What would you tell your 5 year old self?

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As we’ve only just got to know each other at Wisdom For Working Mums I thought I’d share a bit more about me.  Because any great relationship starts from getting to know each other.

This is me aged 5 years old.  With the obligatory embarrassing childhood hair cut.  The same age my son is now.

I’m on holiday at a Butlins holiday camp with my mum, dad and brother in the early 1980’s.  I’ve got a broom in my hands sweeping up the chalet we were staying in.  Hands on hips with a defiant look on my face.

This photo captures so much of me…..and so much that I now see in my son.

  • The single mindedness – I’m often reminded by my family that this 5 year old would stamp her feet and shout out “You don’t know the way of my life!” when asked to do something she didn’t want to!
  • The determination
  • The independence
  • Not to mention the constant desire to tidy and clean!!

These qualities apparently drove my parents mad at times.  And I’m now realising how difficult they can be to channel effectively.  I’m learning this as a parent to a very similar child as myself.  I’m sure my mum would be smiling down on me and laughing as she watches me try to navigate motherhood with a child who is a similar force of nature to the one she had to deal with!

But these qualities have contributed a great deal of success in my life and for that I’m very grateful.  However they have, at times, been my downfall…… especially when I became a mother.

My single mindedness has meant that at times I became inflexible and rigid.   Not particularly useful when you have a little baby that may not be on the same page as you and didn’t get the memo that things have to be done your way!  There have been some interesting moments when my single mindedness has collided with my son’s equally strong single mindedness.

My determination has meant that I’ve pushed through with pure willpower and grit when I should have let go and slowed down.  I’ve allowed my head to over-rule my body, more times than I care to admit.  Which I believe contributed to my postpartum depletion as I didn’t rest when I should have.

My independence has meant that I’ve often found it difficult to ask for the help I desperately needed in my mothering journey.  Feeling like I’d got to do it all myself and be strong.  That meant that my early mothering journey was often done in isolation and I wasn’t able to build the village around me that I needed.

And my desire to tidy and clean!  This has seen me lift up a sofa at 37 weeks pregnant to hoover underneath it whilst in nesting mode!  It has seen me reach near neurotic levels of cleaning trying to keep a house in perfect order with a toddler and dogs!  A goal which is completely unobtainable and destined to drive a woman crazy!

So if I could travel back in time to see this little 5 year old version of myself I’d like to tell her:

  • I love your independence and it will serve you well in your life….up to a point.  But please don’t let it become your only way of showing up in the world.  Interdependence is also a skill you’ll need to learn and at times it’s perfectly ok to be dependent on others.  This doesn’t make you weak or needy.  It means you’re able to connect with others and build relationships at a much deeper level.
  • Your single-mindedness is a wonderful quality….when used appropriately.  It will see you move mountains that others thought unmovable.  But if you overuse this strength it will become your weakness.  You will become inflexible and rigid which will cause you pain.  So have a strong backbone but a soft heart – this combination will allow you to move more freely through your life.
  • Your determination is incredible and will take you far but please also learn when to let go.  This doesn’t mean you will become lazy and indifferent.  On the contrary, it will give you freedom to be whole and to consciously choose what battles are worth fighting and which ones will just consume you.
  • Your desire to clean, tidy and organise will give you the title ‘Nicola, Nicola, ever so particular’ (sung to you lovingly by your aunty) and may be admired from afar.  But living day to day in this way will be all consuming.  Learn to let go.  Learn to love uncertainty and chaos as much as certainty and order.  Only by embracing both polarities will you be able to live your life whole.  And this will bring you the beauty of wholehearted living.  Also give yourself permission to hire a cleaner – it doesn’t mean you aren’t capable.  It just means that you can focus on giving more to the world.

I love the wisdom of growing older and I’m sure that in years to come I’ll have equally useful advice to share with the current version of me.  But, for now, I’m learning these lessons and allowing them to support me in combining my work and motherhood in a more sustainable way.

So over to you…..I’d love to learn more about you and perhaps what you’d like to tell your 5 year old self?

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