‘2 weeks postpartum, I returned to work. I felt like I had an identity again. I had a purpose other than mom.’: Working mom urges ‘create your own perfect’

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“Realistically, as a gay woman, I never thought motherhood was going to be attainable for me.

I spent almost my entire existence focused on my career. Sure, I had a wonderful social life and a plethora of great friends, but I was very much a work-a-holic, always chasing the dream.

This a reality for a lot of people in the LGBTQIA+ community, because up until recently, IVF was not an affordable avenue for same-sex couples, mainly due to Medicare in Australia considering same-sex couples to be ‘socially infertile,’ thus not eligible for the same financial rebates a ‘medically infertile’ couple. So, unless you’re being treated by a fertility specialist who actually cares to screen you for all possibilities of infertility, you’re going to be out of pocket a minimum of $10,000 per cycle, excluding consults, medications, insurance excess, etc.

woman smiling in beanie
Courtesy of Yana

Jaz and I met when we were in our 30’s and the discussion of children was instantaneous and unanimous. We both wanted to be parents and we were both ready yesterday. So, if you were to ask me when I knew I wanted to be a parent, I guess the answer would be ‘when I met Jaz.’ Prior to then, the prediction of my future was aging gracefully in a city apartment with an impressive whiskey collection and maybe a dog.

Pregnancy came quite quickly for us on round two of IVF. I didn’t love pregnancy and I continued to chase that career my entire pregnancy, heading onto maternity leave at 37 weeks, but would have worked longer if legally allowed. The labor and birth were traumatic for both myself and Jaz, and when complications threw me back in the hospital 3 days postpartum, I guess you could say the beginning of our new life as parents wasn’t the Instagram highlight reel we thought it would be. I felt like it took me a while to settle into the new role, as any parent does, but my entry into parenthood was riddled with anxiety. I couldn’t leave the house in fear my son would cry in public and driving distances meant he would cry the entire car ride, which just made my anxiety worse. I was constantly wondering if the mom life was for me.

two moms with pregnancy announcement
Courtesy of Yana

I’d started writing a blog for therapy and this is when I started my Instagram account.

‘During all of this drama and all of this pain, I’ve failed to get to know our son.

I feel like I’ve tried to fit him into my cookie cutter so much I haven’t seen him for who he is.

I’ve heard the adorable sleeping noises he makes, but have I adored them?

I’ve snuggled him when he was constipated from the formula, but have I soothed him? I haven’t the faintest fu*king clue!’

two moms holding baby, "baby" balloon in the background
Courtesy of Yana

I felt like I was never seeing or reading a realistic representation of parenthood and how soul-destroying it could be, especially not from same-sex parents, and most definitely not in Australia. Same-sex marriage was only legalized in Australia in 2017, when I was heavily pregnant and our government thought it would be a wonderful idea, rather than just legalizing it, to put it to a plebiscite and get Australia to vote for our human rights.

If I’m going to be honest, there are still very few of us that rep the real and raw, not just on social media, but also in real life. We’re in a constant social spiral of comparing ourselves to those who find pleasure in ‘one-upping’ their peers and other parents alike.

The first few months weren’t always bad, I’d made a wonderful friend at mother’s group, our boys adored each other, and walks in the sun, gossiping about Love Island kept us from going insane. But I felt lost. I was a shell of who I used to be. I lacked self-purpose, self-gratitude, and self-love. I lacked identity.

At 10 months postpartum I returned to work part-time, sharing the load of career, home, and parenting with Jaz. It worked. I was beginning to feel myself again, and our son was thriving at his early learning daycare center. But by the time he was 18 months, a huge career opportunity came knocking, and I went full speed ahead into an incredibly demanding full-time role. Our son was in care 4 days a week and the fifth day with his grandparents. My role was high stress, and at times equally as soul-destroying, but I felt like I had an identity again. I had a purpose other than being the mother of my son.

mom working with son on her lap
Courtesy of Yana

When the 2020 worldwide pandemic of Covid-19 hit, my career was one of the first to go. First I was stood down, then months later, when nothing changed, made redundant. I was devastated, of course, but something pretty wild happened during isolation at home with a toddler and a partner. Something so unexpected I wasn’t sure what it was.

I found myself. I finally got the help and support I needed for my anxiety, so my mental health was in check and all of a sudden opportunity to work for myself, surround myself on the daily with good people, good vibes, in a creative space, and all in a field I was passionate about. I pinched myself.

And then we decided to have another baby. I’ve never done things in halves, so undergoing IVF, starting a new business, all while raising a toddler and keeping a wife, seemed crazy to others, perfect for us. Perfect and absolutely, without doubt CRAZY! I still didn’t love pregnancy and I worked all the way up until I was in labor, but I was calm, I was content and I felt bloody empowered! I pinched myself again.

At 2 weeks postpartum, I was back mostly in full force at work. I had clients with expectations and a business that wouldn’t run itself. My wife was 1000% supportive, our son was in daycare 3 days a week and I’d gotten feeding while typing on a laptop down to a fine art.

two mom with their two babies
Courtesy of Yana

With a public Instagram account, one I shared my entire life on (mostly), it was inevitable I’d be questioned for my decisions, but you get used to unsolicited advice and tend to delete and block the ‘Karens’ from your inbox to keep those boundaries in place. But there is something to be said for people judging your parenting decisions when they don’t know you personally, even if they think they do from the other side of a screen.

They came in thick and fast and at some point, you start to wonder if they are right. Though you know you are flourishing, that most of the time you’ve got it under control (even if my hair is always dirty), and your family are warm, fed, and healthy, you question yourself, because that’s what parents do. We constantly question if we are making the right decisions not just for them, but for us.

I work while she sleeps and if she’s unsettled, you best believe our Zoom call will feature a guest appearance from the tinniest of businesswomen. Some days are easier than others, and other days it really does feel like I’m in over my head and then there are the days I don’t even make it out of my PJs. But at the end of every single day, when I hold my babies close before their bedtime, inhaling their smells and giggles, I smile. Because I feel complete when I’m with them. But I feel more complete when I am ME.

I often stare into their eyes and wonder how they see me, see us. I wonder what they’ll say about their mothers when they are older, in their early 20s, sitting around with mates, pondering life. Will they be proud of their upbringing? Of us? I hope when the time comes for them to share their family story with others, they share it with pride. That they look back fondly, remembering how both of their mothers worked hard to provide them with everything they needed, and even though they did work hard, the evenings and weekends were always strictly ‘tools down’ time. Family time.

mom holding baby in front of big window
Courtesy of Yana

That both their mothers, as women, chased their dreams, pushed the envelope, and always fought for the rights and equality of others. That even though they may not have been planning playdates, making playdough, or baking when their children were sleeping, that every beach trip, every family outing, every family cooking disaster, and every spontaneous moment together as a family, was always full of laughter. It was real. It was our perfect.

It can be difficult to explain the life of a working mother to friends, family, and people around you. They won’t always understand, they won’t always see what you see, and they won’t always support you. For generations, women stayed home to raise their children. Some still do and that is what works for them. That’s their perfect. It’s beautiful. But you need to allow yourself to create your own perfect, without the noise from others, no matter what it is.

Empower yourself to be empowered, to focus, to strive, and to fight for what it is that you want so maybe your children will look back one day and say, ‘My mother? Oh, she was a force! I hope I can be just like her.'”

Courtesy of Yana

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Yana from Sydney, Australia. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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