How I treat myself

I’ve been on holiday for ten days now – it feels like more and like less in equal measure – and over the past day have read Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye. I’ve enjoyed the show over the past few years and was looking for a bit of light relief between the slightly more involved books I’ve brought with me.

But his book brought me more than I was expecting. So I wanted to spend a few moments writing thoughts about some of the things that I’ve been thinking while following his story.

The main being a line right towards the end of the book which says:

I’m literally just as lost as you. I’m just as grateful. And I’m just as much of a perfectly imperfect mess. People are all layered – good and bad, filled with joy and sorrow. The key is being grounded in the relationship you have with yourself. Basing my worth in how I treat myself despite how others treat me has been the key to my success.

And I’m struck, despite how hard it is for me to type these words and declare unapologetically to the world, by how much I like myself.

There, I’ve said it.

I like who I am.

I like how I look.

I like the grey in my hair.

I like how I’m more in tune with myself physically and emotionally than I have ever been before.

I like my bravery and my tenacity.

I like my gentleness and reflectiveness.

I like how I can be dead serious and then dance myself silly in the next moment.

I like how I’m musical, creative and intuitive but how I can be just as logical and intellectual.

I like how I’m driven.

And I love the simplicity in JVN’s words – the possibility of a guiding principle of my life being that my worth isn’t on how much I achieve, how good a mum I am, what I do with my life, how I am viewed by others, how thin I am, how I treat others.

My worth can be on how I treat myself.

How much kindness, compassion, understanding, generosity I show myself.

And from there, who knows. I may accomplish many of the things I’ve listed above. I’m more likely to achieve better results, parent better, have a rewarding life. And I’m likely to not give a flying fuck about how thin I am, what others think of me, whether I’ve pleased others.

It feels defyingly daring to live a life like this.

To embrace myself and live from the foundation of knowing that I am the bees knees.

It doesn’t feel safe to do this and I hear my inner critic telling me to not get too big for my boots, because doing this risks being knocked down.

But it also has the potential to see me standing bigger, taller, prouder, freer, more grounded.

But what a beautiful thought.

And it makes me think about Adam, my cousin, who died a few years ago and who Jenson is named for (he’s Jenson Adam). He’s someone who I know lived like this and I admired him for that. Living unapologetically as himself, knowing he was fucking fantastic.

I want that for myself.

So in advance of new year, I’m going to commit to channeling my inner JVN, my inner Adam and know that it’s how I treat myself which is my true measure of my worth.

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My beautiful body

I wrote a few days ago about how I’ve experienced a shift in myself. An influx of love and a grounding in myself as I feel well in my skin, full of love for who I am physically and as a spiritual being.

Since this shift, I’ve experienced an acceptance for by body.

I’d go even further than that actually.

I like who I am physically.

I find myself looking in the mirror and, instead of listing all the things that I’d like to change, – the extra fat on my sides and stomach, the grey hairs on my head, my chubby cheeks and dimply bottom – I find myself looking at myself with pleasure. IMG-0062

And instead of pinching the bits of fat on my body, sucking them in or hiding them away, I find myself stroking them, showering them with love, getting them out on display.

Getting into a swimming costume at the beach as I’m on holiday in Wales, I’m fine with not being ‘body perfect’ because I find my body perfect as it is.IMG_0048

I don’t mind when my tummy wobbles as I jump into the waves.

I don’t mind when I sit down on the sand with my son and my stomach bunches up.

I notice a curious echo of the past as I’m in the moment which says ‘you would have sucked your stomach up as this point‘ or ‘you’d have sat back to make your stomach flatter‘ but that’s not me anymore.

I feel the same wonder with my body that I did straight after I gave birth to my son but it feels different.

I don’t feel wonder for it because of how capable it is of creating another human being (although that is an amazingly spectacular super power!).

I feel wonder for it because it’s the house for my self. The vessel for the inherently precious and imperfectly perfect individual that I am.

And I find it to be enough.

More than enough. I find it to be beautiful.

I look back on the Christian messages I received about my body ‘your body is a temple’ and feel sadness for the Amy who read these words and felt that I was failing at another area in my life – not treating my body as a holy temple and instead of feeding it ‘good’, nourishing food, stuffing it full of cakes and sweets that weren’t ‘good’ for me.

For me, knowing my body is a temple is nothing about what I should do. It’s a fact that it is holy, whatever I do to it.

