Becoming a mum is a strange and intense transition, one that often isn’t spoken about openly and honestly. After I became a mother, someone said to me ‘Now you’ll just be known as Archer’s mum’, and that really struck a chord with me. Because yes, of course I am his mum, but I’m also Sarah, a wife, a friend, a daughter, an avid gardener, a Reflexologist, a Marketing professional…being ‘Mum’ is a role that often does have to take precedence, but it isn’t an all-defining one. Women are far too intelligent and multi-faceted to be reduced to ‘Mum’ alone.  Ahead of Mother’s Day, I speak to four inspiring women whose experiences of becoming Mum have inspired their businesses and weigh in with my own thoughts too.

In conversation…

Rachael Smith, Owner at Hull and East Yorkshire Mumbler and Co-Chair of Hull MVP (Maternity Voices Partnership)
Natalie Lydon, Owner at The Happy Baby Hive
Anna Rimmer, Owner at Wild At Heart Hideaway, a branch of Wild at Heart Day Nursery
Beth Bellingham, Owner of The Matresence Project (TMP)
Sarah Lesser-Moor, Owner of Pure Holistics Reflexology

– Can you tell me a little about your business and how it helps other mums?
The Hull and East Riding Mumbler is a website that I built to list and share all things to do with babies and children in the local area, from classes, groups and activities to days out ideas and school holiday inspiration. I struggled as a first-time mum to know where things were or what was on, so I built the website to help others find things to do and get out and about more to meet other mums.

The Happy Baby Hive runs baby massage and baby yoga classes. All my classes are created around practices that promote mental and physical wellbeing, not just for babies but for mums too. When I first became a mum I realised how lonely and isolating it can be, and how little help and support there was. I wanted to be able to help support other new mums and provide some of the things I wish I’d had. My business name came from the idea of “Happy Baby” (a happy baby also means a happy mum) and “Hive” suggesting a space or hub.  My classes include mental wellbeing practices for mums and time at the end of my classes for a chat over tea and biscuits; mums need this. I also love to include a photo backdrop, as I know mums often miss out on pictures of them with their baby. I try to ensure my classes are as much about the mums as they are the babies.

Wild at Heart Hideaway is a community hub run privately alongside my children’s day nursery. I opened the nursery mid pandemic, and it quickly became apparent how lost and lonely some mummies were feeling. All they wanted was to ask questions, have a cuppa and enjoy some company. The Hideaway was created, aptly named as a place you seek refuge and comfort. The Hideaway hosts “Let’s Chat” sessions, arranged in age groups, topic based, or mixed. A chance for anyone to get out the house and just come for a cuppa, a chit chat and a chance to escape the world and all its chaos just for 90 minutes. As an Early Years teacher, I am hugely passionate about children’s development and firmly believe that 90% of the brain is developed by the time a child is 5. We therefore host additional sessions focusing on things such as gross motor development, early literacy, dressing up etc. and have our own light and dark sensory room called GLOW, open to all ages. 

The Matresence Project is a new project to support women through their transition into motherhood.  To offer a safe space to tell the truth about our experiences of being mums – the good, the struggles – the reality. To tell as many women as possible ahead of time about Matrescence – the radical identity shift a women goes through as she becomes a mother. It’s a word to describe the emotional, hormonal, physical, social transitions we go through when we become a mother. The original name for my project was ‘Beyond the Haze’ – because those early days really did feel like a haze, and things are clear to me now. 

Pure Holistics was created in 2016 off the back of my appreciation for alternative therapies. I wholeheartedly believe in medicine, but it has boundaries, and I’ve always found that alternative therapies can really improve mental health. I knew I always wanted to be a mum and I wanted to learn a skill that would allow me to work flexibly, and for myself, if ever I needed to. Training in pre-conceptual and pregnancy care has enabled me to help women on their journey to becoming mum from conception right through to post-natal. I chose the name Pure Holistics because for me everything in life is about balance, and inter-linking parts coming together to create the whole. I don’t really see the world as black and white; we can’t truly see the full picture unless we examine all of the parts, and I think holistic treatments are often a good tool to find the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle.  

– How have you found your own transition to motherhood? Has this inspired your business?
My transition to motherhood was a shock! I didn’t have many other friends who had a baby at the same time as me and I relied heavily on meeting new mum friends at baby groups for help and advice. I had always enjoyed my job pre-children but going back after maternity leave was so hard, I was missing out on a lot of my son being young and constantly felt guilty. I realised that there must be a world out there that didn’t involve me working full time. I also realised that I’d had to search very hard to find the baby groups to go to and that it should be easier to find what’s on locally. So, the idea was born – to build a website with everything in one place, so other mums could find things to do and groups to go to and make the most of their new motherhood world.

I would say mixed! Some of the most amazing highs but also some difficult lows too. I’ve learned to roll with the lows though, you learn it’s just par for the course. Overall, becoming a mother has been the best thing I have ever done, and I can genuinely say that it has changed me for the better; I want to be the best version of myself that I can be to help show and teach my children how to be the best versions of themselves. Now my biggest passion is around mental wellbeing for both babies and new mothers, and I feel so lucky to be able to teach the classes that I do. 

My daughter inspired my business before she even came along. When I was a teacher, I always knew I would want to return to work after hopefully starting a family, so I knew that nursery would be part of life for me and any potential offspring. With my business I have essentially created the place that I would want to leave my child (and now do!). A home from home, embracing nature, the great outdoors and new things every day.  The arrival of my daughter was the biggest push to finish my community hub, the Hideaway. I was struggling with breastfeeding, had no fellow new mummy friends nearby and didn’t know where to go to find local new mums. I didn’t want formal classes just someone to ask, “do you experience this too?” and someone to tell me that it would all be okay because they have come out the other side. If coffee and cake were involved, then even better!

