#sewingkeepsmesane

Hi everyone,

A slightly different post from me this evening, although it’s on a topic I  have touched on before.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’m joining in (marginally intermittently) with this year’s #sewphotohop.  This involves posting a photo each day to a predefined prompt theme, many days being sponsored by various companies.

Today’s prompt is “why do I sew”?  and it struck rather a chord, particularly today when my life is changing once again as my youngest daughter starts primary school. So I thought that for once, I’d be brave and share.

If you’d asked me when I did my first SewPhotoHop a couple of years ago, I would have said something flippant about making pretty dresses.  But, as it is for so many people, it’s become very much more than that for me.

Seven years ago, I became a mother.  An incredible time in anyone’s life; for me, along with the joy of my gorgeous daughter, was extreme culture shock and what felt like a total suppression of everything that made me, me.  I had an infant who was utterly dependant on me, not least because she had chronic reflux, refused bottle feeding, would happily feed for 2 hours or more at a time and was rather averse to sleep at any time.  She threw up ALL the time as the reflux played hell with her digestion, which meant that to add insult to injury, I spent a lot of time covered in sick and my clothes needed to be breastfeeding friendly, easily washable and preferably cheap, because I went through several outfits a day, just as she did.

Suddenly I wasn’t a young professional with an active career, a wardrobe full of smart clothes and the ability to come and go as I pleased in the evenings.  I couldn’t get that time alone which I have ALWAYS desperately needed, from being a very small child.  When I look back now, I realise how well it had suited me, having a husband who also was massively career driven and who worked late into the evenings regularly; it gave me my space.

I lost myself.  I didn’t know how to dress to suit my new, smaller but differently shaped body and my new life.  I had no idea how to make friends with other new mums aside from those in my NCT group, who thankfully were a source of constant support; I would absolutely have gone out of my mind without that bunch of ladies constantly at the other end of a text, ready and willing to meet up anywhere to keep the babies entertained and ourselves partially sane.

One of those ladies signed up for a BYOB (bring your own baby) sewing course, and on a whim I joined her.  I really enjoyed my 6 week course, I made a couple of things afterwards (including new curtains and cushions for our house extension, thus justifying the expense whilst on mat leave) and then it went into a lull again.

I struggled when I went back to work, too; suddenly I didn’t fit in at the one place where I had always excelled. I couldn’t stay late; nursery closed so I had to leave.  I was suddenly not seen to be pulling my weight, and was treated accordingly, mostly by people who arrived into work hours after me but saw me leave before they did.

What little there was of my social life vanished; evenings were about getting baby to sleep and then falling over in an exhausted sleep until she woke us again. And again.

And I found that there wasn’t time for old friends between work and childcare; not that many were prepared to come round for a takeaway with a friend pinned to the house by a baby and a husband whose employer still expected him to stay late at work.

I’ve always been a worrier.  I may come across in person as loud and talkative, but that is a learned behaviour; I work so hard to make myself talk to people and then I can’t seem to stop.  My base line assumption in life is that other people don’t like me.  It’s always slightly puzzled me, I’ve never known why I was different, just that I was.

Move on a couple of years, add in another (reflux free, bottle fed and consequently slightly easier) daughter and an increasingly toxic work situation and I was not in a good state.  And then I found sewing again, though watching the Great British Sewing Bee.

This time around, I was hooked almost instantly. I don’t know what was different, but suddenly I was replacing my shopping obsession with a fabric shopping obsession, making things I actually felt like wearing and which vaguely made me feel like me again.  Much more importantly, I found something which turned all the whirling voices and worries in my head off; I can’t think about other things whilst I’m sewing.

I can’t tell you what a relief that is, most of the time.  The voice that constantly tells me I’m getting everything wrong, that no one really likes me, that I’ve upset people, that I’ve said the wrong thing in every conversation that day, that I’m tactless and blunt and getting every choice I make for my children wrong? It stops.  Just for a while, it stops.