As I sit in a cafe tucking into almond butter, banana and maple syrup on toast, it is holy.

As I run along the beach in Abersoch, it is sacred.

As it brings my son comfort and enables me to show love for my husband, it is perfect.

And the irony is that as I shower my body with love, knowing it is enough just as it is, I feel fewer impulses to gorge myself with sweets.

I’m able to take or leave food if I’m not hungry.

I find myself wanting to nurture my body with nourishing food alongside the delicious desserts that I also enjoy.

With no ‘shoulds’ about what I need to do, but out of love and kindness and respect for it.

My body is beautiful and so is yours, dear friend. No matter whether it is fat or thin, wrinkly or smooth, short or tall, disfigured or untarnished.

It is perfect.


Thanks to Jess, who supported my writing and paid for the chai latte I enjoyed whilst writing this post. IMG_0065.jpg

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Love

I had a deeply powerful experience on a course I attended a few weeks ago.

I’m just starting to digest what this experience means to me and my life and while I do that I want to share with you one of the biggest messages I got from it –  a message of love.

You see, for so long I’ve lived in fear.

I’ve made decisions out of fear.

I’ve felt like love and joy were scarce, finite resources that could leave me at any moment.

And my experience had taught me that this was true.

Whenever I started to have a ‘good run’ with comfort eating – not turning to cakes or chocolate or crisps to push down my feelings – and dared to share this good news with other people, I’d stumble and fall back down into my comfort eating cycle.

I internalised the message of not becoming too big for my boots – “no one likes a clever clogs” – and tried to not make myself look too sparkly or too special because I felt that somehow my greatness would tarnish the greatness of other people or show me as lacking.

I always felt like the imposter. That people – friends and co-workers – were one moment away from seeing me as I truly was – a nothing-special-about-her fraud. And so I was grateful to them for any scraps they threw me.

I felt amazing making others feel amazing through my coaching, because that’s what I longed to be.

Believed in.

Seen.

And the moments when I felt externally validated – when I got a raise or a bit of praise – I drank it in like someone dying of thirst who happens upon an oasis.

I chased the high of being told I was good, worthy, enough.

Because I didn’t believe it myself.

But on this weekend away, something clicked for me.

I felt what it is to love myself unconditionally.

Completely overwhelming, joyous, beautiful, precious self-love.

I never knew it could feel like this.

To feel truly ok because I love myself.

To be able to look at decisions – in work, with friends and family, with myself – and know where I’m making decisions out of fear instead of love.

This love shows me that I’m perfect as I am physically. With my lumps and smoothness, fatness and thinness. I’m enough.

This love has made clothes shopping a different experience. I went charity shop shopping a week on Monday and found myself thinking ‘does this suit me and my body’ instead of past experience of feeling smug if I could fit into a size 12 – even better a size 10 – and wretched, ugly, no good if the size 12 clothing was too tight.

This love has made me feel secure in myself. I know I’m good at what I do. I know I’m an asset at work. I know I’m a good friend/wife/daughter/mother.

I’m not perfect, but I don’t require myself to be so.

Instead of hustling to feel worthy, I feel more content.

This love has let me cry more as I experience the good and bad, the ups and downs without trying to be anything other than myself.

This love has led me to smiling more, as I appreciate the beauty of flowers and trees around me. The leaves dancing in the trees. My son dancing his way up the hill home.

This love has let me find peace with not being the best wife at the moment.

Peace with not saving my best for my husband and all too often serving him up the dredges of myself after a long day of caring and working and being and doing. I’m not beating myself up or feeling unworthy because of it.

This love has let me see that something needs to change, but I know I can’t change by trying harder, pushing more, putting myself last to put him slightly higher up the pecking order. Something has to give.

This love has let me bounce back from stress – a hire car breaking on my way to a senior leadership meeting, my husband waiting for me alone in a no-phone-signal zone.

I see that these experiences don’t define me.

This love lets me know that I’m not one mistake away from being found wanting. I am imperfectly human, surrounded by love.

This love gives me room to grow and stretch and stumble and fall.

To eat cake at 11am and not go into full-blown food free fall.

To examine things I didn’t handle well and get back up, learning for next time.

To make decisions and change my mind if that’s right for me in the moment.

I see what self-love is, for what feels like the first time in my life.

It’s truly beautiful.

And part of me wants to hold it tight, scared that I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling like I did before – grey and wanting.