My own journey into motherhood caught me by surprise – I still find it hard to admit that I found (and still find!) it hard. The early days I struggled more than I ever admitted to anyone. I found the days long and felt hazy a lot of the time. It took me years to get ‘beyond the haze’ and I don’t want other women to have to struggle for so long. My turning point was discovering matrescence – it was like a lightbulb for me. Having a word to describe my experience just made everything feel ok. If I can help women early in their journey so they don’t struggle for as long as I did then I’d be happy. 

All-consuming and lonely. Being pregnant during a global pandemic and having a lock-down baby was unimaginably hard at times. I felt like a failure a lot; for having an emergency c-section, for having a baby that wouldn’t sleep. I beat myself up about stuff that was clearly well beyond my control. Now I see things differently, but at the time it felt like I was fumbling alone in the dark a lot. This is why I’m keen to use Reflexology to help new mums, because it provides the opportunity to decompress, to have desperately needed ‘you’ time, the chance to have someone care for you for an hour, and to also catch a quick snooze.

– What three words would you use to sum up / describe motherhood?
Exhausting, amazing, rewarding 

Difficult, amazing, tiring! (Can I add totally worth it too?!)

Inspirational, selfless and family

Intense, everything, hard 

Complete, Exhausting, Boundless

– How has becoming a mum changed you?
I have completely changed my perspective on what is important in my life. It used to be having a great job and career, now its spending as much time with my children as possible and being the best mum that I can be for them. 

I feel that being a mum has changed me for the better; it sounds so cheesy and cliche, but I really feel I have found my calling. I feel like a totally different person now. 

One of the biggest changes for me is probably that I have learnt to slow down a little. I have always been so busy, active and hardworking. I wouldn’t sit down and watch TV, nap or just curl up for a cuddle. I do now. My daughter has taught that not only is that okay, sometimes we actually need to do that. 

It has changed me in every way possible. I fought the process every step of the way – not wanting to lose the old me, searching for her, waiting to get her back – not realising that a new version of me was here to stay! It took me a while to accept our new way of life, the pace, the focus and intensity. As I come out of the haze I see so clearly I am a stronger, better version of myself – I have strength I could never have dreamed of and it’s being a mum that’s shown me this. 

I don’t have time to worry about the small things anymore. I think I’m more accepting of who I am, and I’ve realised my strength and worth. Having a family has confirmed what I already knew was important in life, but it’s also shown me that I am far more resilient than I give myself credit for, and I have the capacity to love even harder than I thought was possible.

– What advice would you give other new mums? Is there anything you wish you’d known before becoming a mum?
Do not wish the time away! There were many sleepless nights I wished away wanting the children to be of an age to sleep through. But it flies by and before you know it, they have gone to school. Treasure every day (even the bad ones!) Babies do everything at their own pace, when they want to, so don’t ever compare yours to others. Neither of my children slept through the night until they were nearly 2, when I was meeting mums who had babies who slept through from an early age, I wondered what I was doing wrong and beat myself up about it, but they got there eventually (now I have to wake my son up to go to school).

Trust your instincts, deep down you know what is best for you and your baby. You will be given so much advice and there are so many different views out there, but at the end of the day you are the one that has to follow through and you are the one that will have to live with the long term effects of how you raise your child; so you need to make sure that you are happy with your choices and that you believe in them. I’d also say that it’s vital to look after yourself and put your self-care at the top of the list, you cannot pour from an empty cup. I wish I had known how to regulate my own emotions better! I also wish I’d learnt about positive parenting beforehand too. 

I would tell other mums to let go of the guilt. You will feel guilty for EVERYTHING. If you don’t breastfeed, if you sit down for too long, if you nap instead of doing the laundry, if you go to work with your baby, if you leave your baby with someone, if you do something by yourself, if you just want adult company, if you don’t attend a swim class or baby group, if you don’t read a parenting book. Let it go or it will cripple you. You do what is right for you and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about that. 

Every woman is different, so it’s hard to give advice. We all enter motherhood at a different time in our lives, we all have a different pregnancy and birth story – the variables as to what goes well or hit us hard are endless. I wish I had known and understood even just a fraction of the transition I would go through becoming a mother. I thought I would always be me, just with a baby. But it’s completely different – I don’t believe you can go through the process of becoming a mother without changing on so many deeper levels. This is what Matrescence does – it gives us a language to communicate to other women, to talk of the transition, to explain the depths and levels of change we experience – and this is what I believe this generation of women need.

The task of being a modern mother is incredibly hard. Juggling a family with a career, trying to find extra hours in the day to also honour your own needs, trying to be a good wife, daughter, friend. It’s not realistic to ‘have it all’ 100% of the time, so don’t kill yourself trying to achieve the impossible. Do what you can with the energy you have today, and approach tomorrow as a new day. Get therapy for any birth trauma – counselling, EMDR, CBT – there is no shame. Trust yourself, learn to forgive the mistakes (because you will make them) and try to find humour in the madness. Put one foot in front of the other and keep going; by doing so you are not only becoming, but actively being, the best mum possible for your baby.

I hope the resources in this article help you find support – from baby classes, mum groups, alternative therapy, ideas for days out with your small person, or a greater understanding of ‘matrescence’.