And I put me first.

Even when sewing for others, this is for me.  And that is incredibly rare in this life in which I, consciously or unconsciously, rightly or wrongly, put the needs and desires of everyone else in my family before my own.  Whilst considering myself to be a selfish person.

Please don’t take this in any way as me saying I wish I’d never had a family.  I love my girls more than life itself; they are the single best thing I have ever, ever done and they are incredible.  It’s just that motherhood is also the single hardest thing I have ever done and my personality type (if that’s the right phrase?) exacerbates that.  Small children and personal space are pretty much mutually exclusive.

There’s a huge allure for my personality type in learning and challenging myself; I fear change and yet I get bored so, so easily.  A skill like this where you can be good and still have something new to learn every time you start a new project is perfect for my self judging, hungy little mind. And let’s not underestimate the joy of fabric shopping, shall we?

I should mention at this point that yes, I am getting some counselling.  I haven’t admitted that to many people, but in for a penny, in for a pound.  It’s making things harder initially as things are brought up going back decades which apparently I haven’t dealt with.  Severe bullying and repeated bereavements are apparently not good for the psyche; who knew?

I’m in a new job which is a positive challenge for my geeky brain and have a much more understanding boss who truly believes flexible working is best all round; it’s quite incredible how much more productive this guy’s team are in that so much more relaxed environment.  And my youngest has today started school, which will make juggling our various childcare requirements that little bit easier too.  It will also remove the need to survive my horrendous commute with her in the car too, which should also lower my stress levels.

But this is why I sew.  It’s to take time for me.  It’s to try and remember who I used to be, before I “grew up”.  It’s to be Becca.  Not Mummy, not Mrs Woodward.

Me.

Thank you to all of you for being out there, online, being you, too and for letting me find a place where I can be me without judgement.

#sewingkeepsmesane

Becca x

48 thoughts on “#sewingkeepsmesane

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  1. I’m not usually one for commenting but this beautifully considered post has moved me to. Thank you for your honesty and so eloquently describing how sewing works for you. I don’t have children to fit in, but I totally understand the need for a challenge that engages your brain in a different way. I’m so glad you’ve found a new job where it is recognised that hours don’t equal output and want to wish you well with the counselling too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for posting this – honest, brave and ultimately positive. So much of it resonated with me (mother of a 4yo who also started school this week) and a 7yo.

    #sewingkeepsmesane

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an honest piece of writing. I can identify with your words, I too struggled with my first longed for child, I thought motherhood would be so easy and natural, I had a baby with reflux and I had no idea what to do. Suddenly I was not me anymore, my body had changed, none of my friends had babies, just me, alone on a housing estate with a husband who worked long hours and a lot of weekends. This was 35 yrs ago, and I truly wish I had had some counselling, but it was not available. No internet, or baby groups, I was so lonely. I gave up sewing which I had always loved and was part of me, because this baby took up all my time. Baby number 2 was a dream! Bottle fed, happy, relaxed and so was I. I took up sewing again about 10 years ago, and I love seeing all the brilliant makes on Instagram. Keep sewing Becca, keep up with the counselling, you sound a lovely person and I think your outfits are wonderful and you are so quick!! I wish you well.

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  4. Can I send you a virtual hug, Becca?

    You’ve hit lots of nails on the head here. Having a baby is hard for anyone, but for someone who’s used to being good at their job, being organised, being punctual, being someone who gets things done – and who also gets time alone to decompress each day I think it’s especially tough. All my memories of the baby phase revolve around the word ‘relentless’ – my previously well ordered life shattered into tiny pieces of disconnected time, and my tired brain couldn’t put them together into useable chunks of time.

    Your love of learning is a huge asset, and it’ll bring you so much fulfilment – in sewing, at work, in seeing the world, and in bringing up your well-rounded, contented children. I hope the people around you (including your girls – in time) can appreciate your need to sew and to spend time away from them. We appreciate your honesty, and we also love seeing what you’ve sewn!

