Riding After Becoming A Mum
When I first started riding, I was in single figures and barely able to grasp the concept of what I was actually doing. I fell in love instantly. My parents even still possess my childhood attempt at a comic book of my adventures with Libby, the local farm’s pony. She was chestnut (I think it’s safe to say we know where the obsession started then) and I adored her. To me at the time, she was a huge mare, that looked like the ones I saw running the Grand National. I started actual riding lessons however, when I was around 9 years old at my local riding school in Essex and it only cemented my deep seated love and adoration for being around horses. I adored it, nothing was going to stop me.
Fast forward to 21 years old and after loaning my first pony, a black cob called Black Jack, I decided it was time to buy my own horse and I found Jack. Nothing stopped me from enjoying my passion, except of course work.
I honestly thought it would be like that forever. Until of course children came along. My first pregnancy was filled with people questioning my decision to continue riding as well as simply being around my horse. I was also asked the most hideous question of all, “What are you going to do with the horse when the baby comes?”
I usually left people asking me this question in a state of disbelief with my abrupt and often aggravated retort that I wouldn’t want to taint your day with. Once people had got over the fact that I wouldn’t be getting rid of ‘it’ as he was usually referred to, I thought that would very firmly be that. Unfortunately that was simply not the case.
I am the only equestrian in my family. My parents often ask, “Where on earth did you come from?” as they sit in my dog hair filled house, with me covered in haylage still, happy as a pig in the proverbial. When Neve came along, it was less than two weeks until she went to the stables and was introduced to Jack and was only 18 months old when I bought her, her first pony; the legend that is Rambo.
Once again, questions were raised about a little one being down the yard, was it safe with it being so muddy, should she be around horses, should she be getting dirty, was she safe while I was mucking out?
While it angered me, it also upset me hugely and only led to what I and a million other women, now refer to as the ‘mum guilt’.
It doesn’t just arise when I take my little one to stables. It also happens if I leave the little one at home and choose to go riding instead. What’s worse, it isn’t just comments from outside parties that leave me feeling the wrath of the ‘mum guilt’ either. I do it to myself over and over again. When I choose to ride my horse, I find I wonder whether I should instead be at home, spending more time with my daughter? Am I a bad mum because I’ve chosen to take some time out for me? What’s the difference between me leaving my husband to look after the children while I escape for a long soak or a quick hack? My husband goes to the gym and if I’m working, he uses the gym crèche, which our daughter Neve loves. He however, is never questioned on this. He never asks himself if he should instead be spending more time with the children at home and simply goes to the gym and comes out with a smile on his face, after getting exactly what he needs, his workout and a little ‘me time’. So, why can’t I do the same when I ride?
With my second daughter Joss now here, nearly 8 months old, I’m doing a lot better, allowing myself to enjoy a little me time. Whether my ‘mum guilt’ will ever totally disappear remains to be seen but what I do know is that a happy mum is the best kind of mum. I’d love to hear from you guys. Do you have mum guilt? If you have, why? Have you managed to put it behind you? If so, how?? Let us in on your secret so we can all enjoy our horses during parenthood, without the worry of what others may think!