From the moment I found out I was pregnant with Theo, he was at the very heart of absolutely everything I did. On the same day that I got my first positive pregnancy test result (and I was so early on in my pregnancy that I’d had negatives up until the day before) I climbed into a bath full of bubbles and caressed my tummy, imagining my little poppyseed sized baby growing inside me.
From that moment until my 12 week scan, it took EVERY bit of restraint I had to avoid making baby related purchases. I IMMEDIATELY ordered wallpaper samples for the nursery. And I couldn’t even finish a meal without asking Michael: “Are you absolutely, one hundred per cent sure this is safe to eat?” every five minutes.
I became devoted to being the best mummy I possibly could, right from the start. Theo turned One in November, and even now, I strive to make every day as fun, full and happy as I possibly can for my little boy – he deserves the best, and I would give my last to ensure that is what he gets.
Nobody ever thought to warn me about ‘mum guilt’ but, my god, is it real. Maybe it’s Mother Nature’s way of keeping us on our toes to ensure we never ever allow our standards to slip. But mum guilt is brutal and it always seems to strike when you’re already having a less-than-perfect day. You know, because we’re human.
I try to remind myself of this fact whenever I’m being hard on myself. I work my arse off every single day to juggle so many different parts of my life, all of which I have worked so hard at. I give my all to be the best mummy, whilst also maintaining a very demanding, emotionally exhausting full-time job. I also keep a family home running, somehow tackle load after load after load of washing (it never ends!), and feed, walk and play with two very lively, very lovely sprocker spaniels, all without faltering. I sometimes have a cry in the shower, but then I have a word with myself and shake off the stress. I would hate for Theo to see me upset when he makes me so, blissfully happy.
In the first couple of months after Theo was born, I tried to spend as much time out of the house as I possibly could. I wanted him to see the world, meet our friends and relatives, get as much fresh air as possible. I took him to baby sensory classes twice each week, and loved that he was interacting and learning from such a young age. I knew, developmentally, it would do him the world of good. And, from a very selfish point of view, it was a welcome contrast to the long, lonely nights spent feeding and nursing my lovely boy back to sleep. It was nice to speak to other mums, the people who understood our journey.
But then I had a thought.
He’s a new baby, he should be wrapped up and snug at home.
And I felt SO guilty for carting him off here, there and everywhere.
And then, just before Theo turned four months old, we were put into the first lockdown. At first, the concept of being safe at home with Theo was so lovely. Plenty of time for cuddly, skin-to-skin naps. But as the days wore on, I began to feel so guilty that my baby was missing out on all the lovely things we’d been enjoying together before the pandemic got a grip on everything. And in that moment I realised that, no matter what you do, you’ll always find a way to self-sabotage, and to question whether you’re making the right decisions as a parent.
Being a mum is so complex. It’s being unimaginably proud of yourself for all the wonderful ways in which you strive to be the best for your little one, but also questioning if you’re doing a good enough job simultaneously. It’s trusting your instincts and your natural, inbuilt ability to know exactly what your baby wants and needs – but then doubting yourself moments later.
Just before Christmas, I returned to work. I’m very lucky that I am able to work from home and spend much more time with Theo as a result. But still, it breaks my heart every single morning when I tell him: “See you later my bambini, I love you three thousand.” I feel so guilty that I’m not spending more time with my little treasure. Yet I know I’d beat myself up as a stay-at-home-mum. I’m so happy that I have found a way to strike the balance between Lucy the mummy and Lucy the writer, colleague, blogger. I feel incredibly guilty for wanting time away from motherhood. I feel selfish, sometimes cruel. But I’ve grown wise enough to know that time away helps me to recharge my batteries, so that I can be the best possible mummy to Theo at the end of my working day and beyond.
I will always feel guilty, and will always doubt myself. I’m human, and I’m a mother. It’s in my nature.
But the enormous smile on my little boy’s face when he reaches out to be held tells me I’m doing everything exactly the way he needs me to.
And that is more than okay.