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      1. Very true. If only babies could do that… And I don’t know if you ever get time to read, but there’s a great book about introversion called Quiet by Susan Cain. It examines how introverts are often undervalued in our loud, brash society, and explains the importance of spending time away from other people. It helped me understand why I used to find my old career at the Big 5 accountancy firms so exhausting/frustrating, and helped me appreciate why DH and DS are so cranky after a weekend with my loud, noisy family.

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      2. Yeah, my career with the big 5 was not my happiest time either! I’m so much happier as a technical specialist in a niche role where problem solving is a big part of the piece and I don’t have to play the corporate game too much. I’m surrounded by other geeks which is so much more my style! I absolutely always have a book on me, but it’s usually total escapism (I’m a big fantasy fiction fan); I will look that one out though.
        I’m one of those people who confounds personality type tests because I come out the opposite of what I appear. I got really cross on a Myers Briggs based course once when the instructor kept calling me out as an “obvious extrovert” when actually I score really highly on the introvert scale. We did the colours thing not too long ago at work and you’re supposed to come out as red/blue/yellow or green. I ended up purple! Totally equally balanced between the red and the blue because my learned behaviours in a professional situation and my preferred behaviour socially are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

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      3. Aargh! An MB instructor should know better than to do that to anyone. How exasperating for you. I also fake extroversion at work with Dorian Gray type results (today I’m giving an apparently out there training session but I’ll be a grumpy zombie on the train home). I don’t know the colours one – I left consultancy ten years ago now, but I did get labelled a guardian/wizard/warrior on one course… I’m glad you’ve found a role that suits you, and where you get to produce tangible results – that and autonomy over the things you’re held responsible for are so important for job satisfaction. And taking the long view, the test results show you’re very adaptable and can probably get along with and manage anyone – perhaps you deserve a raise?!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Sending love and encouragement! We might have very different reasons for starting sewing, but I think the outcomes are the same in some ways – fulfilment, investing time in ourselves. What a wonderful thing sewing is 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I could have written the same post (and contemplated doing it). I had really bad PND last year and was utterly broken. As well as therapy and CBT, sewing has been an important part of getting myself better. It really is therapy for me. Shutting the door and ignoring the world for a while. To the point where my lovely (and long suffering) husband fully facilitates my evenings in my shed. Hope things are getting better for you too. xx

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    1. Thanks Lesley and I’m so sorry to hear about the PND. A friend has had that and I’ve seen what a struggle it can be.
      It’s so important to feel supported in the need to see; thankfully Mr RW is really good at that. He sees how much better I am when I get that time.
      I hope things are getting brighter for you xxx

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  7. That was so honestly, beautifully put. I kept saying “me, too!!!” I am working through a lot of similar issues, and sewing is such a help. A book recently recommended to me was Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg. It’s an unfortunate title, because it’s a little misleading. The ideas are on target, though, for learning to recognize your own needs and others’. For example, it’s helped my brother and me deal with some manipulative and control-driven family members. You might also find that another great book for people like us is Quiet, by Susan Cain. I wish you all the best and many, many years of sewing peace!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post. People can be very judgemental about moms who don’t think motherhood is pure perfection. I’m a lot like you and needs tons of me time. So no kids for me. Good luck!

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  9. A wonderful post and likely to resonate with many many people. I knew I needed me time when I had my first baby, and every day for an hour during nap time I had what I called my craft hour. It kept me sane. When my children were little everyone was a stay at home Mum, but a few years later that had changed when I had my third and all of a sudden everyone had gone back to work, I had no work to go back too and had to start over, that was hard. We tend to think people have perfect lives but they don’t. Stay calm and keep sewing!

