I ran into an acquaintance the other day who had recently delivered a baby. She looked phenomenal, with no remnants whatsoever of the baby weight lingering around.
“How the hell do you look like that?” I asked, not even attempting to mask my utter annoyance.
“Oh, you know,” she explained. “Since I had a baby plus a toddler, I just spend all of my time running after them so the weight fell off. Plus, I just never seem to remember to eat!”
That was not the response I wanted to hear.
I’ve seen countless celebrities singing the same tune and it always makes me crazy. I have three kids and I have never once found myself running after them. Maybe I’ll dash over if I hear a loud thud followed by silence, but certainly not often enough to break a sweat. Sure, I’m with them constantly, but my normal pace is more like a saunter. My heart rate is steady and you could never call gently pushing a kid on a swing an aerobic workout.
And, how does one forget how to eat? Like, ever? The only time I ever came remotely close to not eating three square meals plus snacks daily was when I had bad morning sickness! Babies eat regularly. Kids are constantly asking for snacks and meals and treats. Never mind, that their plates constantly need to be “cleaned/finished”. As a mother you are surrounded by food– how on earth is it forgettable?!
If you’re rocking a post-baby body and I ask how you got it, please give me a response like:
“I’m starving and miserable, but I really wanted to get in these freaking jeans again”
“I work my ass off at the gym 24/7.”
“Genetics. You should see my mom.”
“Honestly, I have no idea how the hell it came off so fast.”
Or, even the dreaded, “I’m eating less and moving more.”
Those I can understand. I can’t relate to them, but I can live with them.
But, please don’t give me the running around and forgetting to eat bullshit.
I’ve been there. I know better.
I love Christmas. I’m the one who has a minimum of 15 guests for dinner, cooking for hours in the kitchen so that we can sit; parents, brothers, sisters, children, ex husband and current husband, on borrowed tables and over eat together. I save up for Christmas presents every month throughout the year no matter how skint I am, because I know I’ll be more skint at christmas. I start buying presents and decorations on January. As I said; I love Christmas.
As a kid Christmas was a magical time. It was looked forward to pretty much all year. It was the reason that the cold and dark evenings of winter didn’t matter as much as it should have. Christmas was always a time where we were all together, I remember it as happy; snuggles in the house and warm.
Advent calendars were exciting. I remember back before we had chocolate ones; the excitement of not knowing what would be behind that thin scrap of paper. What picture would be revealed? Then came the chocolate ones which, for the first year at least was so exciting; chocolate? Everyday? Yes please. However advent calendars somehow lost their charm; they became about a piece of chocolate and not about the unknown.
And more recently, in addition to this piece of chocolate we have the addition of a new count down, I’m not sure what they are called, it seems to be different in every house. Some call it Ernie, others it’s Pixie or Twinkle, it’s elf on the bloody shelf. And I just do not get it; so some elf, misbehaves making a mess in your house every day, in some houses bringing a gift each day in the run up to Christmas? WTF? Why?
Yes yes I know that all my Elf on the Shelf loving friends will be shouting at me right now that it’s about the magic, it’s the anticipation, it’s exciting and you will see their little faces light up as they go seek him out each day, but why? Why do we feel the need to make something that when I was a kid was the most exciting day of the year even more exciting? Surely it’s exciting enough?
What does some cuddly toy making a mess in your house everyday add to that? Can we not keep our kids excited without sprinkling flour all over the place, or spilling milk on the floor and sitting a stuffed toy next to it? My kids make that kind of mess everyday, they don’t need me adding to it and pretending it’s an elf doing it.
And I know that some people will say it’s a way of getting children to behave in December, which does make me kind of think how the hell do they get their kids to behave the rest of the year?
Nope. I just don’t get it. For me the magic of Christmas is built up by the slow drawing in of the nights. It is the Christmas songs on the radio, the plans of families getting together. It is the cold days. It is the wrapping presents. It is the simple things. And that’s how I want Christmas to be for my boys. I don’t want to ruin it with more expectation.
Plus I’d never remember to move the damn elf every night!!!
I know from the arguments and reprimands that I’ve had on social media today that this isn’t going to be a popular view, but whoa, I’m an honest person and so I’m going to just say it anyway; that kid who fell into the gorilla pit? It could just as easily have been mine.
So go on start throwing your insults, but first let me explain:
I am human. I am a mum of 3 and I am human. This means that I only have two eyes, and I only have two hands. I’m already handicapped when it comes to having 3 children; there’s just not enough of me to go around. I can only physically be holding 2 of them at the same time. I can only see them all if (and this never happens) they are standing nicely together. Normally, I’ve deliberately got the youngest two as far away from where they can annoy each other as possible. This means I get to see those two one at a time. i.e. I have to take my eyes off one to look at the other. And let’s face it, even if I didn’t, I’m a self confessed haphazard parent. I get through my parenting life by the skin of my teeth and occasionally by the seat of my pants; I actually once nearly ended up in my Nana’s grave on top of her coffin due to a particularly difficult moment when my 18 month old decided to do that throwing himself backwards with the force of a baby elephant thing just as I threw in my handful of mud and rose as we were burying her. It was only the quick thinking of my ex that stopped us both falling 8 ft into the ground and giving my Nana one last shock. These things happen, right? Accidents I think we call them…
All day I have seen on Facebook and Twitter that the mother should have been looking after him properly. That it was her fault. Was it though? Really?