It makes me feel scared that, on holiday for a week with friends, I’ll stumble and not act out of love all of the time and I’ll see what a fraudulent experience this has been.

It makes me want to hide this news in fear that, by sharing it, I’ll snuff a little candle out.

But I know that this love isn’t dependent on me being perfect. It won’t leave me if I stumble.

So that’s what has been happening for me. A truly special experience that is so hard to describe but so incredible.


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A narrow set of rules that just don’t work

I’ve been thinking about my age old stumbling block – my body – since I went to see the Guilty Feminist Live a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to hear the amazing music of Grace Petrie who is a singer/activist and also a self-proclaimed butch lesbian who never felt she fitted until she came to peace with who she was and how she looked.

And in hearing how she felt she didn’t belong because she didn’t fit into the ideal of femininity, I realised just how much I only feel I belong if I’m at my thinnest and fit into the female ideal of beauty.

I don’t really understand why I feel this way, but I do.

I don’t hold other people up to the same standard. If someone is overweight it doesn’t make me question their worthiness or think less of them.

I might wonder whether there’s a reason for it – some hurt they’re trying to bury with food, a medical reason, because they love food and don’t feel ashamed of being who they are in their body.

But with me, I believe being a bit soft round the edges shows me as weak, not able to cope, lacking in self-control and so many other things…

But after seeing Grace and marvelling at the idea of fully embracing myself, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

What if I lived by Grace’s words?

Some of her song lyrics – and the title of this post – are ‘a narrow set of rules that just don’t work’.

And that’s, in my ‘logical’ thinking moments something I understand about my thoughts about my size.

Not everyone is made to be a size 6/8/10/12.

And by saying ‘you must control yourself to stay thin and within these narrow views of beauty’ I’m saying to myself that it’s not ok to not be perfect.

But perfection isn’t real and these rules about what is ok to be, food-wise, is too narrow.

It’s not realistic.

It’s not something that works for me.

It’s not ok to not be ok

Food and body image becomes more problematic to me when I’m not doing ok.

When I’m treading on new and tricky ground.

When I’m challenging myself in areas that I’ve not challenged myself before.

And that’s what I’m doing at the moment – I’m out of my comfort zone and so it’s no wonder that the old self-critical voice and comfort-eating behaviour is creeping back.

It’s not a wonder really with the strides I’m taking in my life:

  • I’m shedding the thought that I mustn’t stand out or ask for things for risk of being thought of as a nuisance.
  • I’m getting the self-belief and assurance to take time for myself in my personal life. Seizing time for myself just as my husband does when he goes to park run on a Saturday or football on a Wednesday evening.
  • I’m doing different things at work which are new and uncomfortable – having challenging conversations, staying in ‘adult’ mode when I want to be the rescuing ‘parent’, considering how I might work as more of a team instead of staying safe through being self-sufficient.
  • So I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not entirely ok at the moment.
  • But that’s ok.
  • When I am going through periods of growth, I tend to turn to food for comfort before I slowly unfurl into new territory.
  • And that’s ok.
  • I don’t quite believe that I could be a size 14/16/18 and still think of myself as fantastic, worthy, brilliant. But I’m recognising this and trying to change my inner dialogue.
  • I’m making headway.
  • What if I loved my body like I love my son’s body? 

    Like with other people, I don’t measure my son by his body. But it’s a part of him that I love. His beautiful, plump arms and legs ripe for the biting, his cheeks so soft to stroke and kiss as he lies next to me, sleeping.

    He could be twice or half the size and I would still look at him as perfection. And, although I love his body, it is a small part of who he is.

    He is his cheeky smile and his ability to spot small details at such a small age.

    He is his obsession with bubbles and his pushing around of Harold the Bear in his little pushchair.

    He is the ‘woof’ he says when he sees the dog and his concentration as I read story after story to him.

    He is his strong legs that allow him to toddle around.

    He is his hands that clap and his fingers that he moves to try to mimic ‘baby shark’.

    He is his body – and I love it for all it is – but he is so much more than that too.

    And to view it in isolation is to do him a grave injustice.

    To view my body in isolation is, likewise, to do myself a grave injustice.

    What if loving my body was a great act of rebellion?

    It does feel rebellious, the thought of accepting, loving and cherishing my body, whatever its size.

    To see rolls around my waist (just the act of writing this feels disgusting!) when I sit down without any sense of disappointment or judgement or disgust.

    To no longer look sidewise to see how narrow my body is because it’s just not a priority for me.

