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.
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.