Nobody Told Me…
As Equestrians, we are typically a busy breed of people, not shy of hard work and long days. It’s simply the nature of the animal and a career in the Equine Industry. I would also speculate that alongside being busy physically, our minds are usually in overdrive too! With many a list and the “Plan A, B & C,” that horses require, it can be hectic! Yet, we are passionate about what we do and so, ticking off lists, executing plans and being productive, gives us a great deal of job satisfaction.
While being self-employed undoubtedly has its benefits, the mentality that can come with it, is definitely a downside. The “I am my business and if I’m not doing something, nothing is being done” effect, generates a lot of pressure and feeling like you have to be productive all the time. I remember on several occasions after finishing a night shift (for the other side of the family business), I would nap on the couch only to wake to a pounding heart and a guilty feeling because I was resting.
When I found out I was pregnant with Paige, I actually found solace in my busy mind. With "Geek mode" activated, I educated myself, making lists and plans where I could. It kept my mind busy at a time when my body had its limits.
Any woman that has ever been pregnant will tell you that along with the growing bump, comes lots of unsolicited advice and stories… good, bad and ugly. Personally, I didn’t mind, as my motto was “knowledge is power". I was a sponge and wanted to know it all, finding comfort in it. However, I am aware that this is not the case for everyone. For others, “Ignorance is Bliss” and that works too - each to their own!
However, paying attention to what I was hearing, there was a lot of “just wait until the baby arrives, you won’t know tiredness like it” or “you haven’t known hard work until you have a baby”. These don’t sound particularly positive, do they?! Even to someone who wants to know!
Trying not to get overwhelmed, my husband and I would talk and somewhat rationalise it. We came to the conclusion that as a couple, we were well used to long days / nights so perhaps we were more prepared than others for parenthood in that regard...and do you know what? We were right!
However, for me, the forewarned long days and nights of broken sleep were not the hardest part about becoming a Mum.
I Wish I had known…
The hardest part for me in becoming a Mum was something I hadn't even considered. Everyone seemed so hell bent on telling me how much work it is being a parent etc. yet nobody even slightly touched on how both physically and mentally, you have to slow down and quite often, you must simply STOP!
That was the part I struggled with the most - having to slow down.
Why had nobody mentioned this 180-degree turnaround that I would have to do? I was not prepared. Not one bit. I thought, more work? Bring it on! And yes, there is more work - but that’s not the problem…the problem is, you can’t actually do any of it.
What I Struggled with…
Everywhere I looked, there were things that needed to be done that taunted me.
To help clear my mind, I would write a “To Do” list, yet nothing would get checked off.
Half-finished jobs everywhere - Including taking a shower (drying my hair wasn’t even an option so I cut it short instead).
My brain had too many tabs open - unable to multitask, yet I couldn't seem to focus on one thing.
“Baby brain” - it's a thing! I would simply forget words and feel like I was losing my mind.
My horse's routines being interrupted if I was late and worrying about the possible consequences.
Being a burden on others as they picked up the slack.
Sitting quietly to feed Paige - always wanting to pick up my phone and get something done.
Feeling like I wasn't getting anything done. Like caring for my baby wasn’t enough. Like I wasn't being “productive”.
That’s hard for me to write because of course, it’s not true! Caring for my little girl is more than enough. But I was really struggling to adjust. I assumed that having a baby would mean your life got busier. Everyone said it. They warned me. THAT part I was prepared for.
A Change of Pace, A Change of Mindset…
I had no choice but to change my mindset …Spending time with my daughter, teaching her, raising her, is the most productive thing I will ever do.
When it became obvious that Paige simply didn’t feed as well when I was distracted, this brought with it a huge wave of guilt. She deserves to have her Mum’s undivided attention as she nurses. Nothing else is that important. So, I put the phone down.
Being consciously present has helped me from feeling like my brain is fractured.
I have to practice it daily and I’m not sure if it will ever be a habit that I won’t have to be mindful of. I fear my permanent default is set to busy but so be it. I will just have to manage it.
Does slowing mean I have no other priorities? Of course not. I am still fiercely passionate about my business and my horses, but they are just further down the list of priorities than before. During times when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I remind myself of this…the bigger picture.
Even though creating a “To-Do” List and not being able to do anything about it, is a mild form of torture, I still create them. However, I do so with a different mindset…
Previously, I would put "horse’s beds” on the list as one job (there would be 5-8 stables).
But now, mentally, I will break it down so each stable is its own job and from there, I break it down further. For example, each stable has sections - left / right or pee / poop. Whatever way you frame it, the important view to take is that each poop or section you get done is a win! If I don’t get that stable completed in one go, no big deal. If it takes me all day to get 5 beds, so what?!
For a Type A person (which I seem to be), we set off with the intention to complete a task and when it doesn’t transpire, that is the torturous part. Even though I still get overwhelmed at times, having lots of bite-sized jobs on my list has restored some peace of mind and has allowed me to slow down, without the guilt. Overall, it has created a better narrative in my mind.
No two journeys are the same and this has been a very personal account of mine towards finding some semblance of balance as I adjusted to motherhood. I certainly didn’t expect my life to slow down after having a baby, but I have learned it’s 100% OK that it has.
Sarah Elebert x