"Something’s different," said an old friend, sizing me up in a bar.
"Umm, I have a new hair straightener?"
"No, it’s not that ... you just remind me of you a long time ago."
She didn’t say it, but didn’t need to. A long time ago. Before children. Before sleepless nights and endless dawns and breastfeeding marathons, before Saturday morning swimming lessons and arsenic hour and cancelling on drinks because someone came down with croup.
Yes, I fell in to a mummy fog, but I’m slowly coming out.
Becoming a parent is a great responsibility, but there’s no reason to lose yourself in the process
And that’s when I told her I was trying something new. I’m putting myself higher in the priority chain. For quite some years now there’s been my five-year-old son, my three-year-old daughter, my job, my husband (sadly fourth on the list) and then myself. There’s not even room on this list for extended family and friends. Oh yes, I’ve been a crap friend.
But putting myself last wasn't working out all that well for me, or the people around me, as I realised a few months ago, when I went to see my GP after a series of almost constant viruses. She ran some blood tests and the results were sobering: my Vitamin D levels were so low I had to get an injection in my bottom (which my toddler thought was hysterical), my iron levels were also poor, and I was developing high blood pressure to boot.
Oh yes, and while my children were vaccinated bang on schedule I’d neglected my dentist visits, which meant a rather large bill awaited me once I did go.
In all my rush to give, give, give to all and sundry, I was feeling like utter crap and my health was suffering. I was frequently tired and snappy and hardly a candidate for World’s Best Mum.
Since then, I’ve vowed to make a few changes. No more staying up to 1am working so I’m not letting down the office or the kids. I’m eating more healthily and am scheduling exercise into the calendar so it actually happens. The calendar is also going to cover date nights, so my husband and I can start feeling like a couple again.
I’m saying yes to pedicures and the occasional weekend away with friends. (Ask a mother what she wants more than anything and many will tell you it’s a night in a hotel room, with no-one shouting ‘mummy’ or giving them the night-time nudge, no lunchboxes to pack or laundry to do.)
I am locking the bathroom door and refusing to talk while I go about my business (important Moshi Monsters questions can wait.)
I’m saying no to dressing my kids in designer gear while I grab something sensible snatched from the aisle of a chain store (without trying it on).
Becoming a parent is a great responsibility, but there’s no reason to lose yourself in the process. And that night in the bar, I danced and sang and threw my arms around my friends, without an ounce of guilt.
For some of us it might be about returning to work, or deciding to study. One of my friends has taken up swing dancing. Another runs marathons. Whatever it is, you just need some time to be yourself.