How will I know?

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map-2527433_1920How will I know?
Will there be a sign?
A sudden realisation
That you’re meant to be mine?

Will I know in a look?
In just a fleeting glance
That tells me quite clearly
You are my chance?

Or, will it be a smile
A warm, upturned grin
That’s the catalyst for
Forever, to begin?

Could it be in your words
That I will uncover
The truth that I won’t
Ever need another?

Will it be in a touch,
A hand on my own
That I’ll understand
My heart is now home?

But what if I don’t
Ever come to know?
What if true love
Doesn’t ever show?

Then there you are.
And as if I always knew
It’s my one, my soul mate,
My darling – it’s you.

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Motherhood: a catalyst for ambition

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The truth is, I thought that motherhood would curb my ambition.

 

A little over four years ago, I nobly determined that my focus instead would be on empowering the dreams of my imminently arriving daughter. I had had my time, I mused; after all, I’d had 39 years to devote to my goals.

 

My thinking no doubt influenced by growing up at a time when there was a still a sense of motherhood vs career, where there was a choice to be made – you couldn’t have both. Not unless you were a ‘superwoman’, as was often the term used to refer to women who pursued career aspirations with family responsibilities.

 

And yet, I am a woman of my age. We eagerly planned to take advantage of shared parental leave, with my husband taking responsibility for the lion’s share of the childcare whilst I went back to work.

 

But here’s the rub: whilst I was absolutely committed to balancing work with my soon to arrive daughter, I didn’t envisage balancing it with a career: with growing, with aspiring, with rising. I thought that I would stay stagnant, that I had no more ambitions to achieve.

 

How wrong was I.

 

Becoming a mother was the most daunting, amazing, scary, yet fulfilling thing that I have ever done, a role I was not trained for or experienced in. But as I watched my daughter blossom I asked myself: ‘I wonder what else I can do?’ Because quite frankly if I could do that, if I could successfully care for this precious child, I could do anything.

 

And that question was the catalyst for a future which led to me setting up my own business when my daughter was 18 months old, even though my supportive and empowering boss had given me the flexibility that I had wanted. Because, whilst working for myself would give me even more flexibility, allowing me to pick and choose when I spent time with my daughter, I wanted more than that. I decided to set up my own business because I realised it was something I aspired to do, because motherhood had made me brave enough to do so – and because I actually believed that I could do it. This was a belief which I had never once entertained before.

 

So here we are now, two and a half years on and all my daughter will ever have known is mummy working for herself, doing what she wants to do. I fervently hope that she sees me pursuing my goals and it is a positive influence for her as she determines and follows her own dreams: she can do whatever and be whomever she desires.

 

And there are so many, many mothers who are also following their goals, so many inspiring women I have met along the way. Mothers whose abilities and skills have been absolutely enhanced rather than diminished by becoming parents. Who are recognising their own value and pursuing their ambitions, achieving as they follow their paths with grit and determination. They are everyday superwomen.

 

Men too. Fathers who have been changed by parenthood, who have added skills to their repertoire through taking care of children, who have brought those abilities to bear across their lives. My own husband is an example of someone whom I have watched admiringly extend his capabilities through caring for his child.

 

And there are some great companies out there who have recognised that working parents – and importantly, mothers – are an asset within the workplace, that they bring fantastic skills; companies who are making tangible, proactive and inclusive efforts to empower career aspirations.

 

But there are still workplaces where mothers – and fathers – are not empowered or recognised for what they can bring. Where opportunities are limiting, and where the conversation seems to linger predominantly on working hours – when the parent can work rather than what they can bring to the party. These companies are missing a trick – and ultimately potentially missing out on a wealth of talent which can add huge value to their business.

 

Employers often underestimate the abilities and goals of parents – and particularly mothers – in their employ.

 

But perhaps, even more so, we underestimate ourselves. Becoming parents allows us to develop and grow our capabilities, and certainly should not mean the end of our desire to achieve more. Quite the opposite in fact: it could be the catalyst for our ambitions – and for empowering the belief that anything is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four

Sweetheart 4th-min
..and just like that
she is four.

