relationship, but it’s an important part of a relationship for some people. I am one of those people. When I was partnered, our sex life fluctuated according to whatever was going on with us as a couple and for a long time, it was stagnant.

I went with a friend to a sex toy store and bought my first vibrator, which sat in my drawer for six months before I was game to use it. No one who knows me now would ever believe I was once very timid when it came to anything sex-related. The first night I walked around my house naked was utterly liberating and empowering.

I stopped caring about what others think of me.

This was by far the hardest one. It took a lot of self-reflection to get myself to a point where I stopped hearing their negativity.

The court of public opinion can get inside the mind of even the strongest person and so much of our identities are put on the back burner when a baby makes an appearance.

But we owe it to ourselves to be the best version of ourselves. We also owe it to our kids to step outside the ‘mum zone’ and find what we love.

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Tina Evans is a complete introvert, an avid reader of romance novels, horror novels and psychological thrillers. She’s a writer, movie viewer, and manager of the house menagerie: three kelpies, one cat, a fish, and a snake. She loves baking and cooking and using her kids as guinea pigs. She was a teenage parent and has learned a lot in twenty-three years of parenting. Tina loves Christmas and would love to experience a white Christmas once in her life. Aside from writing romance novels, she is passionate about feminism, equality, sci-fi, action movies and doing her part to help the planet.

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