Having it all: A health warning

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I wasn’t going to write this post. It has been sitting in my drafts for weeks. But here it is released from gathering cyber dust.

Because it’s probably the one I need to write the most. So here I am.

Later Ben will say “I can’t believe you blogged about that” and I will say, “I have blogged about the state of my body post child-birth, seriously, this shouldn’t be as bigger deal as that”

Because it is not.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (Hello and thanks!), then you’ll have got the jist of this story so far, launching a new biz with a 5 month old, having another one once it was up a running 2 years later, and ever since constantly trying to find the holy grail of balancing motherhood, career and ambition. Trying to better myself as a mother, wife and a human and in every sense of the essence, really trying hard to do it all. Here I have recorded the highs, lows, the fuck ups and the successes, but mostly the comedy moments in the process. I have tried, so far, on this Mission to Motherhood, to be positive, encouraging and maybe, hopefully, just a tiny bit inspiring to someone, anyone out there. I don’t do anything amazing or special, but I do know that life did not end when I had a baby, it started. Opportunities were not shut down but new ones arose, I looked at the world differently and saw only opportunity in it. My confidence did not shrink and wither, it blossomed and grew. I did not become mumsy, I dyed my hair pink and bought leopard print skinny jeans. I did not put my career on hold, I put it into turbo gear. Whilst this of course is not for everyone, it is important to me, as a feminist, as a role model to my family, that I communicate that it is possible, that there is a choice, that becoming a mother should not never stop you doing anything really, because sadly there are many who do not experience those feelings.

Anything really is possible. Mums are solid as a rock. Total nails. Highly skilled, ridiculously good multi-taskers, problem solvers and strategists. I honestly believe that. But today I am here to tell the tale of the risks that come with doing it all, what can go wrong, and how to avoid crashing and burning or what to do when you, (unfortunately) inevitably, may well do.

A few posts a go, I wrote a piece called “10 working mum hacks to stop you losing your shit”. Shortly after writing this I, well, totally lost my shit. The timing was impeccable. I can’t even write this stuff, well I can, I am, but it was ironic to say the least. I’m not really sure what it was that happened to me. One week I found myself unable to get out of bed, crying in Pret over a tuna baguette (nothing sad about those). I thought that my heart was going to explode from my chest and I couldn’t breathe. But probably the worst part was that I just felt really, really sad and didn’t know why. This has never happened to me before and I guess it had been building steadily for a few months, not over one thing in particular, just an amass of thoughts and feelings, regret, guilt, anxiety and panic. All about everything, and all about nothing. It lasted a week or so, I was lucky, but it felt like a lifetime and I was scared it would never end, it took a while until it finally left my body completely. I don’t really know what to call it – some people use the term ‘burn out’ or a stress episode, I’m not really sure, so I’ve taken to referring to it fondly as my ‘Britney meltdown’, although thankfully I did not shave my head. The world is seriously not ready for that kind of moon face on its streets. (I do have a bit more empathy for Brittany though now).

It was an odd experience for me. I am pretty well known for my resilience, energy and positivity. This is who I am and I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable feeling like this. And whilst I might not know exactly what it was, but I do know why it was. A combination of too many long hours, rushing between work and home and overall just way too many things in my head, not enough switching off and carrying too much on my shoulders.

Sometimes I feel like there is so much in my head its going to just fall off. And so to the warning message of this piece: this is the peril of having a big career and a young family…

Your head can fall off.

And you need to make damn straight sure you have people around you who can pick it up and put it back on again in a better place than before. Life is so short, any parent knows this too well, with our kids a daily reminder of how time is zooming. They are real-life advent calendars, everyday showing us something new, some sign of change reminding us that its all just rushing by.

There is no time for your head to fall off.

There is no time for your time to be wasted on things which are less important than what really matters. It is all too easy to forget this, especially when you get caught up in what is often the ridiculously high pressured hoopla of the commercial world.

To a certain extent, I’m not really sure anyone who’s built a business has escaped without something like this happening to them, its a hazard that comes with the territory and it’s wonder something like this has never happened to me before. But it is a wake up call and despite it being an uncomfortable time for us, I have learnt a lot from it and have made some fairly radical changes to my life to stop it happening again. I have emerged later down the line with vision, with clarity and greater sense of focus and direction. In the end it was not pleasant, but it has helped me a lot.

….And I also know I am fortunate to have the best husband a girl can ask for. Ben is so different to me with his approach to life, he lives in the moment, never sweats the small stuff or the bigger picture, he is just is. He is continually in the moment and is able to be switch from high octane daddy efficiency to horizontal relaxation quicker than you can find an episode of Friends on Comedy Central. Plus he knows how to time the washing machine so it doesn’t make a noise when we’re watching films in the evening but is ready for when we wake up. Skills.

So to end a few more suggestions to build on my working mum hacks (as clearly I wasn’t following these closely enough!)

  • Switch off your phone when you finish work, don’t turn it on till the kids are asleep (or the next morning!)
  • Learn how to say no. Then say it.
  • Find a babysitter. Then use them.
  • You-time is essential, not a luxury. Just make it happen.
  • Take any opportunity available to have a lie in, even a small one.
  • Always be kind to your partner, practice teamwork and 50/50 parenting (more on that to come!)
  • Get perspective. Every day, not just when you need it.
  • Stroke animals. Especially fluffy ones.
  • Get the comfiest and best sleepwear money can buy. Ditto mattress.
  • Invest in friendships that make you happy.
  • Laugh. A lot. And cuddle excessively.
  • Give up guilt. You love your kids, your kids rock, they love you. The end.
  • And if it all goes to shit….Put your head back on in a new direction. It’s not over, its always just the beginning.

Emma x

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2 thoughts on “Having it all: A health warning

  1. Tracey says:

    Love this post Emma. You are a pretty awesome Earthling – but still very much a human being and we’re simply not invincible! (Sadly this fact will become even clearer each decade – the high octane lifestyle will I guarantee result in another Britney moment at some point – but let’s not go there!)
    Great that you are able to inspire AND reassure with this blog. I love reading it and really really will reread those bullet point reminders at the end – relevant to all of us lucky enough to live in a family. Xx

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