For me, motherhood was something I had always looked forward to. My mother had raised my siblings and I in an incredibly loving and giving way, and that was something I desperately wanted to do for my own children.
And so around six years ago, even though the time had never really felt overly right, my husband and I made the bold decision to try our luck at getting pregnant and overwhelmingly, four weeks later, I was.
When our little boy arrived right on time, nine months later, I remember laying in the hospital bed with him, optimistic about the type of mother I would be for him, and completely ignorant to the experience that would soon transform every part of who I was.
I can confidently say that for the next three years I suffered undiagnosed postpartum depression.
Undiagnosed purely because I was determined not to let anyone know that I was suffering and that I was a ‘bad mother.’ Instead, I put on a smiling face, told everyone I could what an amazing experience becoming a mother was, and gave birth to my second beautiful son regardless.
But one day, as I was sitting on my chair looking down at these two incredible creations, I couldn’t do it anymore. I was sick of pretending to be this happy and fulfilled mother at home and couldn’t help but think there was something more for me.
As a result of that afternoon and a frightening realization that I could easily have walked out the door, I had a conversation with my husband and told him that I needed to explore other things and to try and find my passion and purpose beyond being a mother.
Thankfully, he seemed to understand and we agreed to swap roles. By the next month I was the sole breadwinner and he became 2016 house husband of the year.
I became completely obsessed with working out what I should be doing with my life, particularly as it felt at the time I was making a decision to put my work before my family (I now know this was not the case at all). I found work that challenged me, inspired me, and excited me every single day and I truly thought for a short time that I could have it all.
What I didn’t expect as a result of starting to understand what made me happy, and actually made me a better mother, was that it made other people really, really uncomfortable.
The idea that I was supporting my family and that I was happily away from them for extended periods of time was a failing. I started questioning my decisions, tried to sabotage my own happiness, and felt completely out of control in my role as a mother.
I couldn’t help wonder why I was so different to everyone else. Why did I not feel absolute bliss when I was at home with the kids? Why did I enjoy drinking wine with friends when I was away with work instead of wallowing in self-pity in my hotel room because I missed them so much?
I started asking this very question to the amazing mothers and fathers around me. I remember posting a photo of myself from a particularly bad day with a very honest post about my failings as a mother.
I wanted to test the reactions I received back. As a result, something amazing happened. I received message after message from parents that felt exactly the same way.
I heard from a friend from high school that she hated being at home with her baby and was desperate to go back to work. Another friend messaged me to say he felt like every day he was failing his family because he had to work long hours to support them financially.
A woman I knew who had just had a baby reached out to say thank you, she thought she was alone until I spoke up about it. I must have received 20-30 messages within a few hours of people that felt like they were failing every single day and that they were absolutely alone in thinking that.
Finally, after four years of being a mother, I realized I was not a failure.
That day I made a decision to accept that I was never going to be a mother that was happily baking and taking her children to the park every single day. I need more, and that is ok.
It is also ok to be the mother that absolutely loves being at home with her children and dreads the day they go to school. And it is ok to sometimes wonder about what your life would be like if you hadn’t had children.
My biggest failing led me to an amazing discovery… there are simply not enough people talking realistically about what parenting is like for them. And as a result, we have this bullshit pressure on ourselves because we are looking around at all these perfect mothers and fathers and thinking ‘why can’t that be me?’
I wouldn’t have been sitting on the couch that day contemplating walking out on my family if I felt more accepted as the mother I really was, instead of the mother I thought I should be.