Everything changes pretty quickly when you’re a mum. From your body to your mind. Your body turns from a taut temple of goodness to a floopy flappy flab of goo. Your mind, which is usually focused on how many steps you took in a day, begins to focus on just how many hours of sleep you’ve gotten. Actually scratch that. You’ve got no sleep so there’s no math to do here.
Another thing that changes massively is the number of friends you have. And the kind of friends you have.
From friends from all different age groups, lifestyles – a mad collection that I used to nurture before I became a mother – your friend groups start shrinking to those people who can share with you the pain of breastfeeding and the joy of seeing your little one walk for the very first time. Instead of cool, interesting people who mountain climb for a living, you end up finding people who would know what to do if a child has a massive case of hiccups.
You’re also completely exhausted most of the time so in most cases, your partner ends up becoming your best friend. (Or your worst enemy, if they are getting more sleep than you.) The people who can stick around you during this time are the people who can offer you support, comfort and a cup of warm milk so you can catch up on some shut eye. Everyone else is just white noise.
As children grow older, you may start finding time for yourself and for more ‘varied’ friendships (say people out of your carpool group mom s or your coffee mornings) but by that time, the world has moved on. This is why the empty nest syndrome is so much more than just kids moving out. You’ve spent your entire life looking after your children and their needs that you just don’t have time to nurture and foster friendships that were just … for you.
This is turning into a very serious, philosophical rant and I certainly didn’t mean it to end up like this. As I grow older (and perhaps only a tiny bit wiser), I have begun to understand the importance of being me. Something that’s more than just a … mom. I have friendships and conversations that aren’t about my children’s bowel movements and my nightly schedules. I have a life beyond my children and my parenthood duties. Does that make me a bad parent, asks a small guilt-ridden voice within? Is it always about the kids? Do our lives begin and end with the idea of parenthood?
The truth is, parenthood is consuming by default. It just naturally envelops everything around you. Sometimes it’s like a beautiful fog that falls over your entire existence. Only when the kids become independent, ready for their own social circles and their parties and begin developing an aversion to public displays of affection, does the fog lift and you realise you’ve left a life that you once knew far behind.
So it’s okay. To let go of the guilt. To be around adults when all you want to do is rush back to your babies. It’s okay to have a life beyond your identity as a parent. It’s alright to understand your needs as a person because the more self-fulfilled you are, the better parent you’ll be. In moderation, of course.