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  10. My oldest is 8 and I can totally relate. Sewing is a great break from the rigors and struggles of daily life and it’s helped me so many days when I’ve felt like very little progress has been made elsewhere. My 2nd son had really bad reflux too and it was so hard to go and get things clean only to have to turn around and clean a new batch of clothes/carpet 20 minutes later. There’s something really honest about making something with your own hands and making something pretty. My family is my life, but sewing is also a part of my life too and it’s part of our life as a family as well–a way that we solve problems like that ugly chair that needs to be recovered or new pajamas that are more fun to make than buy.

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    1. I just love how tangible it is, in contrast to my exceptionally intangible job! It’s kind of like decorating; whenever we paint a room, I love to step back and instantly see what I’ve achieved that day!

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  11. Thank you for such an honest piece, I also wasn’t ready for motherhood and it’s crazy. I still cannot explain how I’m managing 3 months down the line, but it’s really hard. I love my son so much, wouldn’t exchange him or give him out but I wish this would have been a little bit easier. I started sewing when he was just 3 wks old, I needed something to keep me sane, something to keep me from running mad, so I hand sew. I’m still currently doing doll clothes just to learn the different stitches but it’s working. I now have a clearer mind! Followed your blog, follow back please. Would love to keep in touch!

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    1. I’m impressed you managed to find time for anything else at 3 weeks; I was proud of myself if I managed to get us both dressed and out of the house at that point! I don’t know if it gets easier or if you just get used to it? But it does carry on being worth it; wait til he hugs you back one day x

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  12. It’s like reading about myself!! Okay, so I’m not a mum but all the fears I have about such a pastime were experienced by you and your personality is SO similar to mine. Horse riding used to be my head space but once I got good enough at that to not have to think about what I was doing I lost my ‘pessimistic thought free’ time, which was hard. I don’t get quite the same feeling whilst sewing but it helps.

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    1. I really hope you find something that helps you switch off your mind for a while. It was music whilst I was growing up but I’ve not found a band that fits in with working/mum life and my taste in music to listen to is a little heavy for the kids!

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  13. Thank you for sharing. Sewing really has helped me keep it all together at a time when it has been touch & go. I love the quiet that it brings to my mind and how it stops dwelling on the tough stuff. I once read that happiness is the pursuit of attainable goals, and every sewing project gives opportunities for just that. My current #wip means I’ve been searching for unicorn fabric to make a gift for my new baby neice…. What’s not to make you smile about that?
    Love your blog btw 😉

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    1. I like that description of happiness! It makes a lot of sense to me. On a course I was on recently, they were talking about how money only works as an incentive to a certain point; after that it becomes about striving to improve personally, being autonomous and having community. I basically decided they were describing sewing to me a in a banking workshop!
      Unicorn fabric is always something to smile about; I have some unicorn print jersey in the to sew pile, destined to hopefully make my 4 year old a very happy girl!
      Thanks so much for the compliment! x

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  14. Hi Becca. It’s 21 years since I had my youngest child but your description still resonates with me after all those years. I think we’re given a vision of motherhood as being so magical and rewarding by the media (especially those parenting magazines!), and it is those things, but it’s also really tough sometimes as well. I thought, I think like you, that I was failing because I wasn’t enjoying myself and I wondered what the hell I had done to my life, whilst simultaneously loving my babies more than life. Years later, I look at the 2 young men that we have produced who are wonderful human beings and realise that we were actually doing it right all along. Keep on keeping on Becca, you’re doing a better job than you think, and I suspect valued far more than you imagine.

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  15. This post moved me to tears, Becca! (thank goodness for good mascara ;)) You had such a tough time in the early days of motherhood, no-one can prepare you for that can they. What you said about attitudes in the workplace really resonates with me, and I’m glad you have found a place of work that is more holistic (if that’s an appropriate word to use) and helps you create balance between all the competing aspects of your busy life xx

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  16. I love this so much. Maybe because it’s so relatable, I’ve always considered sewing as a form of meditation because in my opinion, it takes you to a different dimension and casts your focus on the actual work rather than worry. Thank you

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