I’m sick of hearing that I should put my kids first. I know how important they are, and I absolutely prioritise their basic needs. But not at the cost of all else. They’re not more important than my husband (equally, but not more). If I didn’t have him, I wouldn’t have them. If I didn’t have his love, support, company, ability to keep me grounded, I’d have climbed my tree ages ago with no sense of how to get down. We’re a team, and because of that we are both better parents.
The sense that mothers (and it does seem to be directed at mothers rather than fathers, or parents generally), should sacrifice themselves at all costs to put the children first is grossly unfair and, in my experience, utterly unrealistic. If I don’t eat, I don’t function well enough to feed my kids. Sometimes it’s just basic common sense and biology.
But sometimes it’s about recognising that we are people too. I don’t want to be defined by my parental or marital status anymore than I want to be defined by my paid employment role. I am beyond proud to be my husband’s wife and my children’s mother, but it is not all I am and I refuse to feel guilty any more for aspiring or even hoping to feel anything different. To be anyone different.
I don’t think I really knew who I was before my children came along, never really ambitious or dedicated to one particular thing. Maybe it’s their being here that is making the need to locate the part of me that is just about me more urgent. But as a good friend of mine said to me as I went on maternity leave: “This will not be the last big thing you do”. I have clung to those words like a buoyancy aid and I am determined to prove her right.
I’m a wife, a mother, and somewhere, way down, way way down, there’s a little something that’s just about me.