It’s a theme that often comes up when talking to parents; identity. It can be bewildering enough with typical parenting but when your child has disabilities it’s a pretty dramatic lifestyle change. When a life that you would never, could never, have planned for is thrust upon you it challenges your sense of identity deeply. Not necessarily at first, those early days when you’re testing your metal, sounding yourself out to see how you’re going to ‘cope’ but more once you are out there, in the world, doing this all consuming job you never applied for. You spend your days in doctors offices and therapy rooms, you are ‘Mum of…’ and rarely referred to by your own name. Self esteem suffers when it feels like an endless slog and there is nobody to reinforce what you’re doing. There is no 360 feedback or performance related bonus scheme.
I have to admit to a degree of trepidation this weekend then, when we set off for a child-free wedding in Spain. In an environment when small talk abounds the question ‘and what do you do’ is one that cannot be avoided.
We were travelling and staying with good friends and former colleagues of my husband. I was very aware of a few things, firstly that we were the oldest people in the group (and I’m older than hubs so lets not dwell on that maths)! Secondly I was the only mother, the only one whose daily adult social interactions are generally limited to exchanging waves with other parents on the school run. Then of course there was the fact that I hadn’t had any kind of relationship with a bikini since my honeymoon in 2010. So yeah, insecure doesn’t really cover it.
So there we were, sitting by the pool on the first day, introductions were made and rather than an ‘and what do you do’ I was greeted with an ‘oooh you write an amazing blog’ (I’m not blowing smoke up my own here, that’s honestly what she said). With that single compliment and indeed the far greater compliment of actually reading the blog, I relaxed, I wasn’t parent/carer of, or even wife of, I was a blogger!
Then the poolside beers flowed and the wedding hospitality began, ensuring we were all well fed and well, frankly, wasted. I’ve never known colleagues to be as close as this lot but it was a completely inclusive bubble, it didn’t matter that I hardly knew them, people that had been aquaintances at 9am felt like the oldest of friends by midnight. We ended that night on a (or more accurately clearing a) dancefloor in a beachside bar, I was like a 17 year old having a holiday romance, except mine with a group of people. I mean I LOVED them.
The wedding itself was completely beautiful, goosebump inducingly romantic and love-filled. I’ve rarely seen such a happy and emotional couple. One of the speeches advised the bride and groom not to forget to live in the moment, not to miss out on the minutiae of living by looking to what’s next. This struck a chord with me because of all the gifts that Mojo has given us, a profound and tangible appreciation for every single day we have together is probably the greatest. For a very long time we had no choice but to live in the moment as we believed the moment may be all we ever got to have. As time has gone on and moments turned to months and months to years our fear of the future has eased slightly but the appreciation for the moment hasn’t diminished. If anything it has evolved and now not only do we value each day with Mojo but we value each day. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to appreciate how wonderful a day or an event is, right there in the moment rather than retrospectively. That is a Mojo-ism and it’s truly life enhancing and we both really felt it sitting at that table in the Spanish moonlight.
The rest of the weekend was spent in a sun and rose wine fuelled haze, I love dancing and being able to dance until 4.45am at my age was just so liberating. Hilariously at 4.30am the night of the wedding I decided I was a vlogger too and tried to make a vlog about how important friends are and how important it is to rediscover the ‘you-ness of you’. Needless to say that will never see the light of day!
Over the course of three days I danced until dawn, drank shots (I did!), gave drunken ‘wise’ advice in the wee small hours, I wore that bloody bikini I brought and never expected to wear, I had long lie-ins, I slept by the pool, I laughed at WhatsApp videos that simply cannot be unseen (or adequately explained) and I remembered what it used to feel like to be just me.
More importantly than any of that I had time to look at my husband, to remember who we were on our own wedding day. I watched him chatting, laughing, playing and bantering with his friends, uninhibited by responsibility. We listened to each other talking about things that weren’t domestic or child related. We danced, and danced. We remembered that actually underneath all the domesticity and the stresses we are more in love than we ever were.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the weekend taught me that ‘Mummy’ and ‘Me’ are not mutually exclusive and I decided to try not to worry so much about hanging my whole identity around my role as parent carer.
Not bad going for a weekend really.