    To look at my body as I did just after giving birth to my son – with wonder, respect and gratitude for what it does for me.

    To not be defined by how I look.

    To not think I’m less deserving because of not being a small size 12 or that my body and my size has anything to do with my worth or my worthiness as a person.

    When I look at myself through this lens, it feels like a deeply rebellious act.

    It’s not an act of self-sabotage – pushing as much food as possible in myself to defy a society which tells me who I should be.

    It’s an act of deep self-love and freedom to nourish myself, give myself food I love and food that provides nutrients without any heed to my size.

    Without any pressure to my anything other than I am.

    Without any rules defining what I should or shouldn’t be.

    So where do I go from here?

    I accept that I still have far to go on my journey.

     I remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok.

    I send gratitude to the divinity of motherhood for the chance to see a love I want for myself mirrored in the love I have for my son.

    I see the small seed of hope for the future me.

    I am reminded to look at myself with love and compassion.

    And I’ll end this blog with some words from Grace’s beautiful song:

    “You will figure out what’s yours and that it’s got nothing to do with fitting neatly in a box that was constructed to make it seem like people come in just two teams and anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”

    Taking up space

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I made myself small in the past.

    How I focused on being ‘likeable’ to all and felt uncomfortable with the few relationships which were less than glowing.

    How I moderated a lot of what I said with disqualifiers – words like ‘just’ or ‘possibly’ or ‘I don’t know but…’

    How I bent over backwards to accommodate others to the detriment of myself.

    And although these are still behaviours that are my go-to positions when I feel tired or not at my best, I can see that I’ve started to take up more space in my life.

    And I love it!

    I love how I ask for what I need – whether it be time alone away from the demands of motherhood or asking for a glass of water from staff in a cafe.

    I allow myself to take up space.

    I love how I’ve embraced who I am and all the brilliant things I have to offer to this world – as someone who has a brilliant career ahead of them and the ability to do incredible things in this world.

    I believe that I’m deserving of the space and recognition of all that I am.

    I love how, more and more, I also delight in the sides of me that I used to hide away. How I’m stubborn, make vast assumptions about things, can be selfish and can hold on too tight to my views. Because they are the flip-side of my greatest assets – my stubborness is also my tenacity, my assumptions allow me to take in huge amounts of data and make quick sense of them, my selfishness allows me to self-protect and by holding tight to what is dear to me, I am dedicated to things like veganism, living as ecologically as possible and living out my belief that nuclear family should come first.

    I believe that my shadow self should be allowed space.

    It’s great how I give myself time to listen to my instincts more and more in life. When asked if someone can crash at our place for a night, I don’t feel obliged to say ‘yes’ straight away. I think about whether it will be something that will stretch me beyond my means and, if that’s the case, I say ‘no’.

    I listen to what I need and, while I want to help people out, I want my own happiness more.

    I’m moving away from the long-held belief that others should come first and that I intrinsically owe something to them. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in kindness, empathy, being generous with what I have. The difference is that I don’t believe I should give away more than I can – my time, my integrity, my self – for others.

    And with this comes such a capacity for generosity, love, abundance as I allow myself the space I need and, where I want to, I give out of choice instead of obligation.


    When I think about where I am now and where I was when I first started writing this blog of mine (268 posts to date!), I couldn’t have ever imagined that I’d be here, happier in my own skin, kinder with my stumbles, confident in who I am, accepting of my whole self.

    It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster – full of times where I’ve wept with sorrow and brimmed over with joy – but I am so grateful for where I am and for all the space that I’m allowing myself to take up in my life.

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    Love myself

    I used to put on the song ‘Love Myself’ by Hailee Steinfeld and dance around my house. Buoyed by its energy and the seemingly radical sentiment of loving myself, I couldn’t get enough of it.

    I’ve just read the lyrics and the song is a little strange (about physically loving yourself) but I stand by my love of it. My attraction to the radical notion of self-love in a society which seems to push how we aren’t good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, youthful enough.

    And on reflecting on where I am in life, I feel so happy that I can say more than ever before that I like and love myself.

    Before, it felt like this was an egotistical thing to feel – loving myself.

    I felt it meant being too big for your boots or big-headed.

    But I now see that it’s the foundation for so much in life.

    Liking yourself and knowing your self-worth is a fundamental necessity for being able to function as a well-adjusted adult.

