The Art of Choosing The Right Gift

I’ve never really considered myself a particularly high maintenance wife or girlfriend. I’m not the sort of woman who expects or desires diamonds on anniversaries or grand gestures at Christmas.

I don’t give a shit whether you spend £5 or £500 on my birthday present. What I get a kick out of most is being given a really thoughtful gift. Something that shows that someone has considered who I am and picked out something they knew I liked or was interested in.

My husband usually nails this type of gift. Whether it’s been tickets to a gig, a specific book, or a box of a particular type of chocolates he has often come up trumps with his gift choices, giving me all the feels and ticking all the boxes.

 

The Tipping Point:

Picture the scene: I have given birth to our 3rd child precisely one month ago. We are happy but exhausted. Sleep addled. Things are a bit foggy, but we are beginning to settle into life as a family of 5.

I am on that bonkers emotional seesaw that all Mums have to ride in those first weeks postpartum. I’m all boobs and squidgy midsection and still a bit sore from the cesarean. I spend most of my waking hours on the sofa nursing and trying to shepherd my eldest two through their daily routines.

Today is my birthday.

Pete has been talking about the awesome present he’s got for me and this, I think, may have been the precise trigger for what was to come…

… You see, he’s really chuffed with his present choice, he thinks he’s nailed it. I’m thinking “Ooh he’s got something really special. He’s got something to show how much he loves me, maybe something exciting, something really personal, really *me*.

With this in mind, on the big day, I opened the box with excited anticipation to find….

…A SLANKET.

I pick it up out of the box, befuddled. “A slanket?” I say in an artificially high pitched voice, failing miserably at my best light-hearted casual tone.

“Yeah, whaddya reckon? I thought, you know, seeing as you spend most of your time on the couch these days… Do you like it?”

“It’s …Umm, not what I was expecting…” I say, trailing off.

 

Slanketmageddon

“Do you like it?” and then, after looking at my face (a bit more defensively) “…You don’t have to say you like it if you don’t…”

I feel guilty for hating it, but I’m equally horrified. Is this what I’ve BECOME?!?

…Just some COUCH POTATO?!? 

“Umm… I just… Why would you think I’d like it?…. HOW did you think this would be a good idea?” I blurt out, and instantly hate myself for sounding so ungrateful and wording it all wrong.

“Well, I was trying to think of what to get you, and seeing as you spend all your time on the sofa watching telly these days I thought you’d like it.”

I’m crushed. Is this what he thinks of me? I’M JUST SOME BORING SOFA BLOB?!? Is this the sum total of how he sees me, of all my likes and interests?!?!

My NAN has one of these!!!…

“You really couldn’t think of *anything* else I like doing except sitting on the couch?…” I then ask, my tone a bit too sharp.

“I even bought it in teal.” He says frostily, “Your favourite.”

Therein began the row which was henceforth ever known as Slanketgate.

 

Stuck In The Mum Zone

A good year on, and with my hormones and bra size restored to their original status, I feel sorry for blowing up at Pete. Although he might admit that in hindsight perhaps the slanket wasn’t the best idea after all, he was fairly blindsided by my enpassioned response. His heart was in the right place. He wasn’t to know what was going through my head.

You see, with receipt of this particular gift choice came the crushing realisation that I had lost all concept of who I was.

Gone is the free spirit of old who loved nothing more than a good festival, hungover Sundays in the pub and the occasional spontaneous excursion to random places. I am no longer able to spend entire weekends playing PS4 and ordering in pizza, or book tickets to see our favourite stand-up comedians off the cuff.

And, as much as we know we shouldn’t give ourselves a hard time and embrace our post-baby bodies, we are all irrevocably changed once our bodies have gone through this process. So, as much as I was willing to accept it, it didn’t change the fact that this physical change had affected my self image profoundly.

And beyond the bewildering sadness at leaving much of what appeared to make me “Me” behind lay the question….

 

…Who The Hell Am I These Days Anyway?

We Mums talk about the things that we no longer are since having kids. I am no longer a size 8. I am no longer prone to getting riproaring drunk and rolling in at 3am  being a social butterfly. I don’t read much anymore.

And yes, that’s all very sad and it’s a shame it had to end (although my liver probably wouldn’t agree), but at this point I am more interested in working out who the hell I have become?

