There’s no doubt about it, being a parent changes you. In the first few weeks of a baby’s life you try to deny this. You fool yourself into momentarily believing the helpless bundle that’s just evacuated your body and is now taking over your home will fit into and around your life rather than the other way round. Then you realise babies really aren’t very flexible at all. Yes, that gorgeous little being very suddenly snuggles comfortably into the position of being your whole world. And they’re not going to budge one millimetre. For probably the next 18 years.
In the initial weeks of a newborn’s life, you exist in a bubble. Nothing matters beyond keeping your baby alive and happy. Your purpose in life is purely to be on hand for every poop, feed and gurgle. And you’re surprisingly ok with this. In fact you thrive on it in a way you never knew was possible.
Four months in and the bubble starts to feel a little claustrophobic. You begin to feel hints of selfishness creep in. A desire for an uninterrupted shower without having to say “I’ll only be a minute” at roughly 10 second intervals. To go to the toilet with the door closed. To wear whatever the hell you feel like without thinking about it being feeding friendly or pondering the consequences of it getting sprayed in baby sick. A full night of sleep (or even a just few consequetive hours) gets elevated from pipe dream status to become a nagging need and you feel increasingly frustrated by your lack of progress towards achieving it. But most of all you want a sign, some kind of reassurance that underneath your sick stained clothes and drooled on hair you’re still you. Not mummy. You.
You see, I love being a mum and I’m not too modest to say I’m rather fond of the person it’s helped me become (my children mostly bring the best out in me). But I’m also keen to cling on to some of the old Laura. The one who had a passion for spontaneity and thrived on being unpredictable. The one who was determined not to relent to gender stereotypes. And who rather than get hung up by her clumsy calamities doubled up in laughter when she did something ridiculous (and encouraged everyone else to do the same). My fear has always been that parenthood would make me too organised. Too sensible. Too stereotypical. And it seemed to be happening.
You see lately my positive demeanour was slipping to become a bit glass half full. Rather than being laid back, I was letting little things get under my skin. And my predisposition for playfulness was being squashed by the pressure I was putting on myself to be practical. I was starting to annoy myself. And I was beginning to think the real me had gone for ever.
But it hasn’t. I just needed a break from the norm to realise this.
For the past week or so we’ve been on holiday at our cottage in Cornwall. Our little pocket of quaintness near the sea was primarily bought as a pension substitute. When I joined Mr J in favouring freelance life over the stability of employment, we realised unless we got our financial acts together our old age was looking like lots of nights eating beans on toast whilst shivering under an electric blanket, rather than travelling the world, chasing the sun (or snow) and sampling the world’s finest cuisine. But rather than invest in a typical pension we bought a lovely little barn as a holiday cottage and gambled our retirement funds instead on the fickle property market. It was a risky move but it felt right. It was very us.
But our little bolthole is so much more than a retirement saviour. It’s a place for Mr J and I (and indeed our guests) to escape. When we need to clear our heads after a full on period at work, it’s where we head first. After we had a nasty car crash, we journeyed south to our barn to snuggle up and recuperate. After we found out we were pregnant, it was in Cornwall where the news really sank in.
It’s a place where I’ve always felt really me. And guess what? I still feel the same. Yes, I’m a mum of two but I’m still the same old me (for bad as well as good unfortunately). The Cornwall effect started before we even left the drive. On the day before we left I (along with Mr J and the girls) chose to spend the afternoon playing with water guns with my nephews rather than prepping the car and packing bags. When I spotted a trampoline on a day trip to a kid’s farm park, my first instinct was not to ponder the health and safety risks but to get on there and see if I could still manage a few swivel hips. I could. (Just).
Even with two small children, in tow I managed not to cry when I ran the car battery flat by leaving the air con on without the engine running at the end of a day trip out (oops). I didn’t even give myself a good ticking off for being so irresponsible (I left that to Mr J!) And faced with the decision of whether to take a beautiful beach walk but risk getting stranded by the tides or to play it safe and build a sandcastle, we decided to do what we always have done – to wing it and let fate decide. (We got stranded – oops – but in reach of a very posh coffee shop – phew).
I may be more sensible nowadays in a ‘never leave the house without a pack of baby wipes and at least one toddler snack’ kinda way. And being spontaneous involves doing something at two days notice rather than two hours. But taking a much needed break (yes, we all need one from time to time) helped me realise being a parent hasn’t changed me that much at all really at heart. And for that my two girls I apologise profusely!
PS. Our lovely little two bedroom cottage is available for rental to anyone requiring a little R&R! Visit www.cottonscottage.co.uk.