    Sure, I still have times where I don’t talk to myself with kindness. Where I exasperate myself and I doubt what I have to offer.

    But more and more, my stance is one of positive self-regard.

    Of sureness of what I have to offer to the world and to myself.

    And here’s what I think when I appraise who I am:

    I’m an intelligent, strong, driven, caring woman.

    I’m someone who thrives off of learning new things – my capacity to develop and grow is one of my biggest strengths and something I’m proud of.

    I’ve also got a large capacity to learn – I’m bright.

    I’m driven and want to be the best I can be – a good mother, good friend – to myself and others, good daughter, good sister, good worker.

    I’m creative, I’ve got a talent for writing.

    I’m also warm and am good at including others and making people feel they matter.

    I’m also funny in my own way.

    A year ago, I’d have had a massive lump in my throat from the anxiety of thinking about sharing this with you – what would you think of me? how egotistical will you judge me to be?! – but now it feels like a fact.

    This is who I am.

    Not all that I am, mind you.

    There’s also my shadow side.

    The side of me that is stubborn and selfish and greedy and insecure. Not willing to see other perspectives and so busy that I don’t take time to just be.

    But my shadow doesn’t define me anymore like it used to. And I love myself with my shadows.

    I feel more balanced and at peace, more comfortable in my own skin than not.

    And it’s a beautiful place to be.

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    A note from myself in 2017

    I found a piece of writing I did in 2017 – and thought I’d share it with you, my friend.

    I hope it speaks to those of you who struggle with people pleasing and low self-worth…

    You feed on the affirmation of other people; their praise, encouragement, confirmation of worth and you feel that this is enough to fed you. But in truth you’re starving – the fast-food, soul detracting opinion of others is not enough, not nearly enough to sustain you.

    Yet, dear one, there is enough here within you – I have plenty to share from a source that will never know scarcity.

    Inside is a banquet of love, joy, abundance, generosity, confidence, surety – if only you would stop bustling around collecting the scraps and crumbs from others, you would be able to stop, to rest, to feast on these delights.

    All you need is to stop.

    To turn your hearing inside and listen. To notice the beat of your heart, the beat of love, continually drumming for you.

    Then you would go to things, join in with things, not to exchange your authenticity for acceptance, but merely to experience life.

    You would pour yourself into experiences by wouldn’t be attached to the outcome for your worth would not be defined by it.

    Your worth would be anchored in yourself and you would know how fully and extraordinarily worthy you are.

    ❤️

    Shoutout to my ex(es)

    I was cycling to the train station this morning, listening to ‘Shoutout to my Ex’ and smiled thinking about all I’ve learnt from past relationships.

    It was a bittersweet moment, mostly sweet, now that I’m over a decade past my last relationship outside of my marriage.

    In my first significant relationship, I remembered how I listened to my boyfriend telling me how I wasn’t thin enough, well dressed enough, didn’t have nice enough hair, how my friends weren’t good enough, how my French wasn’t perfected enough.

    How I wasn’t enough.

    When I look back on this relationship, I think it was emotionally abusive and when it ended, I remember thinking how I would never let someone treat me in the same way.

    I was worth more than being with someone who was essentially trying to change everything about me to fit into some sort of ‘acceptable’ version of myself.

    And it’s something I’ve never gone back to. Sure, I’ve told myself frequently that I’m not enough (something I’m working on) but I’ll not stand for anyone else saying these sorts of hurtful things to me.

    My other significant relationship taught me to put myself first.

    Not in a selfish, stampeding over others way. But I truly believe that everyone’s job is to look after themselves in relationships so they can be the best person they’re able to be for the other person.

    With this relationship I put his happiness first. I bent backwards to accommodate him and his needs – some very serious needs since he suffered from clinical depression.

    I crushed myself into a little ball within myself so that there was more space for him.

    I didn’t state my needs and stand firm with the expectation that they should be met to the same extent that his needs were being met by me.

    I remember the first time I said ‘I love you‘ to him was when he was going through a period of bad depression. We were lying on his bed and he was so low he couldn’t even speak.

    I cared for him so much and wanted to fix him. But that wasn’t what my role should be as his girlfriend.

    I look back at that moment and internally cringe at what my younger self was setting herself up for. If I could have a re-do, what I would have said was ‘I really care for you and love you, but you’re in no position to be in a relationship right now. You need to focus on getting yourself healthy. And when you’re there, come look me up.