I wasn’t there, but I find it difficult to believe that this woman stood by and idly watched her 4 year old son climb a small fence with a 15 ft drop the other side. Surely it is more likely that one of her other children demanded her attention in some way, perhaps she was trying to stop that child from climbing the fence, or running away? Perhaps another one of her children needed a drink, or a tissue, or lifting so they could see the animals, and in those moments, when her back was turned, the 4 year old got away from her?
And by the time she turned back it was too late; he was gone, or maybe he was about to go, and she couldn’t quite get her fingers to him in time to stop him. After all, I’m led to believe there were plenty of other zoo visitors also in the area at the time. Now call me nosey, but if I’d been at the zoo and seen a child, any child mine or a strangers, about to climb into a gorilla pit, I’d like to think I’d stop them. The fact that no one seemed to notice kind of makes me think that perhaps this was something that only took a split second. That, like my son nearly flipping us both into my Nana’s grave, wasn’t really foreseeable and unluckily for her, she had no quick thinking sidekick to stop the nightmare.
Which leads me neatly on to an imbecilic statement that I saw posted to Facebook earlier; she should have taken additional help with her to supervise all 4 children all the time! Oh yeah, because all those of us who have more than one child shouldn’t go anywhere unless the child to adult ratio is 1:1. Hands up who else would never be able to leave the house?
There’s something fundamentally wrong with that, because even if the ratio is 1:1, guess what, at some point that adult will need to look away from the child!! It’s impossible (not to mention probably mentally unhealthy) to watch a child every second of every minute of the day. I mean what if you need to look at your watch, or scope out where the next animal enclosure is? Have you never needed to sneeze? There’s forced eyes off time right there! And do you know how long it takes a child to slip out of your grasp? Out of your sight? I’ll tell you: 0.00004 of a second, well that’s how it feels anyway!! I don’t know how they do it but mine can literally vanish near enough in front of my eyes!!
Find me any parent who hasn’t had that moment of absolute panic, when they’ve glanced at their watch, or spoken to another child and turned back to find that the errant child is not where they had last seen them and reasonably expected them to be. I know I’ve done it a few times, per child!! It is terrifying and it is horrible, but I have been lucky enough that the said child was just hidden under a clothes rail (or decided to ditch me and walk back to the car (aged 3 and in a shopping centre!!)).
What are we going to do? Chain our children to us? Take out two adults for every child so they never have a moment without adult supervision (Bill, I need to scratch my nose, eyes on Charlie for me) , or do we put in adequate safeguards and precautions and allow our kids to be kids?
I would not expect that a 4 year old could easily climb into a gorilla enclosure, if I had been that parent I would likely have taken my eyes off the 4 year old for a moment. That seems a reasonable thing to do; perhaps the younger one cried, perhaps mum needed a tissue out of her bag, whatever, I’m pretty sure it never occurred to her or the other visitors that day that it would/could happen.
Parents should look after their children, but there is only so much supervision it is reasonable to give. As sad as it is Harambe was killed it doesn’t make it anyone’s fault. Sometimes accidents just happen.
The papers have been full of it lately; headlines screaming out in favour or against taking children out of school for holidays or funerals. The rhetoric (as well as the hefty fines) are intentionally designed to scare parents into compliance; just one week off school can apparently mean that the child can drop a whole exam grade.
In a recent article I read, a minister stated that grieving children should only be allowed one day off school; to attend the funeral of the loved one. Never mind that they may be paralysed with grief. Never mind that they may need to process the loss, no it’s back to school they are to go, to study for some useless test, that in 10 years time, in the world of work, will mean nothing; hell, I have a degree but no potential employer has ever asked me what classification, let alone cared that I failed my A levels miserably!
Holidays, it is professed, when taken during school time, severely interrupt a child’s education. It seems odd then that my eldest, about to embark in his final year of GCSE’s, came home a few weeks ago with a letter for a school trip which will be two days off school. Yes, he will be learning Geography during this time, but he will also be missing 2 days of his other classes as well. He is also going on a 3 day History trip to Germany in September (at the extortionate price of £450, to stay in a youth hostel for 2 nights, but that’s another story). That is a total of 5 days (or a week) out of school. In this time he will have missed lessons in all the other subjects that he is undertaking GCSEs in, however, apparently, this is acceptable? So by their own reckoning he will be dropping a grade in all those other subjects?
And don’t get me started on all those cases where children as young as 5 are sent home from or excluded from school due to some trivial reason such as having the wrong shoes, or hair cut, or some other minor uniform discrepancy. School attendance is so important that you can be fined for taking your child on holiday for a week where they might actually experience some form of culture, however they can refuse to let them attend for a week whilst their hair grows to a length deemed by some headteacher as being appropriate? Or until a parent can afford to buy appropriate shoes? Because obviously having the right hair style/colour/length really helps to improve their education doesn’t it?!?
