Wednesday, 25 February 2009

New Life vs Old Life

Is motherhood a big fat goodbye to a wild and wonderful social life? Or does it open new pastures for self-fulfillment?

Having just seen a Facebook message from a pregnant friend who is 'missing her old life', a big smile cracks across my face as I identify with that emotion. I spent the first half of my pregnancy in a state of panic that things were never going to be same again. It's worth noting I suffered with awful morning sickness until week 17 of the pregnancy which didn't help my state of mind. Rationality went out of the window and my moods peaked and troughed like a perpetual rollercoaster.

Luckily, I had some extremely good friends who relentlessly reassured me that they would never treat me differently when I had a 'dependent'. Granted I was going to change, that was a fact. As we nervously accepted that fact (as we had no idea how the 'change' would manifest) we worked hard to reinforce our friendships and keep things in common. We arranged girlie trips to Las Vegas, obsessed about remaining glamorous investing in nice clothes and cosmetics plus continued to talk careers with the odd baby topic thrown in. These girls were and still are my lighthouse in the storm.

One of the most annoying aspects of pregnancy is the unsolicited advice. The most irritating nugget a good number of people offered me was 'life will never be the same again'. If I wasn't so tense and defensive about this subject area, I could and should have asked why and how life will change. I mistakenly assumed they meant that children are the 'ball and chain' of my future life and I won't ever have fun without them again. However, thinking about that statement a little more objectively, irritating it may be, it is true. What they failed to offer up in terms of experience is how life changes in a good way. Not because of all this 'children are a miracle' crap, in fact, no one has ever been able to explain that to me without sounding like a complete pod person. Mainly how you develop a set of soft skills you never knew you had, which you can apply to almost everything you try and achieve, as well as raising your child.

In my own case, for example, I am a planner and like to control many aspects of my life. What I've realised in the first 5 months of my child's life, is that it doesn't matter if you don't plan some things at all. That may seem alien to the more laid back personalities reading this but I functioned heavily on stacking up tasks and appointments on a daily basis. As I started to care for my child, I naturally relaxed into her rhythm i.e. doing what she feels like whenever she feels like it! My stress levels subsided and I naturally developed this sense of important vs. unimportant decisions to make at any point in time. By having a renewed focus on how I spend my time, I am well on my way to achieving quality results on day to day tasks. I haven't felt this confident about my abilities since I was a cocky teenager.

As my pregnancy progressed, I was forced to embrace a calmer social life. Again, this worried me. I realised I had many 'pub' friends who I suddenly didn't see for weeks on end, as I was tired and homebound. Amazingly, many of these friends made the effort to personally contact me and proactively arranged social gatherings rather than just 'showing up at the pub'. Our friendship was moving to new level and I started to engage with people intensely rather than flit around a room with a drink in my hand. Please don't get me wrong, this was my own personality flaw I was transforming. I'm not suggesting at all that parenthood makes everyone better friends or that there's anything wrong with superficial acquaintances, they are fun and serve their purpose.

These are just a couple of examples of how I can testify that my life has changed considerably without a glazed look in my eye blabbering on about my daughter's smile (which is gorgeous by the way). Of course, this is not the quick answer to the polite question of 'how are you finding motherhood?'. If I did respond with this level of detail they would be the ones with the glazed look in their eyes.

To answer my opening musings, I don't feel I have seen the back of the wonderful social life. Wild it may not be, in comparison to the way I conducted myself in the past and I suppose right there is the key point. I was most likely ready for this change after all, despite my panic. Whichever way you look at it, this type of life change is not for everyone but I hope I have illustrated here that it's not all kids bedtimes and washing up. For me, it's as exciting and fresh as being a teenager all over again!

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