    But I’m glad for that experience looking back because it taught me to put myself first when it comes to my significant other.

    Without doing that, I’m good for no one.

    I met my husband, Gregg, not long after breaking up with this final ex, and because of this experience of putting myself last, I was forthright about what I wanted and didn’t want.

    And to my surprise, Gregg was into it.

    He was ok with me being clear about my expectations, setting out what I wanted and what was acceptable for me.

    And whilst this relationship isn’t perfect, it’s a pretty awesome one.

    So I’m giving a shout out to my exes.

    Thank you for what you taught me and for how that’s taken me to where I am now.

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    My grandad’s lamp

    I’ve had a wonderful weekend with my family. An important moment was going to a shop with my husband, Gregg, to pick out a belated Christmas present for me.

    A lampshade for my grandad’s lamp.

    This lamp is really important to me and was the one of the few things I requested to keep of his when he died.

    It reminds me of him, sitting in his armchair doing a crossword puzzle with his dogeared dictionary and thesaurus close at hand.

    It conjures images of him, cutting through a net of oranges with a blunt pair of scissors always kept close at hand on the table that housed the lamp.

    I imagine him composing letters to me, lit by its light, when I was living in France and Japan.

    I think of how great a man he was – ambitious in life and passionate about so many things.

    How he loved wildlife.

    How he supported so many worthy causes in his life with such a sense of duty.

    How he took care of his sister during her lifetime and saved throughout his life in order to leave a nest egg for his family.

    But I also think of what an enigma he was to me. How, despite the 100+ letters we sent to each other in his life, I never felt I truly knew him and I never felt truly seen by him.

    I feel saddened by this fact, because, while I’m sure we would have had differences – his worldview perhaps a bit too black-and-white for me, myself a bit too liberal for him – we loved each other.

    I wish I had known what it was like for him to be married to my grandma, a formidable woman. How it felt to become a father to my mum, especially because it risked my grandma’s life as she developed pre-eclampsia. What his biggest regrets were in life. Whether working so hard all his life was worth it in the end. What it was like to carry such a sense of duty. His personal experience of being a prisoner of war. What life was like being a man during his era. Whether his upbringing, rising up the social ladder had an impact on his sense of self – was he always trying to prove himself, did he always feel like he belonged?

    So many questions that I never dared ask.

    Because it felt like that door was never opened for me to ask them.

    It’s a tricky balance, to be a parent or a grandparent (I can only imagine, for the latter). Being someone who has a role to guide, protect, direct. To not overburden or overshare. To leave space for the younger person to grow into themselves and not force them into a mould that they don’t fit into.

    But in doing that to be present and open every day so you can also be known for who you are.

    It’s all too easy to fit into the hierarchy of mother and child, grandmother and grandchild and for that door of open, honest communication to stay shut.

    I hope I’ll leave a door open for Jenson to be able to ask questions. And that I do the same for his children if he has them in my lifetime.

    I hope that they’ll be able to ask questions and know that I will answer them honestly and with consideration.

    But despite feeling like there were so many questions unanswered about my grandad’s life, I loved him and know he loved me.

    And I will remember him each time I use his lamp.

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    Almost a year

    It’s been almost a year since I became a mum. Where has that time gone by?!

    And as Jenson’s birthday approaches, I wanted to take some time to reflect on how these 11 and a half months have been for me…

    Sleep

    Ha, the first thing I think about because it’s the thing lacking the most in my life with Jenson on the scene!

    How I wish I knew how easy I had it before Jenson came on the scene. Eight hours of interrupted sleep each night – on the weekends, I’d be well into the double digits of hours slept. Even when pregnant and I’d find myself waking at 3 or 4am, I’d have the time to myself to do whatever I wished. And the ability to snooze the evening away after work.

    I go to bed most nights at 9pm and in truth I’m mostly in bed by 8:30pm, because otherwise I just don’t feel at my best.

    But despite the early wake-ups, I can’t help but have a smile on my face when I see my cheeky chap beam at me first thing as if to say ‘good morning!’. He really makes the wake ups worthwhile.

    But I’d love a few more hours of rest!

    My worldview

    I didn’t know that parenthood would change me so much. Sure, I thought that my priorities would change, but I didn’t think that it would change my whole worldview and leave me feeling adrift with the uncertainty of how I fitted into the world.

    Hungry to do more and have more of an impact but not knowing how. Something I’m still pondering on now.

    But things are more important than they were before Jenson came on the scene.

