I've been trying to understand why I feel so wound up over the last few weeks. I mean LITERALLY wound up - tightness in my back, neck, hands, jaw, and a low-grade headache almost constantly behind my eyebrows. I'm filled with plans, ideas, frenetic energy, ambition, excitement, and yet there's almost always this slight fog over my mind, stopping me from relaxing into the focused flow that comes when I do my best work.
I've blamed coffee. I've blamed the tiredness of being a mother, even with a baby who sleeps well. I've blamed my addiction to Instagram and What's App that leaves me reaching for my phone only to be told by Instagram that 'You're All Caught Up For Now' because I literally checked my feed eight seconds prior.
According to iPhone's Screen Time, I pick up my phone anywhere between 150-180 times a day, and I get on average 113 notifications per day. Now, I'm not even going to pretend that this isn't a problem, and that I couldn't be doing something significantly more enriching with the 2.5 hours per day I spend looking at my phone.
But I don't think any of these reasons are the CAUSE of my feelings of distractedness and low-level panic. They may be SYMPTOMS, but I haven't got that far yet.
What I have realised, as I've reflected and journalled and pulled tarot cards and walked outside (my proven toolkit for understanding myself, in the current absence of a coach) is that I'm feeling some sort of guilt for going back to work.
Specifically, going back to running my own business, where right now 70% of what I do is not directly generating income. Much of my work right now is writing and reading and ideating and meeting possible clients and partners. And yes, being on social media. I'm choosing all of this above spending extra hours each day with my son, who is being looked after by his wonderful father until he starts nursery (the son, not the husband) next week.
I feel very conflicted about this. I COULD make a different choice every day. I don't have to show up to an office or risk getting fired, and I won't currently pick up a paycheck at the end of the month for (most of) my efforts. So I COULD stay with him, and yet I don't. I love my son so much that it physically hurts sometimes, but I also love the freedom of getting on the Tube alone and listening to a podcast. I love coaching a huge variety of people and seeing how their self-belief grows steadily every time we meet. I love sitting in a cafe writing and creating unique coaching programmes. Ironically, it's when I'm most content and satisfied with my work, that I most miss my baby and want to run home to him.
I think this is part and parcel of a wider insecurity about parenting, one that I don't find debilitating but that is always simmering on a very low boil. I sometimes feel like Scott and I don't take parenting seriously enough, or that we haven't made enough sacrifices for our son. We still take him to a cocktail bar on a weekend and sit banging two plastic cups together over a couple of Manhattans. I can count on half-of-one-hand the number of baby groups we've taken him to, but he's forever being carried around random art gallery light installations that we've designated as de facto 'baby sensory'. Up until a couple of weeks ago, 80% of his weaning experience was store-bought baby pouches. Organic store-bought baby pouches, but still.
I'm not looking for any commentary (positive or negative!) on the choices we've made so far as parents. That's not the purpose of sharing this. There is no right way to parent, and deep down I know that Hudson is just as happy as any other nine month old (if a bit lazier). When he's not with me, he's with his father, which can only be a good thing. I am endlessly grateful that Scott works for a company who financially support a father's right to parent as much as a mother's.
But my point is this: our insecurities as parents can cloud our ability to be the best version of ourselves.
Being a parent is a complete head-fuck most of the time (as is being a human being, to be fair) — a tangled web of emotions, hormones, expectations, comparison, old wounds from our own childhood, fear and joy. Only through understanding and owning your unique experience of parenthood, can you really start to unwind and relax into the flow of being you. All of you.
PS - yes, writing this all down HAS helped a bit with the headache. The remainder, I blame on the soul-destroying noise of two plastic cups being incessantly banged together.
PPS - I'm building a coaching programme to support men and women navigating early parenthood. If you want to learn more, or be part of my guinea-pig-crew as I develop this, please feel free to sign up here!