After Babies #1 and #2 were born, no doubt still somewhat in denial, I began many sentences in conversation with work colleagues and newly made friends with “We used to / I used to…(insert interesting pre-baby activity here)” Trying to assert the fact that I was somehow still fun / interesting / down with the kids.

It all seemed somewhat desperate. I felt like a bit of a fake, because it didn’t matter what I used to do. What do I do now? What makes me “Me” now?

After Slanketgate I realised; I had literally no idea.

 

Acceptance

Parenting young children is a weird time. Full of joy and wonder and immensely rewarding at times, granted. I know these years will pass fleetingly and they will be sorely missed when they’re gone. But it’s also hard, tiring, and a time of constant change.

We stumble our way from one milestone to the next, winging it and hopefully wishing that our kids will come out ok at the other end. Life often passes in a fog and it’s easy to see how Mums can lose themselves entirely along the way.

Plus, exhaustion makes a Mama boring AF. I know I’m not exactly brimming with scintillating conversation these days. My conscious mind is mainly filled with thoughts on how many hours sleep I’ve (not) had, random details on how to build a portal in Minecraft, and the soundtrack to Moana.

For me, the turning point in figuring out who the hell I have become began when I accepted that I had changed, and that the change was a one-way thing.

 

Adaptation

Parenthood has defined me in ways I couldn’t foresee and with bonuses I was initially blind to. These have made me stronger, more versatile, more empathic and more resilient than I’d ever thought possible.

Accepting the changes, and understanding their benefits, is what ultimately helped me feel comfortable in my own skin again.

I realised that I was missing hanging out with my friends. Not rushed cups of tea amidst the post-school-run chaos of two sets of noisy children marauding one of our houses, or chatting at toddler groups, but real, unadulterated conversations over a glass or two of wine without demands for cheesestrings, or toddler’s fingers trying to fishhook my mouth.

I also knew that these days I struggle to stay up past 10.30, can’t handle hangovers with small children, and lack of outings over the past few years has kindled my social anxiety. Going ‘out’ out makes me anxious and I would make arrangements to do so and then regret them bitterly until I’m there (if I actually make it) and two drinks down.

 

Perfecting the Pyjama Social

My social life has now evolved. We have friends over for dinner / wine / pizza together, and I arrange to see various friends for ‘slob nights’ at one of our houses. In fact I have become quite the Queen of the pyjama social. I get to see my friends but without the stress, often in jogging bottoms. I often turn up with a bottle of wine and my slippers in hand, and it really works.

And as for getting a handle on who I am, I decided to jack in my job and start my own business. I started writing, realised I loved it, and started this blog (which some of you lot actually seem to like reading – who knew?!!) Rather than hanging on to my old clothes and yearning for going-out dresses I would rarely be likely to go out in, I started to look out for every day clothes in styles that suit my post-baby body.

 

The “Actually Pretty Comfortable Here” Zone

It’s only a recent development, but over the past few months I’ve noticed something pleasantly surprising. I’m getting pretty comfy in my own skin again. I got a new ‘do, which I love. I’ve got exciting new plans for my business, and a new business venture brewing.

Admittedly I’m still not getting enough sleep (baby#3 is a proper shitty sleeper) and I still harbour unrealistic desires to start working out 3 x a week, but I am more comfortable than I’ve been since before I became a Mum.

 

The Moral Of The Story?

So, what am I really getting at here? I guess the point of this post is a heads up to all the other Mums stuck in the Mum Zone right now.

I get it. The Mum Zone sucks. It’s a horrible feeling – losing all sense of what you are beyond Mumsville.

However: The trick to escaping it is to accept it.

Know you’ve changed and really think around those changes. Because if one thing is for sure, beyond the extra inch or two on your waistband or the fact that you have no idea what “Decent Music” is supposed to be these days, there is very real and very valuable personal growth. You are likely wiser, more patient, more insightful and kinder than you ever were pre-kids.

You are also almost definitely less of a dickhead than you used to be too (although perhaps that’s just my personal experience… Perhaps.)

Make the best of what you’ve got. And then take these new and improved skills and use them to your advantage. You might just surprise yourself.

And then one day, just like me, you’ll realise you’re outside the Mum Zone, you know who you are and actually, come to think of it, you kind of like it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

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**photo source: amazon.co.uk

33 comments on “Stuck In The Mum Zone: Who The Hell Am I These Days Anyway?”

  1. Love this! So many mums are stuck in the ‘mumzone’, like you, I’m finally happy in my own skin, happier now than before I had kids!

