What is it with all those fake smiles?

We all know how tough it is, so why do some Mums hide behind a fake smile and say it’s just been a breeze and every waking moment is ‘just perfect’?

There is so much I wish I’d known prior to having my first child because the vision in my head was NOTHING like the harsh, exhausting reality.  And boy – did that vision get smashed into a kazillion pieces when child number two came along!

My perception of motherhood was that I would be completely prepared.  I’d be the supermum that would ‘make it work.’  I would be in control and not let my personality alter.  I was determined not to let my children change us or impact our lives in a negative way and I was really looking forward to having my maternity time off to ‘have a rest’ from my full-time corporate job and ‘prepare for motherhood’ my way.

As I write this, I say ‘I’ because whether or not you have a partner or husband, you still feel that YOU, as the mother, always knows best, and you go on this journey internalising A LOT of b*llocks, so yes – it CAN feel like you’re on this rickety old rollercoaster on your own, waving at your partner to press the damn emergency stop button but they’re off in their own little world, internalising their own dark pot of depressing thoughts about how their wife and their own life has changed.

So much un-asked for advice from friends and family

Now, you’ll probably relate to this, but when the time came for baby number one to arrive, because of my single-minded stubbornness to do things ‘our way and on our own’, I declined advice and help from others.  But, actually, mothers get SO much un-asked for advice from friends and family who ‘just want to help’, that for some mothers, it can actually make you close down and shut yourself away from the world because you know your children better than anyone else, so you know what’s the right thing for them – am I right?  I used to filter those pieces of advice and secretly try what they had suggested and internalise a smug ‘told you so’ when whatever it was they suggested didn’t work.

So, when we decided to have baby number two, I thought…okay…now I get it…now I know to be REALLY prepared.  Then baby number two came along…and it was a like a ten-tonne truck hitting me.

With two kids under the age of three and riding the wave of maternity leave, I did the normal meet-ups with other mums at similar stages of motherhood.  I connected with the various support groups, kids’ play and sing sessions, mothers crying over coffee time and I made life-long friends that I still have today.

No one told me that I could still feel isolated

But during those months, no one told me that I could still feel isolated, yet I could go out and socialise.  I felt physically exhausted, yet I could sleep when my baby slept.  I was mentally drained doing the same thing over and over again, yet I could have reached out and asked for help.  I doubted that was I was doing was the best thing for my baby, yet I could have opened up about my thoughts to other mums.  I felt guilty for not going out of the house some days, yet I could have just stopped putting that additional pressure on myself.

Our second was a non-sleeper and a chuck-it-up champion

Our second ‘bundle of joy’ was nothing like our first and no one tells you that, despite parenting them exactly the same way, your second baby journey is often completely different. Our second was a non-sleeper, a non-keeper of keeping food down and had a cry that went right through you and of course, she was needy as hell, but just for me.  So that vision of my life not altering and my personality not being affected, that got thrown right out the window and I became an angry and unreasonable mum as well as a frustrated and difficult wife. I soon became someone my husband and I no longer recognised.

I then started to stress about going back to work

Towards the end of my maternity leave and after some expert sleep intervention from a self-help book for getting your babies to sleep, I then started to stress about going back to work.  How would someone else look after children like I did?  How could I ensure they would nap in the day?  What if one of my children was the one that all the other mums hated (because our second was proving to be a right little madam!)  And what about me going back to full-time work?  How was that going to work?  Was my job still the same?  What if processes had changed?  How would I be able to do my job when I’d had all this time off?  What time would I need to leave to drop the kids off at nursery and then what time would I need to leave the office to get to be in time for kids’ pickup and avoid the late penalty?  I felt like I had lost the skills I needed to do what I used to do?  Why does no-one understand what I’m going through?  Why do I feel so alone?  Why do I feel like the new person starting a new job?  ARGH!!!!!!!

And let me remind you, I had taken on this new impatient and angry identity…so effectively I wasn’t returning to work…this was a new person going back to an alien environment who had flashes of her time working there, but wasn’t feeling fully prepared to make this giant leap back into her old work shoes because they didn’t seem to fit anymore.

The process for my return to work was pretty clinical.  I endured the one standard return to work interview and although I was asked ‘how are you?’  I didn’t feel I could reveal how I was truly feeling because the person in front of me was young and I assumed she wouldn’t have a clue what was whizzing around in my head at that moment, so I just smiled.  I was then never asked again about how I was adjusting to going back to work but given an HR number to call which transferred me to a voicemail.  Standard.

My marriage was on the rocks and I was forced to go off sick

Back in my work saddle and during the two years that followed, I became very ill…I kept crying and not knowing why.  I couldn’t explain what was going in my head at home or in work and I was totally irrational.  My marriage was on the rocks and I was forced to go off sick.  The long and short of my story is that I was after some time and being forced to seek help, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression.  I just hadn’t realised that the symptoms I was experiencing were actually quite normal for a mother, but no one warned me that was normal.  No one.

After a period off sick to heal my mind, my body and my marriage, I felt I had no other option (because none were offered to me) but to resign from my full-time, well paid, corporate job and I did what a lot of other mothers do.  I put my kids needs first and decided to look for an alternative job which would allow me to work around the children”s nursery/school hours.  But, of course, with this came a massive drop in income, responsibility and a lack of sense of purpose and so in time, this created a whole host of other negative beliefs about my self-worth and my ability so my self-confidence and our income took a massive nose-dive.  It was the recurring signs of depression that started to resurface which alerted me to the fact that I’d made a mistake changing my job.

I was missing the challenge and a sense of purpose and I needed to realign my purpose with something that I was really passionate about and feel like I was really making a real difference.  I made the decision to put MY needs first on the list for a change and chose to use my life experience of motherhood and postnatal depression and turn the negatives into a positive by helping and supporting those super awesome mums, who are just like me.

Head held high, feeling confident, organised and ready to take on the world!

Wouldn’t you like to feel prepared for your transition back into your workplace and feel like you’re supported and listened to throughout your return to work journey?  Wouldn’t you like to get rid of any guilt gremlins and the whirling air of doubt and stride back into your workplace with your head held high feeling confident, organised and ready to take on the world?

If what you’ve read here strikes a chord with you, perhaps I can help? Why not have a no-obligation, confidential chat with me?