The Only Parenting Advice I'd Dare To Give

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I am sitting here. In a café. In front of me, a decaf. A laptop. And a pen. I am sitting here. Alone. For the first time in a while. A long while. My eldest started school last week. And it was time for me to think about my life. My role. My priorities.

I am always holding back when it comes to giving parenting advice. But today, I feel the need to write. To share my thoughts with you. Today, for the first time, I dare to give an advice. And it is ‘Don’t forget yourself’. Don’t lose yourself. Your dreams. Your ambitions. Your personal projects. When you become a mum, you want to do the best for your kids. Be there for them. 100%. And more. When you become a mum, your priorities shift. Suddenly, all the rest becomes less important. When you hold your crying baby in your arms, all that counts is to make him smile again.

See, I am pretty much a 200% person. Everything I do, I want to do it properly. Want to give the best of me. Before we moved to Dubai and I became a mum, I was a workaholic. I loved my job. I worked early mornings. And late at night. Then, I became a mum. And suddenly, I realised that this kind of life was not compatible anymore with my new role as a mum. So, I became a mumaholic. I wanted to be a good mum. A great mum. I wanted to be the best mum I could possibly be for my kids. I didn’t want any help. When my husband suggested to hire a nanny because we were expecting a second child, because I was terribly sick (I spent my days in the bathroom) and because he was travelling, I refused. Until the end of my pregnancy. Then I had an emergency C-section. And I was thankful not to be alone with two kids, a travelling husband and no family around.

But I felt guilty. All the time. I felt guilty to be at home. And to have a nanny. I had problems to let go. I rarely let her alone with the kids. Maybe with one. But never with both of them. Maybe I was afraid that I would not be needed anymore. To realise that they were doing fine. Without me. That they were doing just fine. Even when I was not around for a little while. It’s like that with mumaholics. It’s like that when being a mum has become the centre of your life.

Then, one day I realised that I felt bad. Most of the time. I felt alone (I didn’t allow myself to go out with friends as I was afraid that the baby might wake up). I felt tired (I never allowed myself to take a break neither cause I felt I had to justify somehow that I was not at work, not earning any money). And I felt empty (I didn’t do anything else than focussing on the kids for years). I realised that, during 3 years, I had not been without kids for more than 2-3h. That I had not been flexible once when it comes to bedtimes. All was planned around the kids. I realised that I had given up everything that defined me before I became a mum. Or mostly. I felt empty. Transparent. I felt as if nobody could see me anymore.

Everybody is talking about postnatal depression. But what if this postnatal depression comes only after some years?

It’s hard to talk about these feelings when you are an expat mum in Dubai. An expat mum who has the luxury of staying at home to raise her children. Who has everything. Apparently. It is hard to talk about these feelings when you know that people will judge you. Will find you ungrateful. And, worse, when you know that you would think exactly the same.

But not all is always as it seems. For months, I was crying every night. While my husband was travelling. And the kids were in bed. For months, I told myself that I would not be able to do it anymore. That I wanted to run away. Somehow. Until I touched the ground this summer. When I saw my mum being really ill. And I knew that I needed to make a change.

Here I am now. Sitting in a café. Writing these words. I just came back from my early morning workout session. And, for the first time in months, I can ‘feel’ myself again. I know that in half an hour or so, I will go back home to my little one. I will kiss her, nurse her and put her to bed. Then, I will pick up my son from school. And I will be happy to be with them. Maybe, being a good mum doesn’t necessarily mean to be always around. Maybe it means to be happy when you are around. Happy. And calm. Maybe it is important for the kids to see that her mum has goals as well. Goals that she is fighting for.

I am always holding back when it comes to giving parenting advice. But if there is one advice I dare to give today it is ‘Don’t forget yourself’. Don’t lose yourself. Your dreams. Your ambitions. Your personal projects.