Five things that erode our confidence as mums and what we can do about it
Ways I've found to overcome crippling self-doubt and feel happier
Last week I had a bit of a mini-meltdown and ended up sobbing down the phone to Tim, my husband about how I was literally, catastrophically failing at life. A tad melodramatic, maybe…but that was 100% how I felt right then. My plate-spinning confidence was on the floor (along with all the plates).
I’m working like a mother at the moment to get some ambitious stuff off the ground to turn Mumbelievable into a sustainable, scalable business. It’s early days, and things are going great.
I love everything that Mumbelievable stands for, and everything I do is to promote confidence, honesty, empowerment and solidarity for mums. Staying true to those values and all that….here’s my honesty right now.
I’m working with some incredible people on our Return to Work with Confidence programme to support working mums regain their personal and professional confidence after they’ve taken time out to have a family, and an online version will launch soon to help women all over the world do the same.
The next adaptation is a programme to support working mums and dads to manage the demands of work and family life, and then we’ll take that online too. Then there are my confidence cards and other products I’ve got in the pipeline, like a range of mother’s day greetings cards.
It’s a big, beautiful picture. And I’m designing it.
That’s the dream, right? To make your living from soul food. I’m lucky.
The pipeline is healthy. But the reality is that it’ll be a while spent developing relationships with businesses and putting the marketing legwork in online and in the non-pixelated world before the real money starts rolling in. These things don’t happen overnight. All part of the start-up adventure!
Xav goes to preschool, but his hours could never be enough for what I need right now. I work some evenings when I can, but others I’m just too damn spent to think. I’m mindful Xav will be at school by September, so I’m desperately trying to savour these final months before this next era starts. I get caught feeling guilty when I’m working that I’m not with him (or that I’m fobbing him off) and guilty when I’m with him that I should be working. Then there’s the house. My marriage. Relationships with my family and friends.
Do any of us actually have a clue what ‘balance’ looks like? How do people reach this utopia? Does it exist?
Ironically, I’m doing all of this so we can be together. So I can show him what’s possible. So I can create the flexible existence that’s so hard to come by in conventional employment. I’m trying to challenge companies to up their game when it comes to creating solutions for their talented female employees who are fleeing the workforce simply because they’ve had the audacity to procreate. I believe in what we’re doing.
So why is the guilt so crippling? Why does the self-doubt still rear its head?
Here are five ways I feel my sense of self-confidence has been eroded at various times since becoming a mum and ways I’ve found to overcome them.
Comparing ourselves to others.
Whether that’s people I look at and perceive are more accomplished, successful, polished or together….I think we’re all guilty at times of this. In no way can this ever serve us. The social filters are a bitch, yes – but none of us are under any illusion that that’s what’s real. We have no idea what others are thinking, feeling or what’s going on for them. All we see is what they choose for us to see. We all look at each other in admiration and respect for what the other is doing. Remembering that is so important.
Not getting enough sleep.
When I don’t get enough sleep (so, always) my ability to cope with the demands of my life diminishes, taking the precious confidence I’ve worked so doggedly to build with it. When I’m exhausted, I’m more emotional and become overwhelmed much more easily. Xav has never been a brilliant sleeper and while the horror days of the first 18 months are long gone, he’s still inconsistent. But prioritising sleep and down time are a major part for me in preserving that sense that I’m doing ok with the juggling act.
I find it so easy to bump myself off the list when things are hectic. It’s the first thing that needs no explanation or rearranging, and I’ve got no-one to answer to. I did this for so long that eventually I acknowledged I didn’t even really feature on the life list. I’m getting better at taking care of myself, and it’s no coincidence that as soon as I started doing this I noticed a difference in how I felt about myself. Eating right for nourishment and energy, having dinner with girlfriends, taking time out, travelling, working, reading, date nights, doing things you love, exercise, taking baths…the usual stuff people drone on about. It’s there because it’s true. There is absolutely a direct correlation between the ways in which you invest in yourself and how you feel. And you can do it all. You deserve to do it all. Find a way.
I recently started singing again in a band after a four year break from it, and reconnecting with that part of me after so long has been pretty powerful. I’m so different now to back then. I used to suffer terribly from nerves and sometimes puke before a gig….now I love every minute and feel relaxed and at home on the stage. That’s what becoming a mum has given me, ultimately. I’m more secure than ever but it’s taking care of myself that’s helped me to see it.
The identity shift.
The world I’ve grown up in is useless at preparing women to become mums. We spend the whole of our lives gearing up through our educational and professional experiences to become contributors to society in the conventional sense: by working, being taxpayers and equal fillers of the household coffers. And when kids come along as a generation we’re criminally under-prepared which leaves us feeling like we’re failing.
It’s not our fault. There’s no focus on family throughout our education, and in the workplace most of us feel like we need to pretend we don’t have a family (sweeping statement but, I believe, broadly true). To go from an independent professional person to a mother is not an easy transition, and so many of us end up feeling like we’re screwing it up. The reality is that it’s just really, really hard. And everyone feels the same. As soon as I stopped trying to act as though I had my shizzle together and twigged that no-one does, I felt better.
Demands on our time.
Ever since Xav was born I’ve found that I constantly compare my productivity and output to how I used to be when I worked full-time and didn’t have a child. I’m still working on getting over this. I can’t work 11/12 hours straight in a day now like I have done at times in the past. I could…of course.
But it’s my choice not to and I need to hold this sacred as that’s our decision for our family. Xav has made incredible progress this year and a big part of that has been the time I’ve devoted to spending with him – both attending appointments with a number of professionals and time alone together spent working on giving him the tools to become more comfortable and manage the overwhelm that is caused by his sensory processing difficulties.
We’re all doing more and placing more demands on ourselves and our time than ever. We’re ambitious, and that’s a great thing. We want incredible things from our lives – nothing but what we deserve. But when it’s at the expense of our sense of who we are and what makes us truly happy…..something’s got to give.
I’ve had to ask for help, which I find tough. I’m fiercely independent and that’s part of the problem sometimes, I guess. Tim is incredible and we’ve come up with some ways he can help me, and my mum is going to be helping us too which is amazing. I’ve got better at not making so many plans and almost scheduling the down time to just be. It doesn’t always work out. But still, managing a family, work and a home doesn’t come easy to me. I’m not sure it does to anyone. We’re all just doing the best we can.