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Never shut the back door – why saying goodbye to the pre-motherhood you is a bad idea

Inspired by this piece from The Telegraph this week, I’ve been having more than a moment’s thought for the pre-mother in me. My favourite bit says,

Motherhood is hard because there is an assumption that it will instantly take away all your demons and make an honest woman out of you, and then it doesn’t – and the guilt is endless. I sometimes think that the reason the newborn stage is so difficult has nothing to do with the newborn (whom you will always end up looking after on autopilot), and everything to do with the supposed loss of the old you.

Yes! Yes! I found the newborn stage hard in some ways because I could feel the old me sneaking out the back door and leaving the new me to it. Before I was pregnant it was one of my biggest fears because, in the five years previous to it, I’d finally grown to really like the old me, her achievements, her body, her job, her habits.

This girl in Morocco is me.
This girl in Morocco is me.

So, I found it hard to let her out of the back door, and, like the lady mentioned at the start of the article, I had a fair few ‘bottom of the garden’ moments myself. These were always triggered by our daughter’s reflux attacks and the witching hour period where I’d emerge from upstairs with curdled milk and tears soaking through my clothes and into my confidence. More than once, I walked straight out of the house from the nursery and hit up the corner shop for a can of Magners and a packet of ten, and sat like Eeyore in the middle of our decked patio, head drooping against the guilt, hugging the old me tight, wishing I was in the pub with my friends.

But I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. 15 months on, a lot of changes later, I’ve got the old me on toddler reins and I’ve completely supernannied her. It doesn’t mean I don’t love her any less. In fact I love her more for making me the mum I am. But I keep her in check and let her out when the going’s good. And I know that I’m a competent, loving, reliable mum.

Social society, on a superficial level at least, seems to have an obsession with ‘being fake’. Terrible example, but Big Brother viewers this season may have noticed that contestant’s get the most upset when accused by the housemates and public alike of ‘not being real’. A young girl out on the town this weekend may sport a nest of synthetic hair, chicken fillets in her bra, a biscuity stench of fake tan, and eyelashes like crispy fried spiders, but she’d get most upset if she was labelled fake in the toilets by a passing clubber.

So, why should I fake it as well? The old me had some bad habits and some good times, some incredible friends and some really big plans. I’m not going to cover her up, especially because she did me the biggest favour ever, and got me pregnant in the first place.

This exhausted mother is also me
This exhausted mother is also me

Moving to a new city and making new friends at the same time as making the personal and practical transition into motherhood has been another journey in itself. There are lots of folk who never knew me before I had the pushchair, the extra weight and the minimal evening plans. But when they see me, wilted from a terrible night’s sleep, or sweaty from yet another Bristol hill-climb with a buggy, it’s the old me they never met that got me there, not just the mother.



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  1. This really struck a chord with me. When I had my first newborn (8 years ago – yikes) I really did feel completely out of my depth and not at all ready to say goodbye to my old self/life which I’d only just started to love too. I used to walk down the road and catch glimpses of myself in shop windows and think “who is that woman with a buggy? Oh it’s me”.

    Now our third child is two years old and I’ve been able to enjoy being a mum far more over the years but I’m not letting go of the old me – she’s just morphed into the new me and is hopefully not a bad combo either.

  2. Rachel Rachel

    Bravo Eleanor! Xx

  3. I found that becoming a mum actually helped me to find a better me, I had lost my way a bit before and was working in crumby jobs and didn’t really have an confidence but giving birth to Cherry changed all that. Then led me to blogging which has really changed my life. I definitely did still miss bits of my old life though, especially the sleep!! x

  4. I think it’s important to see life outside of your children especially as it’s a lot of burden on them to pin your whole identity and self-worth on motherhood. However, I too like Jess feel like motherhood has helped me find myself. I am so much stronger, more balanced, more compassionate, more confident and happier than I was pre-motherhood. For me, becoming a mother introduced challenges I needed to grow a bit more. I guess I don’t really see pre-motherhood and motherhood me as that separate.

    • This is really nice to hear. I agree that being a mother brings out hugely positive sides of your personality, and you are lucky that there’s little separation between the ‘two yous’. On the inside, I feel totally the same, but on the outside, there is definitely some differences!

  5. Becoming a mother is a strange and wonderful thing, you are immediately filled with so much love but also guilt and I think when the day finally comes and you have your newborn in your hands you are in a way also saying goodbye to the carefree you moments before. I also found it hard to adjust but now it seems like a distant memory as we enjoy our new life so much

    Laura x

  6. I found that article really interesting too, I actually found like Jess that I am a more confident, secure and self assured person since becoming a mother but this also has a lot to do with finding the confidence to start my own business which in turn wouldn’t have happened before having W. I do think the idea that motherhood can save you a dangerous idea though and I loved the points that being a mother doesn’t mean you aren’t that person that wants to go get very drunk with your friends and dance the night away. I love that I can separate those people and still have those (very occasional!) nights but mostly I just prefer the person I am now which I think has taken the good parts from ‘old me’ and also discovered a lot of parts of me I didn’t know existed!

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