6 November 2016
I have a little panic every time I can’t see the little piece of grubby white string with tiny letters threaded onto it which I keep in my dressing table.
When my daughter was around six, she presented me with these little coloured cubes, spelling out the words, ‘Mum Helen Mum’. Together with the key ring sized Teletubbies and the Fat Controller (also in the drawer), they remind me of my children’s childhood.
When I go to the supermarket (don’t tell them this, because they might stop doing it), they still, unconsciously I’m sure, each occasionally put one of their hands on the trolley handle next to mine – a rule which is obviously no longer needed and long forgotten, but their hands must still retain some latent memory. And for me, these are precious, living memories.
So back then, when I first looked at the words as she gave me the bracelet (now minus the clasp, which the cat for some strange reason has chewed off), I thought, yes, that’s who I am. I am now ‘Mum’, especially when away from work. And that role is a huge responsibility particularly when I am home, to live up to for my children. But I am also still Helen, as everyone used to call me, and as many people still do.
It’s taken a long time to grow and settle into each of the roles that I have acquired through my life – single me, wife, parent, family member, career person. And more often than not, I felt these different facets at odds with each other. For much of the time, I felt that I wasn’t particularly doing a good job at being any one of these, and certainly life had been a lot simpler when there had been just one of me.
But eventually, rather than forcing separation between these roles, I think I’ve learnt to take things that are useful in one aspect of my life over into a different part. I still find I experiment with this quite a bit and the results are unexpected – I feel it takes a lot less effort to be myself and I perform better at work and I’m more relaxed at home.
Whichever way, I’ve definitely become more comfortable that I am one person, and have tried hard to ditch the bits that force me to pretend to be something I’m not. And perhaps this is something that is easier to do with the benefit of experience and time? Possibly.
But what I do know, is that my first step in reconciling this balancing act, was triggered by my daughter’s gift of, “Mum Helen Mum”.
Helen Sachdev is one of the founders of WOMBA, and the mother of two healthy and happy kids (well, young adults now).