I was 18 when I became pregnant with my son, so becoming a parent was just another part of growing up. I didn’t feel like motherhood changed who I was, more like it informed who I became.
Although we hadn’t planned to have Alex so soon, I wanted to be a mother more than anything else in the world, which isn’t really an acceptable thing for a teenager to say.
At the time I felt like I had to tame my delight in my baby, which kind of breaks my heart looking back.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so keen to celebrate mums and motherhood – if a woman is a mother, or wants to be one, that’s a beautiful thing. It’s a cause for celebration.
So while my high-school friends were out partying, I was at home with my son (pictured above at eight-months-old in 1998). I missed that stage in your late teens where you’re going out and trying new things, but I made up for it later on. I’m in my thirties now, but there’s still a part of me that feels like an eternal 17 year old. One of my friends has this theory that there’s a part of you that kind of locks in place when your first child is born, maybe he’s right.
Before I had my son, a normal day for me was getting up before dawn to catch the train to Darlinghurst where I worked as a childcare assistant – my first full-time job out of high school. I helped take care of 30 preschoolers, made up developmentally appropriate programs for them, cleaned up after them and patted them to sleep. I loved them. After work I caught the train home to the Western Suburbs, where I lived with my boyfriend. They were long days for little pay.
When Alex was two years old his dad and I went our separate ways and I moved with Alex to the city.
I started working in magazines straight out of uni at 25. After I finished my BA in English literature, I started applying to editorial assistant positions. My plan was that if I didn’t get a job within three months I’d start doing my Masters, but I got a job.
There’s a 10-year gap between my first and second child, it did feel like starting all over again as a first-time mum.
A normal day in my twenties started with dropping Alex off at school, working in a magazine office until about 5:45pm, picking him up from after-school care and then bringing him back to the office to finish my work, sometimes well into the night. He would play while I worked. I remember being at an after-work drinks event where he was just quietly playing computer games under the table. He was a really easy-going kid.
After my partner, Mark, and I moved in together we developed a much more routinised way of living. Now we run a household with three kids, two working parents, two guinea pigs and a cat. We need schedules and we need to stick to them.
At times being a mum is a lot more boring than I thought it would be. I love my children beyond measure, but taking care of people is hard, and sometimes tedious. Especially if you haven’t had any sleep or they’re, you know, two, and can’t tell you what’s up.
The good bits of being a mum are the hilarious and touching things they say, the cuteness when they’re babies and the creative things they come up with. The love they give me is out of this world. A few days ago, I was having a bad morning and I felt kind of small and defeated. Then I remembered how my youngest, Rose, is going through a phase at the moment where she routinely throws her arms around me and says, “Stay with me forever!” and hugs me tight. It is the sweetest thing. I remembered that no matter what, these little people need me and I make their day just by loving them. What a gift.
At other times, when I don’t feel I have anything left to give, it’s a burden. I have to work hard to make sure I have enough strength and love for myself so I don’t let them down. Being a mum is a mixed bag.
How it feels to be proud of my child has surprised me so much.
Before I became a parent I had a lot of specific ideas about how I would be – I wanted to be a perfect mum. I would love them unconditionally, I would never expect my children to be anything other than who they wanted to be, and I wouldn’t feel differently about them whether they failed or succeeded at something. But I do feel affected by their failures and successes. It doesn’t make me love them any more or less, but when they succeed I feel pride unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Last year, Max won the Young Archie competition (the junior Archibald Prize at the NSW Art Gallery) in his age group. When his name was called and he walked through the flashing cameras to receive his prize, I felt like it was happening to me! Feeling so much for another person, so personally, is bizarre.
My mother, partner, friends, sense of self and other bloggers help me parent well. I often think the latter is overlooked outside of the blogosphere.
There are so many ways to be a parent and the more mums out there sharing their experiences, the more knowledge and inspiration there is for new mums to draw on. When I was a stay-at-home mum, reading and seeing pictures of what other mothers were doing was encouraging. It shone a positive light on motherhood for me.
The best parenting advice I’ve been given is, “From the moment they’re born they start leaving you”. Having children is a process of letting go.
I was six when I asked the teacher if I could put on a play for the class, I don’t know where I got that idea from. Maybe because when I was growing up my dad was an artist and my mum was an editor, so being creative and working with words was just what you did. I wrote a couple more plays in high school.
My absolute need to express myself and make things beautiful drives my creativity. It’s not optional for me. Whether it’s taking photos, editing, coming up with creative campaign ideas or doing my own writing, I just have to do it.
The best creative advice I’ve been given is, “Don’t buy the most expensive house in the most expensive part of Sydney”.
Being a parent feeds into my work and creativity – it’s something I’m so passionate about so it naturally informs what I create.
I don’t set out to include my children, but they sort of find their way in. Max is on the cover of CHILD Magazines this month, and he’s been on a magazine cover with Rose before in a photograph I took. Alex is the son I wrote about in a couple of stories that have been included in collections recently, and I’ve blogged about Rose since before she was born. I think what they’d really like though, is for me to sit down and craft with them.
Further to the creative advice and in keeping with Mark’s dream, we rent our terrace in Sydney, but the place we decided to buy is a shack up the coast. We go there as a family, or Mark and I take turns to have a break. When it’s my turn, I write. The first time I went by myself I wrote 3,000 words in one hit. Carving that time out is hard, and I do usually put my family life first, but that’s how I get creative time. I plan for it as one of my priorities and ask that it be treated as necessary by my family.
What does it mean to you to be an Australian creative, who is also a mother?
Australia has a small pool of people, compared to say, the States, and if you say “mum blogger” or even just throw in that someone is a mother, the chances of her being taken seriously, plummets. I’d like that to change. So to me it means being a part of something that’s new and diverse with a lot of opportunity for growth. It’s exciting.
Bron Bates is 37 and the digital editor at Copeland Publishing, which includes the website and this blog. She lives with her kids, Alex, 18, Max, 7, Rose, 3, and her partner, Mark, in Sydney, NSW. You can follow her on Instagram, Pinterest and on her personal Twitter.