The other day, I came across a collection of photos of myself that I had never seen before and they took my breath away to say the least. And no, not the ones circa 98’ when I was downing some dubious luminous concoction.
They were pictures of the early days. Yes those days. The early days of being a mother and the early days of my baby boy. The photos had been hidden in a cloud somewhere (perhaps alongside the dates of family members’ birthdays and my ‘safe’ places).
After a three day labour, an emergency C section and a 9 pound 10 baby, it is clear I was not ‘photo ready’. In a world where brushing your hair, putting on make up and cracking out some perfect angles to streamline any excess fat are the norm, I seemed to doing my own thing; my own red faced, disorientated version!
Throughout my pregnancy, my focus was on my unborn baby. I just wanted everything to be ok. I counted down the days until my due date. I couldn’t think much beyond that. In terms of career and how our relationship would change, I thought I would figure it out later. We would go slow and make decisions as and when necessary.
What happened next was unexpected. Obviously this happened after a while…in the beginning I found walking in a straight line and stringing a sentence together pretty cumbersome.
The surprise? I became hugely ambitious. Yes, I know. Perfect timing eh? This surge of ideas and new found determination occurred when I had the least amount of time, energy and wiggle room to actually leave the house. Why oh why didn’t this happen in my 20s, when I was mainly hungover, killing time on the sofa, watching the 134th season of ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and scoffing Crunch Creams?
It was almost as if the doctors had taken my boy out and put back in a fireball of ‘Let’s freakin’ do this’.
My brain went into overdrive. Suddenly I had so much clarity about what I wanted my life to be about. I became braver; I reached out, I started to say no, I started to say yes, I started to make bold, scary moves even though it wasn’t the perfect time. Bingo.
I listened to my intuition. I asked for more money. I made more money. I trusted the process. I started to dream bigger.
I love our boy more than anything and I am so grateful that my partner and I are both freelance so we could figure it out together.
With so little sleep, patience and a hungry baby, I knew I didn’t want to venture far. So I had to get creative. ‘Me time’ wasn’t all massages or some light window shopping.
I make a deliberate decision to remain inspired; to go to talks, to surround myself with inspiring women who have STUFF TO SAY. To spend little time discussing nappy cream. It's not an uplifting topic for me.
In the early days, I didn’t have a significant income. So I used it wisely to make me feel more like me…well the new me. A bouncy hair cut, excellent underwear, mega hydrating, luxurious skincare. Clothes that felt like they were made for me and my new shape and didn't make me look like I got dressed in the lost property PE box. Plus bills…you know, the life stuff.
Of course, I was still in the baby bubble and asked the really personal questions that (a) I didn’t have the answer to or (b) responded in a high pitched voice with the first thing that came into my head whether it was accurate or not.
Here are some of my favourites:
(1) How are your bits and bobs?
(2) When are you having another? Do you want a big family (Ermm... we are 5 days in…?)
(3) How are your ankles- still swollen?
(4) Late Pregnancy … asked by a ‘birthing know all’ guy (in truth, all the gear no idea and another Dad at the birthing workshop) ‘When are you getting swept?’ with, may I add, an accompanying hand gestures. Yep. Grim.
The thing is I know the stats. As a woman over 30 with a child, I am less likely to earn what I deserve and welcome the opportunities that match my experience and skills. Thank goodness I met my friend Indra when I was a young actor who showed me that you can have children and still pursue a creative career. Had I not seen this perspective, I may have presumed that I had to choose.
There is still the assumption that once you have had a baby (or even when you are thinking about/in the process of cooking one) that you have left the table.
‘Sooo have you given up then?’ was said to me on numerous occasions in my pregnancy referencing my thriving acting career.
I know I don’t represent a corporate background view point but at the time of writing, I have helped over 700 clients through my coaching business and heard so many stories.
I believe there has never been a more perfect time to rewrite the rule book and do more of what you love and less of what you don’t. Granted, I am not saying it is all going to be easy breezy and effortless at all times. Parenting is ever changing, we know this. Don’t even mention the dishes or the stack of paperwork that never ends.
However please know, you don’t have to choose, I despise the notion of either/or
I am a career woman and I don’t see my children or I stay at home and therefore don’t earn money.
I take care of myself so I deprive my children.
I spent the majority of time with my children so therefore I can’t explore a creative project.
Now I am mum, I must close down any thoughts of career progression.
We can create our own blend of what works for us, we know our own circumstances. Often it isn’t a huge whopping change, just some pretty spectacular tweaks.
Practically you can begin by asking yourself, what is important? What would you create in an ideal situation? What would you earn? How would you spend your time? What brings you joy?
Next ask what is missing for you? What do you need help with? What would make all the different? I know we are all busy but taking even ten minutes to write down your thoughts will leave you fizzing with ideas.
The world of Instagram is ready to welcome you (and in real life too obviously!) and support you. We want to hear your voice, your perspective, your ideas and big dreams.
Please don’t assume, everything has been done already. There is a beautiful space waiting for your flavour and someone always need to hear it from you. I always share the story of my struggles with science lessons. For the first two years of secondary school, I had no idea what was going and so simply stared into space in the chemistry lab. Then in year 9, I had an amazing teacher. She was saying the same things but in a different way. In a way that made perfect sense to me. Suddenly I started to excel. She still remains one of the scariest people I have ever met but I know I am going to have the ‘fastest finger first’ at a pub quiz should I need to ace the periodic table.
There will always be a reason not to move forward with your big dreams. As responsible adults (!) there is always something or someone that requires your time.
Just take baby steps. One day at a time. Be kind to yourself. Eat and drink well, sleep when you need to and take daily action at your own pace. I can’t wait to see what you create and please know I will be cheering you on all the way.