'Please don't forget, you matter'

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Dear me,

I'm writing from thirteen years into your future and you're 7.5 months pregnant with your first son.

You're about to say goodbye to your work colleagues and being showered with well wishes and gifts, and in your mind's eye is your tiny son and the sweet newborn he will be.

I'm not here to tell you about any of how that will pan out, suffice to say you will learn how to look after a small human and you'll even go on to do it two more times. That baby you're pregnant with is now a teenager and doing just fine.

My message for you, is actually all about you.

One of the most dramatic transformations in this parenting journey is the relationship you have with yourself. You'll need to trust me when I say that right now, even before this baby is born, you should adopt a self-first mindset that will see you feeling content at the end of your life.

Achieving what you desire in life sometimes has absolutely nothing to do with your children. Indeed you may have to fight tooth and nail for it, which might sound a bit strange from your still-young-and-empowered feminist viewpoint. Why?

Society often tells us a mother is expected to sacrifice her individuality for family. She is supposed to be selfless, giving endlessly to those she loves most.

Rarely giving to herself.

Advertisement

She might not notice at first, and certainly no-one else is going to notice. It's just what mothers do.

I'm pretty sure you're ready to submit to motherhood right now, your head so certain about how it's going to be... so here are some hard truths.

Having kids is not going to be what you expected

So many of us go into it with rose-coloured glasses, rarely thinking past the demands of baby and toddler years. While those certainly came as a shock, the demands of older kids are perhaps even more so mainly because I thought it would be easier. It's not.

Women are sold the idea that being a mother leads to fulfillment, that motherhood could indeed be enough for a woman. Some of us buy that - you did - this is why all of the points after this one are so very important. 

Set up desired patterns of behaviour now

With your partner, with your in-laws, and with your own extended family. The behaviours of early family life can be the ones that stick, so if you conform to the expectations of others from the get-go, it will be that much harder to change things down the track.

Be honest, be forthright, be kind, but most of all, be true to yourself. Don't give your whole self up to what others expect (or even demand) of you, just to be seen as amiable.

Refuse to be that person who does everything

It will never be enough. You will become so depleted it will take a mammoth effort to come back from it... and to change the expectations of those around you.

Demand time to pursue your own interests

Nurture your mind and respect your inner life. Schedule regular interest-based activities - don't cancel just because you are tired - and it will simply be a given that this is what you do and that this is who you are.

Give to yourself, what you facilitate for your children. Take what's yours because no-one will give it to you.

Don't allow your dreams to drift away

Three kids and thirteen years in, and I know about letting the crazy-busy take over your headspace to the point where you haven't got any plans or ambitions of your own. Grab a notebook every now and then and write down what you want for your life.

Remember that 19-year-old you were, full of dreams? She's still there. Sure, put her on hold when you need to, let your dreams change as you do, but never ever let her go. You'll need her later on. 

You are not your children

I was once told by a very wise person, "You are not your children. You are there to walk beside them, but their journey is their own."

This golden nugget will see you through some of the hard times, when your children do things that disappoint and you feel like you should take the blame. It will help you to see that in lots of cases this is simply part of their journey and not a reflection on you as a parent.

You matter

You the individual; not you defined as the mother, partner, daughter, sister, community member.

You matter.

You matter apart from your family and despite your immense responsibilities.

And because you matter, take care of all of the above.