This week my baby turned 6 months and so I have been reflecting on how motherhood has changed me. Many would say the biggest change for them is their body shape or getting used to less sleep but for me, it is the new feeling of vulnerability.
I would say I feel more vulnerable now than I did when I was pregnant. As a woman in business, I have always prided myself on having a strong character; being able to talk to anyone. I was good at what I did and I was confident in my abilities. But as a mother, everything has felt new. I don't always feel confident in what I am doing and I haven't always wanted to make the effort to talk to all the new people I meet through the baby classes.
I have felt exposed to my weaknesses in so many ways. I feel like a newbie on the job, just beginning to learn the ropes. There are 4 pieces of advice I would give a new recruit that could help new mothers also.
1. Get to know your operating system as quickly as possible.
There are several work platforms that are specific to a working role and often in the first week of induction a new job starter would be asked to familiarise themselves with the equipment. Now for me, I was never a little girl who loved to play with dollies and push prams around. Therefore I am pretty sure I needed to take a driving test when it came to using the buggy. Countless times, have I struggled to manoeuvre it around the shops without crashing into something or simply struggled to get it through a coffee shop door.
I will never forget the time in Lidl carpark where I tried to get the frame to open and couldn't. I spent five minutes shaking and turning the frame and ended up giving up, without realising that the frame had a latch that just needed to be simply unclipped. When it comes to the buggy I can go from feeling like this powerful woman who has conquered the world to an embarrassed, powerless phoney who has no idea what she is really doing. However, the more I use the buggy, the more comfortable and natural it feels, and the more confident I get.
2. Make sure you know what the role entails
People spend years perfecting their crafts; whether studying at university or learning on the job. They will swot up on the business before taking an interview and know the type of employee they want to be. If you want to be good at something you need to practice, but all the babysitting in the world did not prepare me for raising a child of my own. So many mothers talk about feeling guilty when it comes to their baby. I wouldn't say I suffer from this greatly but I can understand the concern for doing things the right way. There is an internal battle between what is best for the baby versus what is best for mum. Naturally, I will always go with what is best for baby but sometimes I recognise that I need to put my needs first in order for the baby's overall well being: happy mum, happy baby.
For a woman who has always been self-sure, I have at times questioned my decisions and second-guessed my natural responses which can make me feel weak. Researching about babies at different stages has helped me to feel empowered. When it came to weaning my daughter I read different articles and blogs and came up with a plan that I felt would work for us. If someone questioned my actions, I felt justified in my decision-making.
3. Run your own race & be yourself
It’s an unwritten rule that in business you don't ask what someone else earns or the benefits they receive. You work hard and you negotiate your own contract. People compare lots, but I have noticed that new mothers compare themselves to others like nothing else. They compare how well they are doing as a mum, how quickly they got back into their jeans, how well they are doing at breastfeeding etc, not to mention the comparisons on the babies themselves. Who do they look like? Mum or dad? What developmental stage are they at? The comparisons are endless and without realising it, I have at times, questioned whether my baby and I are where we should be; which is wrong!
Very early on I had to make a conscious decision to not compare. So much is available on social media and I know that people can paint themselves in whatever light they want on it. In order for me to stay strong and confident and so proud of my baby, I have had to ignore others and just run my own mummy race and try to be the best mum I can be. I have become comfortable with leaving the house without makeup (if I have to) because the baby is crying. I am ok with that! I am not neglecting me, I will just do my make up when I arrive at my destination. I am more comfortable with looking after my baby than I am with her crying whilst I doll myself up. I focus on us and what feels right and not worry what others are up to.
4. Get plenty of rest
After a week in a new job, you feel so exhausted. You have taken so much in that your brain hurts and you feel physically drained. It is the same when a baby is born. A new level of exhaustion comes into play. Emotions are heightened on little to no sleep and therfore responses can often be hormone led rather than based on logic or rationale.
During the working week employees will go to bed earlier, there will be a structure to when they go to bed and what they will and will not do during the week. Where possible, it is good for new mothers to also form some sort of resting pattern. The true colours of a person show when someone is stretched and it is their character that will decide if they will let their emotions dictate their responses or actions. Being well rested will always help nurture positive working relationships.
By following these simple suggestions I hope it will make the transition through early motherhood feel less uncomfortable. When you take on a new role you have to reinvent yourself and find out the person you want to be. You have to get used to a different pace of life. Either go with the business flow or slow down to maximise time with the baby. What type of mother/employee do you want to be? You have to develop and nurture new relationships with your colleague/baby. How do you invest your time spent with the most important people to you?
I have realised it is ok to feel vulnerable as a mother and employee, because this is a place where you will ask for help. You will ask questions and do the research to get answers. You dig deep to find the person you truly are and as you grow and mature in your new role, you will come back to a place of confidence and self-assurance and end up with many new skills to add to your bow.