Sorry if you think this post is about navigating your way round New York City. I have been here two years and if I pop out of the subway I still never know which way is north or south (yes even with Google Maps).
That I cannot help you with. This is a post that’s a little hard to write because I did get lost when we first moved here and I am only just finding my way back.
When we moved to New York I was Lisa, business owner, journalist, mate who you have a glass of wine with, jump around with in fields at festivals or music gigs, person to find lovely restaurants with and put the world to rights late into the night.
After Max came along that changed but it was coming back and all of my friends and family still knew the girl I was before motherhood and when my husband or my mum could babysit I was all those things once more.
When we moved to New York I was going to freelance but after a contract fell through and after a lengthy wait for a work visa, I was already four months pregnant. It didn’t make sense for me to start something so for the first time since I was 14 years old I wasn’t working.
Of course I had the hardest job of all raising a toddler and growing a baby, but what defined me had changed and the person everyone got to know in New York was just Max’s Mum.
Max’s Mum and now Max and Zach’s Mum, I introduce them first and often neglect to introduce myself. We talk babies, naps, sleepless nights and toddler tantrums.
I met some lovely people but slowly I felt like I was dissolving and losing who I once was. I never realised how much you are defined by the work you do. Without that I didn’t feel proud or accomplished and the five years I spent building my own business felt null and void.
Having children was what I had always wanted above anything else and I was building a home and nurturing my babies. So why did feel slightly ashamed to say I didn’t work?
I should have been proud of this beautiful boy I was raising with almost no help and proud of the home I was running and the baby I was making. I feel sure when I get old and look back my children will always be my greatest achievement. So why is just being a mum not enough?
I think the change of identity when you become a parent is hard on most people. It irrevocably changes almost every aspect of your life, other parents tell you this but until you experience it first-hand it is hard understand the truth of this.
To add to that I was in a city I didn’t know, surrounded by people I didn’t know, in a pregnant body that didn’t look like mine, trying to build a new life. A new life built on play dates and sing alongs, not the after work drinks or gigs and fashion events of old.
In the age where women can supposedly have it all the career, the family, the friends, the great partner I think we forget the reality of everyday life and feel pressured to be more than sometimes we are capable of or in reality can always be.
I now know how it is to be a working mother and I know how it is to not work. Neither side of the fence is greener and neither has it all.
It has taken me a very long time but I am getting better with being home. It’s the toughest, best craziest 24 hour a day job in the world and some days I do it great and some days I suck at it. However it is the only job I have had where the bosses love me endlessly and think I am the best person in the world even if I have not performed very well. It’s the only job where I am truly irreplaceable.
So as I try and embrace this new circumstance I am working on finding bits of the old me who got lost somewhere in the Atlantic when we decided to make this move.
It is small things like making a little bit of time for myself without feeling guilty. Looking into projects and work I might want to do when the baby is a bit bigger, writing this blog, making sure I do a monthly date night with my husband, buying clothes that make me feel good not just those that are comfortable and hide sick and Weetabix well.
On the days when I just have the baby I am trying to scrap the routine and go into Manhattan or different neighbourhoods to explore or just do something different. Walk around Central Park when the baby is napping in the pushchair and just drink it all in. We live in one of the most iconic cities in the world but it is hard to appreciate this when you spend most of your days at home or in the same park across the road.
I am going to start telling people my name and not just my kids’ names. I have booked to go see music gigs again.
I am then going to take the “just” out of the sentence when I tell people I am just a Mum because in a city that gives you 12 weeks to push a human out of your body then rush back to work what a privilege it is that I have been able to be with my babies when they are so small.
Life changes all the time and with my limited sense of direction and inability to even use Google Maps I will be the only person able to find my next path. It won’t lead me back to where I was but it could lead to something even better.
NB: There are of course other maps and navigational apps available.