So I’ve recently been asked by the lovely folk over at Not On The High Street to write a feature about being a Maverick Mum and share my experience of doing motherhood my own way – part of their campaign to change the cookie cutter image of motherhood often portrayed in the media. The trouble is, it came at a time when I am feeling in no way maverick, and not entirely sure that doing things my way is working particularly well.
I am going through a patch of pretty rough health and re-evaluating whether I’m doing anything well enough, so my initial thought was to turn down the opportunity. But then I thought, why? Should I only speak up if I’m feeling chipper about life? If I have something inspiring or uplifting to share? If I’m promoting something I do successfully? What message does that send out to other women? Basically the one that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis – that as mums we have to hold it all together, please everyone and look super cool and happy in the process. So what I’m doing now is my last piece of writing before I take two weeks off to get myself back to good health and figure out how to tweak a few things for a better work/life balance.
When I became a mum I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t ready. None of my mates had kids and I found myself thrown into this world of full-throttle change and overwhelming responsibility. Luckily I stumbled across hypnobirthing when I was pregnant, and it was a game changer for me. I was scared about birth and about becoming a mother, but hypnobirthing meant I felt so well supported by my husband and equipped with the tools I needed to start bringing together my mental and physical capabilities rather than leaving them to function independently. Despite planning a home water birth, my unplanned caesarean was one of the most positive and empowering experiences of my life. It taught me that the ability to calmly navigate difficult circumstances with confidence was worth way more than things always going to plan – a great life lesson for this Maverick Mum.
Knowing there was more to this hypnobirthing lark than was being promoted at the time, I decided it was something I wanted to introduce to other women in a more accessible/less hoo-hah way. I quit my job whilst on maternity leave (because going back to my old job part time wasn’t an option) and retrained to become a hypnobirthing practitioner. I launched London Hypnobirthing in 2011, teaching couples in my home. Although I would get really nervous before teaching when I started out, I gradually got more confident and realised that this was exactly what I was meant to be doing. I loved it, the couples loved it, they were having great births and I was feeling wonderful about making such a positive contribution to people’s lives. Fast forward five years and I’ve organically built one of the UK’s most successful hypnobirthing practices and been lucky enough to work with some high profile celebrities and influential brands to start changing the face of birth and motherhood in the UK.
And then last year, my yesmum cards were born! These positive affirmation cards are adapted from an idea I had been using in my work with pregnant women. I would encourage them to surround themselves with positive statements about birth in order to reprogram the subconscious mind to recognise birth as a safe event, rather than something to fear. Changing the way you think about something inevitably changes the way you experience it, so I decided to create affirmation cards for new mums that had enjoyed using the technique on my course. To be honest I thought I’d sell a few packs to people I’d worked with, but the response was completely overwhelming and it had clearly tapped in to something mums don’t hear enough – that they’re doing a great job. Hop forward 8 months and there are now 5 different ranges that get shipped daily to every continent – all marketed exclusively and organically through my Instagram page.
Now obviously Instagram has been great for me business-wise, but social media platforms don’t come without their woes. When you find yourself deliriously scrolling through beautiful feeds of non-Cheerio-encrusted kids, a Le Creuset on the stove and a Macbook open, you can’t help but think “cripes, she’s doing it all and I should be too”. What you must remember though is that this is the digital equivalent of the photo of the woman laughing whilst eating a salad. It’s not real, and for every perfect shot there are 30 that are too “real life” to make the grade – where the kid is being bribed for a smile, where all the Peppa Pig yoghurts spontaneously launch out of the fridge, where mulitcoloured pieces of crap are flying around like a PlayDoh hurricane and someone’s crying because their Action Man fell down the toilet. I think it’s all too easy to get sucked into this world where everyone’s an instamum or a mumboss with a blog and a business and a brick wall, and I think we’re at real risk of succumbing to the belief that this is what we need to be happy, because it’s simply not true.
So what I’m suggesting is this: slow the devil down. You do not have to do it all, you do not have to do the same as anyone else and you do not have to be busy all the time. You don’t have to be witty or funny or stylish or cool or a domestic goddess. You don’t have to have a tidy house or a business or a blog or even a bloody Instagram account. All you need to do is find your way. Stop comparing yourself to other people and trying to make your life look more like theirs. Just focus on your own game – your kid, your family, your dreams. Whatever you want to do – go back to work, be a full-time mum, volunteer, make stuff, write, sing, wonder – that’s what you should do, and the only way you’ll know is by letting it come to you when the time is right, and by getting in touch with what you feel. If you’re running around at 100mph trying to keep up with everyone else’s game, you’re going to fall flat on your face and feel constantly consumed with frustration that things aren’t fitting together for you. But when the fit’s right it just happens, and that is truly magical.
So those are my Maverick Mum meanderings for what they’re worth, and that’s exactly what I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks getting back in tune with for myself. I love my business, I love social media, but right now I know I want more quality time with Oscar and my husband, a bit less pressure to please everyone and keep the plates spinning so quickly, and ultimately, my health back. I invite you to think about it with me. Resist the temptation of comparing yourself to the woman next to you. Stop the glorification of busy. Remember you are doing a great job and you are exactly what your child needs. Find, believe and love yourself hard. The rest will fall into place – it always does.
If you fancy winning £500 of lovely notonthehighstreet.com vouchers head on over to Instagram with your favourite mum snap (whether it relates to your mum, or your experiences raising your own children) and tell @NOTHS about a time one of you went completely #MaverickMum.