How her parents
watch in awe
as her confidence
grows more and more.
She eagerly seeks
independence,
‘I’ll do it myself’
her preference.
And her bravery
is quite inspiring,
for new adventures
she’s always aspiring.
Her determined streak
means she doesn’t quit,
defeat, she’s isn’t
wont to admit
(especially about
her chosen attire,
rainbow dresses
are so desired).
Her disposition
is sweetly sunny,
and really she is
rather funny.
Beside her is
a joyous place,
her love envelops
in an embrace.
Caring, she shows
consideration,
and a kindness worthy
of admiration.
Her happiness radiates
out from within
as attested by
her beautiful grin….

Our darling girl who
we entirely adore,
utterly magnificent
as you turn four.

What Do You See?

What do you see

When you look at me?

A smile that hints

Of days carefree?

A poised stand?

A steady hand?

Shoulders built

To withstand?

 

What do you hear

When I speak?

Commanding voice,

Or mouse-like squeak?

A confident tone?

Words I hone?

Someone for whom

Concern is unknown?

 

What do you think

If you think of me?

A person who knows

Who they’re meant to be?

Clear direction

No doubt or question?

A life aspiring

To perfection?

 

But look again

And do you see

The feelings that

Sit heavily?

 

Reddened eyes,

A sleep disturbed.

Furrowed brow,

A mind perturbed.

Tear tracks from

A row off scene,

Tension held

Beneath the sheen.

A back cowed

Under the weight,

Lethargy carried,

In a heavy gait.

A foot that taps

A secret fear –

We’re not always

As we appear.

 

Look again

And you will find

The mask we often

Shelter behind.

 

 

 

No Parent is an Island

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‘How can someone who is never alone feel lonely?’

 

There has been much talk recently about the subject of loneliness amongst mothers, particularly new mothers. It is an important subject and one which is rightfully getting air time. After the initial fuss – the excitement, the visitors, the interest – tails off,  reality kicks in. Partners – if there is one – go back to work and the mother embarks on a new normality with her baby. Often, especially in those early weeks, this will be spent in the home trying to make sense of this new world order, trying to interpret those screams, trying to understand baby’s needs, and trying not to feel completely out of one’s depth. It is a scary time, and a lonely one too.

 

I certainly recall feeling isolated at times during those early months. This was for two reasons. Firstly because of my own – incorrect – perceptions. I believed I wasn’t that good at the job, that everyone else was a better mother than me, that I was an impostor into the role. This was despite the evidence to the contrary – my daughter was thriving, she was happy, healthy and flourishing. Yet I was still hung up on an inferiority complex which made me feel isolated – because, surely every other mum knew exactly what she was doing at all times, right?

 

The other reason for my sense of isolation was that my husband and I did things slightly differently. After a few months, I returned to work and my other half took Shared Parental Leave. For us, it was the right choice and we both benefitted from building our own bonds with our beautiful daughter. There was though an element of isolation in what we did for each of us. This was due to some of the responses we got from others, and I also had a sense of not quite fitting in:  I felt like I was half in the work world, half in the parenting world and at times, I felt isolated.

 

But what helped me were the kind words of friends who were also mums. When they told me ‘you’re doing a great job’ or ‘your baby’s such a happy baby because of you’ my spirits soared. And with each positive comment, my confidence started to build and those self-imposed perceptions started to crumble until eventually I started to see things differently. I was doing fine. I was a good mother. What I learnt from that experience was the importance of a gentle, thoughtful word for a mother – it can empower, support and inspire self-belief. I purposefully want to encourage other mums with my words.

 

The other thing that helped, unexpectedly, was feedback I received online. I started to share my thoughts and experiences in a series of posts and some of the supportive opinions shared made me realise: I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Lots of parents struggle with a sense of being torn between our varying roles and responsibilities – and, however we parent, we are all doing our absolute best.

 

Isolation and loneliness can really challenge mothers, and indeed, fathers, particularly at a time when they may already be feeling vulnerable and emotional. We can all help to overcome this by supporting each other so we as parents know: I’m not on my own.

This first appeared on http://www.meetothermums.com

The Woman Who Disappeared

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I had disappeared. And I didn’t know where I might be found.

‘I just want to feel like me again,’ I said, tearfully, two weeks into motherhood. Perhaps a wander out alone might help? But the half hour spent loitering without purpose at the shops just left me feeling anxious. As I meandered the aisles, I felt bereft, as if part of me was missing. Who was this impostor purporting to be me? The woman I had known before would never have felt a lump form in her throat over such an innocuous task as choosing a shower gel.

