*slightly serious post warning*
It's official: I'm having a new-mother identity crisis.
As I said in my last post, when you have a baby and you go for check ups with health visitors or GPs or midwives, you get asked a lot about your emotional wellbeing. What they are really asking is: 'have you got postnatal depression?' Anyway, I am fortunate in that I haven't felt at all depressed since having Chip. I had a few days when I felt stressed and weepy but it was all quite logically connected to lack of sleep or her crying etc.
I have, however, been pondering a lot about who I am now.
I've recently started going out for dinner with friends again, without Chip (natch). The first time I went, on the way home on the tube I started yawning and wondering why on earth I felt so tired when it was only 10.30pm. And then, literally, like a weird bolt of lightning, I remembered that I had HAD A BABY, and that I hadn't slept properly since at least July and that - even more weirdly - I was GOING HOME TO A BABY.
I felt shocked and terrified all at once. And guilty of course, that I had actually FORGOTTEN I'd had a baby. I'd slipped back into my old life so easily. I mean, seriously, in those few sleepy moments between Clapham South and Balham, I had literally forgotten she existed. It was the oddest thing.
Since I had Chip, lots of friends with kids have said to me 'Do you hate it? It's OK to admit you hate it you know.' But I don't hate it. I actually love looking after her more than I ever thought possible. I've never been hugely maternal at all, and always regarded children as rather irritating. But this baby has me in the palm of her podgy little hand. The other day, when she did a massive poo, I found myself declaring with glee in that clichéd ridiculous baby voice, 'Oh Chippy, that really was a stinker winker!' which Oli found so hilariously un-me he wrote it down on the notes in his iPhone.
I am really quite surprised, and pleased, with how much love I feel for her, and for how much I DON'T resent her when all I've done all day is wash bottles, wipe up poo and listen to endless rounds of tinny classical music coming from the Baby Einstein play mat (sidenote: cannot wait to have a ceremonial burning of that damn thing when she grows out of it).
However, although I adore her, and I really do quite adore looking after her, I never really realised how much my identity was tied up in my work and my independence. And so now, I'm a bit confused about who I am. I have a wardrobe full of beautiful client-meeting dresses, that are now useless (even if they did still fit, which they don't). I have eighteen Dior lipsticks in various West-London-appropriate shades, dozens of completely impractical Wolford tights, a lonely and neglected Prada tote, and a penchant for expensive meals out that I can no longer afford.
I hate the fact that I am no longer earning money. I had not planned to be having a baby with no job to go back to, and quite frankly, it's terrifying. My accountant told me to 'have a year off and enjoy the money you made selling the business' and not to worry about work for now, but that just made me irrationally angry. I've always worked! I'M A WORKER! For the last two years of my life my identity - and much of my self-esteem - was built around being a company director and all that entailed. I was proud of it and I enjoyed it. My life was pretty much all about my work and my friendships.
Not working is very strange, and I often get mild panic attacks in the middle of the night thinking that I should be doing something with this time 'off'. I read on someone else's blog that when you have a baby, it's OK for you to JUST be looking after the baby. You don't have to be trying to hold down a part-time job too, or finishing a long-neglected novel, or doing charity work, or whatever it is that you think you must do to somehow justify your existence as a SAHM. But it's still hard to give myself this time off. Even though I'm exhausted and probably working harder than I have done in ages - just in a very different way.
Oli wants us to move out of London, to get the sort of grown-up house with a driveway and - dare I say it - that one true mark of adulthood: AN OUTSIDE TAP. For Chip's sake, I am tempted. But for my sake, I am wary. My life - or the life that I am most familiar with - is based in London, in my storage-lacking, unbabyfriendly maisonette in the dodgiest part of SW19. It's so odd. Chip is ten weeks' old tomorrow, and in those short ten weeks the last thirteen years of my life have kind of been thrown out the window and it's almost like I need to learn to walk again. I need to find a new identity.
I am aware that women can't have it all. You never stop hearing it from the media. But this post isn't really about that. I don't particularly want to have it all. I just want to find out who the new me is, and what she wants. Without losing sight of the old me and all she achieved.
Hopefully in time, it'll all figure itself out. But in the meantime, I guess I'll keep buying Joules tops and flat shoes and Abercrombie hoodies and pushing my pram round the park like all the other mums. I suspect they're feeling much the same.