    What we’re doing to our planet – the path we’re on which could ramp up to global annihilation.

    The pain we’re inflicting on other living creatures through our drive for cheap and tasty food – dairy, meat, fish and eggs.

    Our education system which doesn’t allow everyone to thrive.

    Our social security net which is getting smaller and smaller with so many people left behind.

    All the things I wrote about when Jenson was 8 months old (in this post here) is still true today.

    Work

    Before having Jenson, I wanted to climb the ladder, have a greater impact and (let’s be honest) get paid more money. I wanted a role such as Head of Organisational Development or perhaps was open to even moving sideways into another area and had started to believe that I could become the head of an organisation at some stage.

    But this has changed for me since J-dog came on the scene.

    With everything so stretched in my life right now, I can’t think of anything less appealing than taking on more responsibility.

    I don’t mean that I want to do interesting work or stay in my role as it is forever. In fact, if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed with my relationship to work, it’s needing to be constantly challenged and to have the opportunity to do new and stretching things.

    What I’m talking about is not wanting the greater volume of stuff to process. Huge volumes of emails, days spent in meetings and therefore having the pressure of working in the evening and at weekends.

    That has no appeal to me.

    I want to live.

    I want to have a balanced life where I’m able to come home and forget work so I can be fully present with my family.

    And maybe I’m doing myself a disservice by thinking that the two things are impossible, but I sort-of think that a greater workload comes with the territory when you move into a senior leadership role.

    So, for the moment at least, my focus is on enabling myself to have opportunities for interesting scope within my role. Stretching myself and putting myself in the way of fascinating people and interesting possibilities.

    And other things have changed with my relationship to work too – the hours and days I work. Before having Jenson, I thought that I’d be happy to go back to work full-time, but that hasn’t been the case.

    I want more time with him.

    Additional time where I don’t have to worry about doing the laundry or making food for the week.

    Just time where we can be together, meet up with some friends who have babies the same age as Jenson and enjoy each other.

    I’m lucky that I’m going to be able to compress my hours and return to work four days a week in the New Year. With my husband doing the same, we’ll be able to have a day each with our main man, Jenson, and significantly reduce the astoundingly high nursery bill.

    Stepping into myself

    Becoming a mum has propelled me forward in ways that I didn’t expect.

    Some ways, I was expecting – like the desire to get my shit in order. Dropping the people pleasing so he doesn’t learn any of that. Embracing who I am and loving myself fully so he knows it’s ok to be happy and confident in yourself. Showing how I feel so that he learns that it’s ok to express a variety of emotions in a healthy way.

    But I just didn’t expect how much further it would go.

    I feel like I’m on the precipice of something amazing within.

    Learning to accept and embrace all that I am. Stepping fully into my power and expressing myself without fear. Embracing conflict instead of shying away from it. All whilst simultaneously letting go of my notion of ‘self’ a little bit.

    I don’t really have words for it. But I feel that something is coming.

    Conflict

    Up until now I hadn’t felt conflict in caring for my son. I’d adopted a mantra ‘family first’ to prioritise what I did in life and how I decided what to do.

    I said ‘no’ to opportunities at work because it would mean cutting a family holiday short.

    I let invitations pass me by when it wasn’t at the right time for Jenson.

    I supported Gregg coming home late each Wednesday so he could have the release he needed in playing football with friends.

    Gregg supported me in continuing to coach people because it was important for me to do something I loved so much.

    But this nursery thing – leaving Jenson crying and bereft – has me conflicted. It’s the first time that it feels like family isn’t first.

    What is first is my desire to have enough money to be able to have holidays, to have mental stimulation from my role, the ability to be able to eat out and have some spending money, to attend one of my closest friends wedding in Australia when it takes place – all things that would be stretched thin if we went down to one salary.

    I know that Jenson would be fine without all those things – all he needs is Gregg and I to be present and to shower him with love.

    But I want more and, even though I’m part of the family, it feels like everyone’s needs aren’t being put first.

    I’m finding it hard currently to be at peace with these conflicting needs – of wanting to put family first but also wanting to have a life that I want.

    And I think there will be a lot more juxtaposing needs and beliefs in the future – this is just a sign of things to come…

    So it’s been wonderful, challenging, heart-warming, tough, brilliant, crazy, centring. It’s been the out-of-this-world best and most difficult year of my life.

    And I wonder at this moment what the second year of Jenson’s life will bring…

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