    PS, I wouldn’t have been happy with a Slanket either!

  2. I love this! I am a fully fledged member of the mum zone.
    I asked my other half for a dishwasher for Christmas seen as I spend most of my day chained to the sink! He refused, said he’s not getting a ‘household’ item for Christmas.

  3. I often wonder when I became that person who is bed by 8 and up at 5. A snow day with nothing planned is my idea of a holiday! It is who I am at this moment. It is all good! #coolmumclub

  4. Such a lovely post. Its not easy trying to figure out your purpose and identity in life at the best of times, let alone when you’re majorly lacking in time and sleep. Slanketgate really made me laugh because I’ve got the same one, only mine reminds me of those pre-child carefree, hungover days on the sofa. I actually came across mine a few days ago and was moaning to my husband that I may as well be rid of it seeing as I never get time to relax anymore. Funny how the same thing can conjure up completely different feelings (although totally get why it sucks as a pressie!)

    • Such a lovely post. Its not easy trying to figure out your purpose and identify in life at the best of times, let alone when you’re majorly in lacking time and sleep. Slanketgate really made me laugh because I’ve got the same one, only mine reminds me of those pre-child carefree, hungover days on the sofa. I came across it a few days ago and was moaning to my husband that I may as well be rid of it seeing as I never get time to relax anymore. Funny how the same thing can represent completely different feelings (although totally get why it sucks a pressie!) #coolmumclub

  5. Is it bad that the idea of the slanket quite excites me?! Perhaps that’s because I’m suffering with perma cold right now 😉

    But more importantly, you raise some excellent and valid points, and ones that I needed to hear after a parent in the school queue casually called me ‘Mumsy’ and a ‘Goody Two Shoes’. Yes that really happened. So having been questioning what happened to this ex festival loving wild child all evening, thank you for helping me put a few things to bed. Tomorrow is a new day, and I might just wear a floral tea dress on the school run, in protest 😉

    Thanks for linking to #coolmumclub – I hope you get sleep soon…

    • WTF? I can’t believe a PARENT would have said that – surely there should be a little more empathy there! I bet you rock a good tea dress xxx

  6. Love this. I’ve spent all week thinking the same. I miss the person I used to be but I’m starting to become OK with the one I am now. She’s just as fun but in a PJ loving, in bed by 9 kind of way. #blogstravaganza

    • Here here! I think the important thing to remember is that different doesn’t necessarily mean less xxx

  7. I read this a few days ago through another linky and have been thinking about it. This time in your life is only for a season. My little is just the age now where we can go out to lunch and enjoy a conversation. Laughing and bonding. She is now fun to take in the pool as she can swim on her own. So less of me being the human float and now being able to dive and chase her. Each age has its ups and downs but if you try to find the good in them….even a large body blanket to keep you snuggie….then you will end up ok.

  8. I read this a few days ago through another linky and have been thinking about it. This time in your life is only for a season. My little is just the age now where we can go out to lunch and enjoy a conversation. Laughing and bonding. She is now fun to take in the pool as she can swim on her own. So less of me being the human float and now being able to dive and chase her. Each age has its ups and downs but if you try to find the good in them….even a large body blanket to keep you snuggie….then you will end up ok. #blogstravaganza

  9. This is a great post! I think all parents can relate to the mum zone. I laughed at your hubbies choice if a pressie! That’s not exactly a new handbag! I must admit I would love one of those! They look so comfy. Thinks do change though. I have teens and they are both out tonight; daughter is out/out as you say (I love that phrase) and my son is at his girlfriends. We have the house to ourselves 😊 and shall be making the most of it! #blogstravaganza

    • It’s good to hear other Mums talking about how it is on ‘The Other Side’! Hope you had a lovely night last night x

  10. I’m well in the mumzone I mainly quite enjoy it but when I thanked a bouncer for checking my ID on a work night out offer Christmas I did think that maybe I need to get out more #blogstravaganza

  11. I can totally relate to this, I am somewhere in between mum zone and knowing who I am, I think!! It is difficult but I have realised it is best to have a few good friends than lots of friends, accepting that has meant I am able to plan time to see them and it has been nice. I tried for a long time to cling onto friends who were ‘prebaby’ friends and whilst we still talk now we just don’t have the same things in common. #Blogstravaganza

  12. Ah it frustrates me too when the hubby buys me something I’m not keen on. Last night he came home with a cactus! #Blogstravaganza

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