In this week-long series, we’re talking to HuffPost UK readers who set themselves a new year’s resolution last year that you may be considering for 2019 – and stuck to it. Their motivation could be your inspiration. Here, Lauren Wilden, 27, a PR manager from Cheltenham who lives with her boyfriend and eight-month-old Millie, shares her story.
In January last year I was six months pregnant and my maternity leave was creeping up on me. I knew I would need to change how much I was going out with my friends and the amount of money I was spending on my social life.
A lot of my friends live in London and don’t have kids yet. I had a social job and worked in a social office. But as much as I wanted to make the most of the last few months before I had a newborn I also wanted to make sure I had money saved. The only way I could do that was start spending more time alone.
Not only did I need to sort out my finances, I realised that when the baby arrived and my partner went back to work I’d have to be alone at home and I needed to get my head into that game. I knew it would be a massive shock to the system.
When I first found out I was pregnant it was a bit of a surprise. I remember sitting down one day and making an Excel spreadsheet to work out what we were spending and the stuff we could cut. I started with our Cineworld memberships, the broadband package we were on, all that kind of stuff. But I also saw how much we spent on going out, on alcohol and takeaways.
I decided to start living on what I knew my lowest maternity pay would be and spend more time at home to get used to this. It helped at the start that I was entering the nesting phase of my pregnancy and we had moved house from the centre of town to the outskirts so it was harder to see people.
But I still hated being alone.
Previously, if my partner travelled for work at the weekend or was even away for one night in the week, I would make sure I had plans or was seeing people so I wasn’t by myself. Even if that meant organising last-minute dinners or trips to London that always ended up expensive because they were so spontaneous.
I couldn’t do that anymore. If I wanted to see people, I decided I needed to make plans in advance to justify the expense and ensure it was worth it.
The worst time was the first few weeks after making my resolution – I had gone on maternity leave at 38 weeks and Millie was two weeks late so I had nearly a month of being on my own and sitting doing nothing at home. Scrolling through Instagram looking at everyone out at Christmas time was so hard. I’ve always had such FOMO – and I was alone with my thoughts.
Not to mention I couldn’t go out by myself – even walking to the park at the end of the road I couldn’t do because I was so out of breath. I felt like a prisoner.
For the first three weeks of Millie’s life, my boyfriend was at home with us so I had company. But when he went back to work, it was just me again. I had to relearn how to care for her on my own. But I say to people now that I’m so glad he wasn’t at home any longer because if I’d been allowed to become any more dependent, I don’t think I could have coped without him.
In those early weeks I was guilty of comparing myself to other mothers on Instagram and social media, and spending my days looking at all the cool stuff they were doing, and I wasn’t. But as the months rolled on, I started to find it easier to be on my own. I started to understand why people liked that time and I think Millie helped me see how you can create your own little bubble.
I think I’d always felt that if I was on my own at home during the day I was just wasting time – as someone who had always worked in an office full time, it felt weird to me. I kept thinking I could have been doing something productive that wasn’t just sitting around. Now, as a mother, I enjoy having time to do things for myself.
Before, on nights when my partner wasn’t around I’d have made sure friends were nearby to keep me company. Now I do things like my Christmas wrapping, cleaning the house or having a bubble bath. It’s the stuff I don’t want to do when my partner or baby are there because I want to spend time with them.
And as 2018 draws to a close I have genuinely learned to like being by myself – of course I spend most of my time with my baby, but seeing as she goes to sleep at 7pm it’s not like being with another adult. I have learned to enjoy my own company – and if I was giving advice to other people, this would be the most important lesson to take away from my experience.
Not only do I now enjoy being at home but, ironically, I enjoy seeing my friends more too on the occasions when I do – you really appreciate the company and look forward to the date rather than it being just another one of the many times you go out that week. If you’re only going out once a month, you learn to cherish it.