Losing yourself.

In the recent weeks, I’ve got back into an old pastime which I’ve loved for years- but this time started up again for a different reason.
Scrapbooking is for hoarders like myself to savour things that to most people are pointless pieces of crap, like old train and cinema tickets, random receipts or leftover foreign currency coins. I have got countless pieces of stuff like this laying around in various trinket boxes, bags and purses. My hubby rolls his eyes every single time we venture out somewhere and I keep behind a receipt or stop to take photos of random objects which peak my interest.

As a kid, I was the most crafty (both in the arts way, and in the ‘little sod’ way) and inventive kid around. You’d find an 8 year old me on the street riding my bike in mismatch outfits and probably wearing holey knickers, I guess I’ve always lived by the motto of “zero fucks given”. I’d be having races up and down the street and making dens with mostly male mates and seeing which one of us could burp the loudest after a game of ‘Kirby’ or ‘race to the lampost’. Then, after hours of being outside, I’d retreat to the conservatory my parents had at the back of the house. One year I’d received the most beautiful desk for Christmas, and it was then situated in the conservatory (presumably to give me my own space to be demolishion child, seeing as I’d unintentionally carved various letters and shapes into the dining table whilst practicing my methods in the past). The conservatory was my haven- and since I shared a room with my sister at the time and annoyed the shit out of her with my general untidiness, it was the one place I was able to express myself in craft-form without being nagged at for all the cut-up bits of paper around and pritt-stick glue on the floor.
The desk was a beautiful light wood with drawers down the side, and it could fold away too, not that it ever needed to! This is where I’d stash all my coloured card and paper, crayola pens and stamps and multi coloured tissue paper- as well as the Argos arty stuff I’d got for Christmas, including various ‘make your own’ kits.

One particular kit springs to mind so much more- my first ever scrapbooking kit. And in true charlotte-the-hoarder style, yes, I’ve kept it all these years. And here it is!


Cringe.
So back to the other week- I was cleaning out my closet (I SAID IM SORRY MAMA)


Couldn’t help myself.

Anyways- got rid of shit loads of stuff. I ended up with three big bin-bags full of stuff. Once the clothes were squared away, I tackled my endless supply of shoes and bags I don’t use. Underneath the heaps of primark items, I came across my old ‘memory boxes’ full of childhood memories from photos, Michael Jackson t-shirts (and other MJ memorabilia, go ahead…judge me) and little scrapbook type stuff I’d done over the years, including the one above. I spent ages just looking at it and reading the words which my former self had written and wondered what would have been going on in my mind back then compared to now. Perhaps, what I was having for tea, when the chain on my bike would be fixed or how long I could get away with drawing in the conservatory before mum and dad realised I was still in there at 9:30pm and sent me to bed! Oh how things change. And this got me on a tangent of thinking (always risky business when already sleep deprived…) and I started to realise how much I’d lost myself since becoming a mum.

Sorry guys- it’s getting slightly deep here but I promise there is positivity to end the post. I’m hoping that sharing my thoughts on this will provide some reassurance to other parents feeling like myself that they are not alone and it seems to be, in fact, ‘normal’ to feel this way.
I started thinking back to my childhood right up to the moment I found out I was pregnant and how much of a free-fall life generally was. Albeit, I moved around a lot and like all people I had moments of feeling a bit sorry for myself in situations which put me out of my comfort zone, but other than that things were pretty nifty and I’d like to think I’ve just got on with it for the most part! I lived at home, have always worked since leaving school so have always had my days occupied and an income to enjoy with my partner, visiting places and just indulging in life in general, why not! (Oh, the days of stress-free outings eh!). Scrapbooking always had a special place in my heart and occasionally I’d be in my room and whack out the old craft box full of random bits and pieces, and put something together.
In the recent years, I’d enjoy a trip to Hobbycraft or The Range to browse their bits too, and around two years ago I started scrapbooking stuff from our Florida trip- embossing it with little nick-nacks I’d kept along the way to look back on what was a truly amazing holiday. Shortly after starting this project, I found out I was pregnant and just stopped working on the book. I don’t know why- I can only think that life just reigned me in and at the time we had loads to sort out- only me and Donald would move into a house, get married and have a baby in the space of 12 weeks!

I remember feeling very stressed at a time I should have been enjoying my pregnancy, but in reality I had so much to focus on that I didn’t really digest the fact I was going to be a mum. Work wasn’t great- I wasn’t in a good place and was upset and disappointed about how certain situations unfolded with people I worked with. I got pregnant at a time where we had just booked our dream wedding in Cyprus…which we then had to cancel because my due date was ironically the day after the day we were meant to tie the knot! This brought a lot of guilt to me for those close to us who had also booked the holiday to attend and spent a lot of money to then be told that I was knocked-up and couldn’t fly. But with me being pregnant (and hubby being military) it made sense to get married before Milas’s arrival rather than push the big day back until after her birth so that we were settled in a house (army house) and could begin to make it a home.

So in the meantime- we had a whole wedding to arrange and bring forward by nearly three months. One word- FUCKING CALAMITY. Ok two words. And to top it off- hubby was away in Kenya for six weeks whilst I had the joys of organising the wedding itself- including, but not restricted to, the church (plus readings, hymns, banns of marriage and order of service), the venue for the reception, flowers, decorations and table centrepieces etc, balloons, invites, rings, transport, seating plans, the list goes on. Fair dos to the hubby though- despite being away he sorted out a surprise hotel for the night, the cake (which was amazing!) and the food for the entire day (obviously, AS IF he’d hand that job over to me). We had help from family too who were amazing but obviously when it’s your day, it’s up to you to do the tedious tasks. Not to mention my 176534638 dress fittings because I was ever-growing and felt like I was starting to resemble Shamu more and more by the day.


