How does it feel – just ‘being mum’

I’m Holly Pither, a PR professional, blogger, fitness fanatic, new mum to baby Amelia (nine months old) and currently on maternity leave.

When I was pregnant and people used to ask me about whether I was excited about having a baby I always responded “yes, absolutely” (well that’s what they want to hear and because, of course, it was true). However what I didn’t tell them was the very next feeling that used to hit me when they asked this; utter fear. Oh, but I wasn’t fearful about putting on weight, swollen ankles or feeling tired. I wasn’t even anxious about the long and painful birth, rather, I was fearful about leaving my job in public relations, if only for a short while.

It’s embarrassing to admit this and in many ways I always felt it made me look like a bad mummy before I had even started. As if I am not grateful for this wonderful gift, when truly I am. However happy I was, I couldn’t shake this deep-rooted fear of how I would deal with my time off* on maternity leave. I just couldn’t work out how I would let go, pass over the reins to a maternity cover, and worst of all, whether I could deal with going from PR professional, to simply being ‘mum’.

*By the way, I should just caveat that ‘time off’ is completely the wrong term of phrase here. I’m nine months into maternity leave and I can assure you having a baby is far from ‘time off’ – more like ‘time always on’ but for want of a better phrase I will leave it as it is.

So was I the only one feeling like this? I couldn’t find anyone writing about this issue of maternity leave anxiousness, and it is never discussed in the pregnancy books or at antenatal classes. None of my friends seemed to mention it either… was I just not cut out to be a mummy because I was so focused on my career?

It was only about two weeks before I was due to give birth that I decided to be honest and commit my very biggest fears to paper (or rather to screen) in the form of my mummy blog that I realised I’m not the only one feeling like this. There are women all over the world panicking about letting go, anxious about going off on maternity leave, fearful over losing their identity when they stop working – and all the time feeling guilty about these emotions. Yet it is like the elephant in the room and something no one is willing to admit to for fear of people judging.
I have always loved my career in PR, and my clients and my team mean the world to me. I have also, up until recently, believed that my career defines me, makes me into the professional that I am, even makes me the person I am. So how would I cope if I couldn’t do what defines me on a daily basis? How would I continue to be me? How would I deal with losing my identity? What will I talk about at dinner parties or social events if I don’t have my career to fall back on? All these questions I agonised over in the run up to my maternity leave, resulting in my last few months being stressful and emotional.

But now, as I enter into my ninth month of maternity leave and having had my beautiful baby girl, I have realised that what defines me is not, in fact, my career. Rather, it is my deep rooted values that define me. I am me whatever job or role I do, whether this is being a mum or a PR consultant. And these values won’t change whether I am at work or at home. They will remain intrinsic in me until my return to work and help me every day as I practice my new (very difficult) job as a mum. Not to mention the skills I will pick up along the way of being a parent, such as patience, the ability to meet new people, being able to think on my feet, the requirement to put in all the hours of everyday no matter how tired I am, and of course the skill of multitasking.

I loved my job because it was hard and because it stretched me. But so too does being a parent, and perhaps even more so than I ever imagined. There really is no harder job on the planet and certainly nothing you feel so invested in.

As I continue this journey into motherhood, I am so relieved to know that I am not alone in my fears. So let’s talk about the elephant in the room and address this stigma, because it’s ok to be scared about going off on maternity leave and it’s definitely ok to love your career and love your baby.

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