This post is about two images as I took them a day apart and they are about the same thing.
Note: I am not looking for sympathy or comments being like ‘you’re not a shit mother’. These are from over a month ago, and though I’ve made a similar image/text in the last week I know I only feel that way when I’m tired.
(Knowing you’re tired is one thing, being able to sleep is another.)
Why share though? I want to be as honest as possible with my mothering experiences, even if it is embarrassing/awkward at times in hope that it helps at least one person.
I feel like it’s a little late to be explaining this now after so many personal posts, but this feels like a different level of personal.
I took these photos on my phone. Perhaps I should be more bothered about the colour balance, but one is in the bathroom with no natural light and the other has all the natural light but film we put on the windows a few months ago makes pictures blue. I like presenting them as my phone took them (well with a little brightness/contrast editing).
This project is supposed to be just quick and easy at times with honest portrayals and whatever camera suits. When you’re crying/upset and need sleep you don’t want to set up your ‘studio’, but I guess most people wouldn’t photograph themselves either… It’s just so easy to take a couple of snaps with your phone.
Why do I photograph myself like this? Good question. My work is very therapeutic for me and in both cases I just thought ‘I should photograph myself’ as I’ve been photographing myself for years. My photos generally come with text now so I’m aware I have to write something – (well I don’t have to but I choose to).
The text that accompany the photos are freewritten – just like my hashtags usually are. I wrote them in emails addressed to myself on my phone and I quickly gave them subjects, which I then decided to use as titles for the photos. Writing the text was more therapeutic than taking the images as it allowed me to vent.
I was writing quite long diary entries in my phone during my pregnancy, but stopped not long after giving birth as it was too much work. I now have a line a day diary (more like 5 lines), where I write more about motherhood than I did about being pregnant in my diary before (I mainly wrote about it in my pregnancy project). It’s a 5 year diary, so it will be interesting comparing the years as there are 5 years to a page.
With these pictures though I wanted to keep the text as I wrote it which is why it is ‘normal text’ instead of hashtags. I could have easily changed it into hashtags, but I’m keen to try different writing styles with this project too (though I think so far these two texts are the odd ones out).
Moving on to other things.
Paternity leave is mentioned in both texts. It’s true that paternity in the UK is rubbish, though I guess some companies might be more generous (and whether or not they take it all is another thing – Why Dads Don’t Take Paternity Leave from the New York Times which is a follow-up to a 2019 article. Yes it’s about the US, but I think the situation is similar to the UK).
Tiago got one week of full pay and then he would have got one week of statutory, so he used a week of annual leave instead since we hadn’t been anywhere due to the pandemic (and so he wouldn’t lose money). His leave started whilst I was in hospital so he spent a few days of it alone, which was a shame as he missed out on a few days with B. (It was nice to come home to a clean flat with plenty of food in the fridge though.)
Birth is so unpredictable and it’s good that we weren’t in for longer. I know people who spent most of their paternity alone as they weren’t allowed to go back to work once they knew their partner and baby would be staying in hospital…
(I just did a search for paternity petitions on the UK Government and Parliament website. There is one called ‘Extend the Statutory Paternity Leave to minimum 4 weeks‘ which was opened last week and currently has 100+ signatures.)
Luckily Tiago was still working from home once his leave was over as I don’t think I would have been confident enough to be home alone with B. (Massive respect to those raising a child by themselves.) It was reassuring knowing he was in the flat – though in another room. He only left home to go somewhere for work for the first time since before lockdown a couple of weeks ago, but still works from home a lot like he did before everyone’s world get turned upside down.
I now try to make sure I’m going for a walk everyday. It makes such a difference getting out, though it can sometimes be a faff as I like for B to have just been fed and changed. Lately she stays awake for the whole of the walks, but is quite happy just daydreaming. She barely slept yesterday during the day, and typically fell asleep at the end of the walk but woke up after a minute of being back in the flat.
I mention feeding a lot in the text, but it is something I’ll be talking about a lot in my next post.
‘Though what mother stands in the bathroom typing this instead of hurrying to spend time with her kid / I need to fix my priorities‘
This is something I have talked about in a more recent teary picture/hashtag set, as well as finding it difficult when she hadn’t started to smile on purpose yet. Now that she smiles it feels a little more rewarding as before she only showed emotion when she was upset. I guess they smile on accident with wind and pooping early on as otherwise it would make things a lot harder. I love making people laugh and I think babies laughing is one of the best sounds in the world, so I can’t wait to hear her giggle for the first time.
So after reviewing these pictures and text, and thinking about similar examples from recently – and even how I felt in the evening yesterday – I need to look after myself better.
Only 2 days ago I read a BBC article by Mark Savage about Melanie C (yes, from the Spice Girls) that had a great quote about her and motherhood:
‘”Being a mum was so liberating because for the first time in my adult life, it wasn’t all about me,” she says. “It made me not only realise I had a huge responsibility to her but I have a huge responsibility to myself. In being her teacher, I had to treat myself better.”‘
I’m working on my life balance, but it’s still early days. I guess step one is being aware of the need for change, but now I just need to get on with it.
This week I’m trying to do a 7 day yoga challenge. Last week I did 3 short yoga videos and then none for a few days, so I just need to give myself at least 10 minutes a day to stretch and look after my body. The videos are only 15 minutes so its a good way to get back into it, and I like the idea of challenges as it helps motivate me.
(We all slept for 6+ hours straight last night, so we fed B, then I did the day two video at 6am whilst I knew I had the chance as she slept on Tiago.)
If I look after myself better, then I can look after B better and then I’m sure we’ll all feel better.
What do you do to look after yourself?
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