A few years ago, I went out for dinner with a dear friend of mine, who’s a mum of two young boys. Our plates had just arrived and she proceeded to cut her entire meal into bite-size pieces. Then she looked up at me, mortified, and said: “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’ve just done that. I’m so used to cutting up food for the kids.”
We both laughed. But looking back, I think it was for different reasons. I’m now a mum of a toddler, and so now I get it. In fact, I have a whole catalogue of similar examples.
Take this weekend, for example. It had been an arduous day that ended in shrieks, screams and shouts while I washed, conditioned and combed my daughter’s hair. Her shrieks, screams and shouts – not mine! I finally got some peace and quiet in the shower when she had gone to sleep. Ah, it was bliss. Hot water, bubbles, and did I mention the peace and quiet? So in the midst of that bliss, what was my shower song of choice? Let It Go from the children’s movie Frozen. The words just spilled out of me by default. And when I settled down later with a glass of wine, I found myself humming The Bing Bong song from Peppa Pig.
Yes, as a mum of a three-year-old, I have been brainwashed. It’s an insidious process that starts when you get pregnant, and well, I’m not sure when it ends. Perhaps it never does.
But I think as women there are key things we can do to keep our centre, and keep our minds filled with more than toys, tantrums and the inevitable teenage woes. In fact, this is exactly why another friend of mine started a business as a photographer and web designer.
“As a woman you have to have something for you, because one day the kids will leave, or will no longer need you, and then you won’t have a life of your own,” she explained.
Another friend and I have talked about the surge of creativity you get when you’re a new mum. Yes, you’re a permanently exhausted zombie who takes three hours to leave the house. But at the same time there’s a new life force coursing through your veins.
I felt it, and she felt it. It’s a new zest, drive and purpose that’s difficult to explain. If you’re a mum and didn’t suffer from post-natal depression, then I’m guessing that you felt it too.
I believe it’s created by the crucible of motherhood – a perfect storm that includes having so little time and energy left that you’re loathe to spend it on things that don’t matter. Instead you yearn to create something that means you can deal with something other than your daily work (both ‘home’ work and ‘office’ work, if you’re a working mum).
However, this new kind of energy doesn’t last forever, and needs to be harnessed into a creative activity just for you. It needs to be something that you can feed and water over the years. So that it becomes a little motherhood nest egg you can withdraw from later.
The alternative is that as the years go by, you find yourself increasingly lost. “What did I used to do before I had kids?” you may ask. After thousands of nappy changes, and all those childhood rites of passage, it’s likely that you won’t quite be able to put your finger on it. You’ll be too busy humming tunes from Frozen, and cutting up your food into bite-size pieces.
Greta Solomon is a writer and journalist. She teaches classes in writing for creative self-expression and is the author of Just Write It! (McGraw-Hill, 2013). She has been teaching, coaching and mentoring writers since 2006. Her clients have included executives from multi-million pound companies, students, entrepreneurs and creatives. She has a psychology degree and qualifications in life coaching, teaching and lyric writing. Visit her personal, creative blog at www.gretasolomon.com or hang out with her on Instagram @greta.solomon
© 2016 by Greta Solomon