‘Starting to look like me again,’ I said as aesthetically I took control with straighteners and eyeliner and mascara. But even the successful donning – albeit with effort – of a once favoured pair of jeans, rediscovered after nine months without wear, didn’t bring me back. The person I saw in the mirror, staring intently as if searching for recognition, was a stranger.

‘An evening out will do me good. Like old times.’ But old times had never been like this. My eyes fixed to the screen of my phone, wondering if it was too soon to call again, before flickering briefly away to my watch, silently willing the dinner to be served quickly and bring about a swift conclusion to the evening. And the wine, which used to make me giggly and chatty and merry and glad, just made me feel tired, and more than a little despondent.

‘It will be nice to get back to normal.’ Yet this felt anything but. The once familiar seat, the desk still piled with notes scribbled in my handwriting, the keyboard upon which my hands used to dance easily, felt alien. How can just a few months create such a distance?

I didn’t feel like me anymore.

And then I realised: this was me now.

The person I had been before had gone and she was never coming back. How could she? Where once I had carried my heart around in me, now it existed outside, encapsulated in my precious daughter. And nothing would ever be the same again, not now I had the consciousness of my child with me at all times. I would always be checking my phone, thinking about her, worrying about her, missing her and carrying her with me. Which meant that never again would I feel as I once had. Whatever I was doing, be it working, socialising, or simply going about the mundane chores of my daily life. This search for me was fruitless as that ‘me’ didn’t exist anymore.

This is me. And as soon as I recognised this fact, I could stop looking and relax, accepting myself for who I was now without worry or fear or regret. I didn’t mourn the loss of the person who had gone before, the person who had disappeared forever in the moment my daughter was born, though I was glad that she had existed. This now, this person, was who I was always meant to be; mother, above all else, at the core of who I am. All the other things that used to define me – work, play, likes, dislikes – were still there, just less important.

I’m not searching anymore for that woman. I don’t need to.

Because this is me, now.

The Pramshed

2016: Take The Good With You

 

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And so it turns out that the smouldering embers of 2016 still have power to burn. That even in these dwindling days, there is still time to heap more sadness upon a brow-beaten people. The death of a beloved musical icon, a tragedy amplified by the fact that it occurred on Christmas Day – what should be the happiest day of the year – is rendered even more poignant by the subsequent tales of his generosity and humanity. What a legacy to leave.

 

This, and the other recent celebrity deaths, appear to pile misery upon misery. This year, no doubt, has witnessed the loss of a number of people who touched the lives of many others. They made an impact, be it through music or film or service for others, or just by the sheer force of their personality,  and their loss has been felt keenly with fitting posthumous tributes; one hopes that they knew of the esteem within which they were held during their – sometimes short – lifetimes.

 

But it’s not just the deaths, as tragic as they have been. In 2016, our screens have been filled with scenes of human suffering, almost too horrific to fathom. Then there has been the hate, the vitriol, spoken and written, which has underlined deep divisions within society. And politically, wherever you sat, campaigns and debates often got ugly. Indeed, the EU Referendum felt like a deeply unpleasant experience, setting families and friends on opposing sides, creating rifts and anger.

 

So no wonder that people are talking about 2016 as the worst year ever. It’s no surprise that people are looking over the horizon to 2017, and the potential for a brighter tomorrow. There is a sense that the world will exhale a collective breath of relief as midnight comes around on 1st January.

 

All understandable; this year has been strange. Odd. Scary. Sad. I suspect in the future, my daughter will be taught about the events of this year in school. But to me it feels wrong to reduce a whole twelve months to just a few words, just a ‘terrible’ year. Because to summarise 366 days in this way negates all of the good, all of the happy that there has been.

 

And it has been there. The tales of heroism, like the Brownlee brothers embodying what it means to be family. Or the outpouring of love and support, in the form of more than 250,000 Christmas cards, for a little boy with terminal cancer. Or the fundraising for Stand Up To Cancer or Children in Need, people putting their hand in their pocket to help others.

 

It’s been there in our own lives too. In the big things, like getting a gorgeous new nephew to love. And it’s been there too in the small things, the everyday things. The reassuring grip of a baby’s hand around the finger. A thoughtful text sent on a long day. A compliment about an outfit, the one you weren’t sure about but now you’re so glad that you wore.

 

Yes, this year has been replete with sadness, tragedy, hurt and pain. But there has also been love and joy and fun and laughter.We need to look for the light because it’s there. And so, as the year draws to a close, take from it the memories that made you smile, the feelings that lifted your soul; those are the things to treasure.