There is a fairly universal belief that you need to reach the majority of your ambitions before you have children, or you will be destined to be talking about could-be situations to your various offspring for the rest of your life. On paper, the odds are against you. You’re sleeping far less, really quite moody, and spending any spare time you have giving yourself a nice little foot rub. However, it brings with it some useful tools which hopefully can be encouraging.
You have less time, but you use it better
When I was pregnant, I spent a lot of time playing a restaurant management game on my phone. Was it deeply satisfying? Yes. Do I miss it dearly? Yes. If I had a day to myself would I lie on the sofa playing it? Probably not, which is mental to me because I had a really high score. I don’t count myself as a hugely motivated person, but precious time I have is spent on things that I know will be more fulfilling. Like reading or doing one of the less boring items on my to do list.
You might resent things less
I’ve noticed a lot of people say that after they had children, they adjusted how they thought about their job. Where they might have previously found it dissatisfying, they’re now happy to look at it as simply an income (or perhaps necessary evil). Instead of focusing energy into seeing everything that’s wrong with it, they see it as a way to provide, and perhaps find more satisfaction in it that way.
Perspective can change
On the other hand, you might adopt a ‘life’s too short’ mentality and realise putting aside a certain part of you isn’t sustainable. If you’re not happy, it will affect the rest of your family so in that sense putting yourself first is good for everyone. To use a Tony Robbins quote ‘Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change’. Nice one Tony.
There can be a new kind of confidence
No matter how you become a mum, you are always thrown pretty far out of your comfort zone. Even the ones with only very slightly older children than you constantly offering unsolicited advice don’t really know what they’re doing, but everyone is kind of making it work in their own way. This can bring a weird confidence to other aspects of your life. If you can do this, why can’t you keep trying new things? The answer is you can, and you should, providing it’s all legal.
Ambition doesn’t really go away
I remember when I first had our baby, I found I could do one thing per day for myself, and that was often eating something that wasn’t a biscuit. It’s true, you do have less time, and the time you set aside to get your CV sorted might end up being spent in A&E for something that ends up being a normal cough. If you can accept that to begin with things just need to take a different pace, then you don’t have to accept that anything you want can never happen.
You are of course not alone in wanting to achieve things aside from family life, and it’s probably worth considering that in the grand scheme of adversities to overcome, motherhood really isn’t going to end you. You don’t have to look far to find brilliant women who became even more successful after having children (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Viola Davis, and Maya Angelo are just a few, not that you have to achieve the same level of success as these legends to feel fulfilled).
Ambition for everyone is different. It could be a promotion, a personal project, wanting to study, or to change career completely. For me, I wanted to write for children, and I certainly felt the pressure to find a publisher for my ideas before I had a baby – and I didn’t. I understand how everyone’s circumstances vary so hugely, but I hope what I have experienced will be encouraging, and perhaps take away a little of the fear around balancing who you are, and the changes that come with being a mum.
I had been writing for a few years for pleasure. I’d pitched a few things, and of course had my fair share of insults and rejections along the way. But in my case, things changed while I was pregnant. As a freelancer, I wasn’t getting any jobs I was interviewing for (probably thanks to my bump and accompanying waddle).
I suddenly was in a situation that meant I was just as likely to get somewhere writing, then with the job I was actually qualified for. So, I invested all the time I could into coming up with ideas for books, around the one freelance job I’d managed to cling onto throughout my pregnancy. I had some manuscripts in a place that I was happy with just before I had our baby but didn’t send it to any publishers until he was a few months old.
Cutting to the chase, I sold my book to exactly the publisher I had in mind. They even asked me to write another one to make my idea into a series, and now, just over a year on, it’s a real thing in real shops being read by people other than just those I have forced to read it.
There are of course so many health, economic, and emotional issues that go along with becoming a parent, I am in no way discounting any of those extra challenges. But I do know how far each and every new mum has come, and giving yourself a break when you need it, and believing in your own ability are things that are completely in your control and can be precisely what you need.
My first book, How to Spot a Mum is an inclusive guide to mums for kids – maybe you’ll spot yourself in there. I didn’t include myself, or did I? There’s only one way to find out: Amazon. Or your local bookshop which I would like to endorse here on record. The second book called How to Greet a Gran and is out in August, and it’s a look at grandmother’s and traditions around them all over the world including my personal favourite, the mamgu.