International Women’s Day 2020

International Women's Day 2020

This year’s international women’s day strikes a particular chord for me, because it is also my eldest child’s birthday. Eleven years ago today, my whole life completely changed as I took on the new role of mother to my tiny boy!
I was somewhat prepared for the physical changes that came with growing, birthing and feeding a baby, but I was completely taken aback by how my identity changed overnight! The role of being mum seemed so huge, that for a while I struggled to find space to be ‘me’, anymore. When my 3rd child turned two, I decided that I needed to find more balance in my life and rediscover who I was beyond motherhood. Eight years had passed by that point, and I found that just like my old jeans, my old life didn’t really fit anymore, and I’d have to build a new framework for who I was as a person! It was tricky at first, but I soon found that the more I nurtured different aspects of myself, the easier it was to give my children what they needed. Also, all those amazing skills that motherhood has taught me have grown me into a more confident and capable person than I ever was pre-kids. Last week I was whizzing round the velodrome in Manchester on a bike with no brakes, terrified yet exhilarated! I’ve had 3 kids- I can do anything I set my mind to…

Thinking back to when the children were babies, wraps were a little lifeline that sustained enough of my individual identity to just keep it simmering in the background, and not disappear completely. We co-slept, I breastfed on demand, was constantly washing cloth nappies and the children were with me 24hrs a day. My old clothes didn’t fit and I could only wear stuff that I could whip a boob out in! I was a stay at home mum and we had very little money, so most of what I wore was handed down to me by friends and family. All my decisions seemed to be made for me by my tiny brood.

I think this was why choosing my first wrap felt so exciting and liberating! This was beautiful cloth that I could wear and feel special in. I was able to make a choices based on what I liked, and somehow reassert a small part of my identity. I would fold and photograph my little stack of wraps with pride, then share them in babywearing forums, where we’d discuss each other’s choices. I felt that my little stack of earthy coloured wraps managed to communicate something about me and my personality to other people who could appreciate that.

I think that is partly why wraps transcend their very functional nature and become so precious to us. By taking take of my little curated collection of wraps, I was somehow nurturing a small seed of my own identity, that I could then grow into something bigger and more beautiful than before when the time was right.

Wraps also allowed me the freedom to move, which helped me to retain some small amount of autonomy Looking after a baby is far harder once it is outside your body, and there was something liberating about being able to become one entity again, fasten him to my body and just walk where I wanted to, with my limbs free! Looking back that seems such a small thing, yet it was absolutely massive at the time. I could walk to my friend’s house, my baby would fall asleep on my back during the journey, and I’d be able to sit with her and have a full conversation over a cup of coffee- maybe only 10 minutes of ‘me’ time, but enough to keep that little candle of identity burning for another day.

Raising children is a hugely important task, one that deserves as much of ourselves as we can offer it. Too often we see it demeaned and sidelined, as all ‘women’s work’ still is, in our very patriarchal society. Rather than eschew or minimise it, I think we should be brave and throw ourselves into parenthood in all its overwhelming glory, allow it to change us and consume us for a while, safe in the knowledge that even if it has to take a secondary role for a while, there is a way to hold on to your sense of self.

Jen is one of the founders of Firespiral slings. She has 3 children, now aged between 5 and 11!

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