I would sit and look at words in a book before I could ever read them.
And when I could, the words on the page would become part of my childhood. The stories would intertwine into my own, making their way into my DNA and forever changing me.
Such was the impact these stories had on me.
And like these stories, the people around me moulded and changed who I would become as an adult.
Like many of us, I grew up with a stressed and busy mum. A mum who didn’t appear to have much (if any) time to do things that she enjoyed. Always moving from one task to another, barely stopping to catch her breath.
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you who my mum really was in the early years of my life except for an Aged Care Nurse and the woman who put food in my belly and a roof over my head.
We always had all of our basic needs met, but our Matriarch most of the time felt “checked out.” I mean she had to be; she was always cleaning, cooking, and meeting everyone else’s immediate needs. The task list, responsibilities, and expectations were too heavy for her to feel the lightness of joy and play. Hers was a load she didn’t want to or didn’t know how to share.
So this was what I internalised being a mother looked like: constant denial of self and prioritisation of household tasks as well as paid work. It was serious, and it was devoid of joy.
My mum and I developed what was more considered a “friendship” as I got older. As my reliance on her lessened and the curtail of expectation dropped, I got to experience more of who she innately was.
I saw her experience joy. I saw her take time for herself. I saw her assert and maintain hard boundaries. I saw her.
And then, I became a mother myself in 2019. At 30.
I wasn’t okay.
I looked at the expectations I had witnessed of the early years and felt the heaviness being passed on—except, it was a weight and intensity I could not hold.
And whilst I could not be my mother, that didn’t stop me from feeling guilt and shame at me seemingly “falling short.”
I started questioning why I could not deny myself, why I could not redirect my light into household tasks.
This started a long process of detangling from the unrealistic expectations that had been placed on my mother, both by our culture and herself as a result. It started a long process of questioning what I truly wanted my life to look like.
The answer was that I didn’t want to lose myself, but I also knew that the version of me who once was would never be again.
So what did I want?
I wanted to enjoy this time of my life. I didn’t want to take my shiny-ness and stuff it deep into my heart until my children needed less from me.
I refused to believe that I couldn’t love parts of my experience now. And I also refused to accept that I could not talk about and challenge what I felt was hard.
After dabbling in writing for most of my life, from countless Dear Diary entries from when I could put pen to paper, to Harry Potter Fan Fiction in my late teens and early 20s, to blog writing in my late 20s and early 30s and journalling since my son was born, I was ready to take the love of stories that I had experienced as a child and create my own written legacy.
The Mum Who Found Her Sparkle visited me in the early hours of one morning in late June. A mum who had lost her creative expression, and the tale of how she and her children went on an adventure to find it.
I instantly reassured the idea that it had chosen the right person and that I would bring it to life. I knew that forming this idea would also help me further reconcile who I was and who I was becoming. And damn has it done that.
I reached out to a friend who was an unschooling guide, and we got to work crafting the manuscript.
What I was invited more deeply to consider as Sparkle was written was how I integrate joy and creative expression into my experience (with now two little ones under four). Instead of always longing for the time away, I looked for ways all of our needs could be met. A catchup coffee date at a contained indoor playground or Mr 3.5-year-old’s favourite show whilst I created digital art on my laptop or simply pretending to be a horse and delivering Mr. 3.5-year-old to the shower at bedtime.
Moments I had struggled to create ceremony and lightness around before became more easeful.
So whilst my journey back to me is still ongoing, and whilst the way we celebrate and support mothers and families needs to change, in creating Sparkle, I have a new fire in my belly to contribute to the conversation about slowing our life down.
Sparkle is not another thing on our to do list; it is our life force. And I am incredibly excited for this picture book to be in the world. I am truly so grateful for her.
Sparkle, thank you for inspiring the pause and for finding me again.