Once you have children, it seems inevitable that you lose a part of who you were before. You make new friends that have absolutely no clue about your past identity, apart from when they do a bit of Facebook stalking through your younger, slimmer photos. You are known as <<insert child’s name>> Mum. Your parents no longer pay you any attention, instead diverting their eyes to the little tiny version of yourself bounding through the door until about half an hour into the visit when they realise that they haven’t actually greeted you yet. I now find myself generally not greeting people any more. This probably looks quite rude when I turn up without a child and just barge my way in.
I was extremely fearful of losing myself before I had children, the great identity that I had built up over 29 years. I have no idea why – I was a massive dick. Opinionated, drunk and mentally unstable. I’m still a massive dick but I actually like being a mum too. I like this new identity. I remember walking down the road for the first time without my new baby and thinking, “people won’t know I have a baby. I want them to know I have a baby.” Like this somehow gave me an automatic VIP ticket into Betterdom.
However, my children don’t complete me. Despite definitely knowing that they make me a better person, and slightly less dickish because I am generally less drunk, they’re not my main purpose in life. Neither is being up to my elbows in disease-infested gums, despite how much I love that too. I want more. Something else.
I made this discovery recently during one of my low moods. I get them frequently. My husband struggles to understand them. Looking from the outside, I can understand why – I have two gorgeous children, a husband who loves me, a nice house, a well paid job, my health – I have absolutely no reason to feel depressed about my life. But I do. It consumes me till I’m numb and joyless, sometimes slowly, gradually like a creeping mist. Other times like a sledgehammer.
I Googled ‘happiness’ and up came various motivational memes and blog articles; “10 Easy Ways to Find Happiness”. After a bit of searching, I found one that spoke to me, helpfully informing me that the true root to happiness is not about having physical things, but having a purpose in life. Give someone a purpose, a reason to be and they will find happiness.
There have been a few times in recent years when I was doing something outside of work and the home; charity work, volunteering and the like and it felt great. I felt really happy. I was helping other people without any financial agenda. It was purely for the feel good factor and it left me with a bounce in my step. Having a purpose other than my children makes me happy because just my children alone aren’t enough.
Writing that is hard. Reading it must be hard. Now you’re agreeing that I am a massive dick. But let me explain.
I am not ungrateful. I look at my life, my children and know that I am the luckiest person alive. I also know that they are not responsible for my true core happiness – I am. I have to be my own sunshine. I’ve come to realise that I don’t want to live my life vicariously through my children, putting expectations on their shoulders for achievements that I was unable to fulfil. I don’t want to get to old age and feel bitter about the life I could have had, had I not sacrificed my all to my children. I want to show them the true meaning of pride by personally demonstrating it with what I can accomplish. I want them to know happiness isn’t about what you have but about doing something that makes your heart sing.
I had a taste of the dolce vita and I want it back. I want to feel complete again by doing something more worthwhile.
Is it selfish to want to feel good by doing good? Is it wrong that my children complete my life but they don’t complete me? Do yours? I’d really like to know.