But we got there, eventually, and moved into the house swiftly too with the help of daddy Cope’s handy HGV licence and my work-perks of access to hiring vans.

I then returned to work after a couple of weeks off getting things sorted- and was there for all of two minutes before too much was happening and changing within work to make me want to stay any longer- I was taking myself out of negative situations to focus on the wellbeing of my unborn baby. So I went on mat leave early and enjoyed some much needed chill time at home where I could rest, nest and put my homemaking skills to the test!

Results shown below:

The house was becoming more of a home and we settled in fairly quick whilst eagerly awaiting the arrival of our ‘lil lady!
Then the day finally came, and truthfully, it’s been about her ever since. Obviously that’s what happens, but I’d completely and utterly lost myself until recently. I quickly got so caught up in wanting to be the best possible mother that I stupidly rarely put any time aside for both myself AND myself and hubby together. The weeks went on and I wouldn’t remember what day it was or when I last had a clear head. I adapted to the lifestyle of doing it alone (trying to be proactive, not negative) because the nature of hubbys job is going away for weeks here and months there. And we are located in a part of the country where the closest family member is just short of three hours away, same with my childhood friends, so I isolated myself unintentionally and ‘just got on with it’ like I thought I was supposed to.

My attention ever since has wholly been on Mila and the house. I’m house proud these days, much different to my childhood self, and want Mila to look back on memories of having fun with mummy, even when daddy isn’t around. When she slept, I’d crack on with housework and trying to be a supermum, and the days just flew by week by week. Before I knew it, maternity leave was up and it was time to return to work and place Mila in childcare. Honestly one of the most heartbreaking and hardest things I’ve ever had to do- but one of the best decisions I’ve made. My little baby girl was just six months old and all she ever knew was her days with mummy (and daddy when he was at home!). I found it hard to put my complete trust in a stranger to care for my daughter, and struggled with the thought of her care going from 1 to 1 time with me, to a childcare setting ratio being 1 to 3. Calls from the nursery became a frequent thing- “Mila has bumped her head” or “Mila was pushed over by another child”, and as a mother it made me question my trust in other people caring for my daughter, as I had feared before registering her at a nursery. Despite our worry and constant concern, we chose to see it for what it was which was a young baby learning to crawl and be around other kids and as a result occasionally having a bump here and there, which I knew was just part of babies growing up. Things improved with time and she’s now the chatty, mischievous little girl we know and love, toddling around the place like the sassy little madam she is!

And then life continued in a routine. I went part-time to enjoy my days off with her and treasure the time together which I still do, very much so! But everything was very ‘routiney’. We’d mix it up in terms of activities and we have so much fun- I have the best memories with her. But I miss my family and being able to pop for a coffee with mum in my spare time. I miss being able to get things off my chest with my best friends in person instead of a quick five minutes here and there on FaceTime. That’s just the lifestyle we have now and I’ve accepted that long ago- but I’m only human and I’ve started to realise that I’m not failing as a person and as a mother if I feel down from time to time.                    Mila then turned one and the past year flashed before my eyes. Everyone says how fast it goes, but it’s a different ballgame when it’s your own child.

And there I was; two weeks ago sat on my bed midday, toddler napping, me still wearing my nighty in all my scruffy-hair and no make-up glory, holding a scrapbook I made fifteen years ago. And only then I had the lightbulb moment and realised just how much I’d lost myself in motherhood, and knew how vital it was for me to find myself again in order to stay sane. I needed to let go of feeling the overwhelming need to clean up in all my free time and instead do something for myself. I don’t know why it took so long to realise this-I suppose I just adjusted to motherhood and married life and felt as though it’s my duty to keeps things at home in good order, including having everything spotless and in its place all the time. And I initially felt as though aspects of my former life naturally were supposed to get left behind when you become a mum, and in reality that doesn’t need to be the case with certain things. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary to make that time to do something you love. For me, getting back into my crafty stuff was the one thing I realised I’d missed and I needed to make some changes to how I thought about things in order to introduce it back.
So I dusted off the craft box again, got some photos printed and just went for it. And this small step has made a massive difference to my sanity! I’ve finally took a step back and realised that I can in fact have ‘me time’ and have started to prioritise my time to have it.

I’ve realised it’s actually ok to feel as though you don’t have your shit together 100% of the time. It’s human nature to forget things, and not function properly when exhausted, and get worked up about finances or other lifestyle changes which happen in parenthood. When all is said and done, there is a thriving toddler who absolutely worships you regardless of all of that and they aren’t going to be this small for very long, so you must step back and enjoy it. All the other stuff will work itself out and time will show things improve in other areas of your life which have slacked a little, but the last thing you want to do it miss those vital days of your baby growing up because you’ve been too focused on stuff that doesn’t matter. The thought of that literally breaks my heart!

So this is me making some changes to how things are done around here. To anyone who has taken the time to read this and can relate- I hope this gives you the encouragement to make those necessary changes in your life too.
And for the purpose of this post- here is the progress of the new scrapbook:

Mila always has and always will come first no matter what- and I love our time together more than anything, she makes me so proud every day to be her mummy and without it sounding like a clichè, having her is genuinely the best decision of my life, period! The real betrayal in all of this was forgetting myself entirely. Yes, I’m a mother now. But I’m also still Charlotte, and I need to look after myself in order to do the best job of looking after her.

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