Surely if a child turns up willing and ready to learn it is our duty to teach? To provide them with an education, not deem them inappropriately dressed to learn.
I’m not implying it’s right to take a child out of school for a holiday, but if it’s not ok for me to do something, surely that has to also apply to the school? Forgive me for appearing confrontational, but it really does seem to be one rule for us, and one rule for them?
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. A lot has been going on and I just couldn’t seem to decide on which thing to focus on; however this morning it became blatantly obvious.
I am one of those people who wakes up and is ready to go. I don’t need to slowly waken and set lots of different alarms. Most mornings I’m awake before my alarm even goes off. And I savour those moment when the kids come in for a cuddle and tell me they love me. This morning the youngest told me that he is most comfortable “when I hold him”, which just about melted my heart. Those kids are awesome.
So why is it that nearly every day, or so it feels. I end up just about ready to nail said child/children to the wall!!
Take this morning for example; lovely cuddles completed, I tell the boys to go get dressed. This shouldn’t be a problem, after all last night I laid their clothes out for them. It should just be a case of putting them on, a feat that, on a good day they can manage in under a minute. So why, today, did it take nearly an hour? An hour interspersed with me alternately sending youngest to the naughty step to get dressed, to me screaming at him to just get dressed, only to have him wander in 5 minutes later, wearing a pair of pants and s single sock, moaning that he can’t open the can of soap he just found in his room?! WTH were you doing in your room, I ask? Why aren’t you dressed? “Because I want to wash my dirty hands” came the reply. Perfectly reasonable you might think, however, there was nothing dirty on his hands 5 minutes ago and now, when he was supposed to be getting dressed, somehow his whole hands are covered in red pen?! So, swallowing my rage, I squirt some soap into his hands and tell him to be quick about washing them and then, GET DRESSED.
10 minutes later, he is back, this time he has two socks and a filthy school T-shirt on, that is most certainly not the nicely cleaned and ironed one is laid out for him the previous evening, and instead looks like he has used it to clean off a homeless guys bare feet. “Why aren’t you wearing the t-shirt I left out for you? Why aren’t you dressed? Where did you find that thing?” I ask astounded. To which the reply is that this was all he could find?!?! I damn near rip the filthy t-shirt off his head and walk into his room and pick up the neat pile of trousers and t-shirt I left sitting, prominently RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS ROOM!!
I send him back to the naughty step to get dressed.
5 minutes later progress appears to have been made; well he now has a clean t-shirt on, however now he has a new gripe! Last night in a clearly weak moment which I have regretted from the moment the words were out of my mouth, I agreed that he could have a packed lunch today. This is a rare treat that he is rarely allowed (I mean at his age they get free school meals, why would I do a packed lunch), so you’d think the child would be grateful, but no, not a chance, even the sandwich filling turned into a battle, him wanting PB&J and me insisting he couldn’t. Anyway, this morning he has decided that he wants to swap the contents of the lunch box I’ve made for him as there’s not enough in it!! Arrgghhh, GET DRESSED!!! And give me that lunch box so I can launch it out of the window!
The flip side of this is that as he can see me getting increasingly frustrated with his younger brother, the middle one takes the opportunity to shine; he is dressed with no prompting from me, brushes his teeth at the first request, prepares his packed lunch and sits in the front room all ready to go calling out to his younger brother to stop being naughty. Yay. At least one of my children can behave thinks I, prematurely as it turns out.
The next time I come downstairs, miraculously the youngest is now dressed and comes out of the kitchen carrying a bag of chocolate, which I happen to know was in the back of one of the top cupboards, asking if he can have it for breakfast. No. You cannot, and GET YOUR BLOODY SHOES ON!!! I scream as I grab the chocolate and slam it into the bin, “no one is having any chocolate in this house ever again!” A perfectly reasonable response I feel!
It is then that the middle one, decides to tell me that when he had climbed the cupboards to reach said chocolate, he “may” have broken the door on the cupboard below! Closer inspection reveals that the cupboard below no longer actually has a door, it is more that a door is leant against the cupboard at a jaunty angle, and that the hinges have ripped out so spectacularly that there is no hope of ever securing it again.
At this point there is no stopping the rage which I have been swallowing back nearly all morning. Both boys are dispatched to sit in the front room and behave until I’ve made my coffee and we can go. Do they think this is good behaviour? Do they think I want to give them nice things and a new house if they can’t look after this one? I spend two further minutes berating them before I go off to make the much needed coffee!
We leave the house without further incident (if you don’t count the daily squabble over who gets to sit in the front) and once we are all safely strapped in the car, I look across at them both and my heart melts. They are both grinning at me, and the youngest cheekily pokes his tongue out and tells me he loves me. The middle one leans forward to plant a kiss on my lips and a hug round my neck. They apologise. Peace is restored.
I drop them off and we have a hug and a cuddle, and as I drive away I am determined that tomorrow it will be different. Tomorrow I will be calm. I will not shout, I will be the perfect mum. It won’t happen though, I’ll try, they will try, but they are two mischievous boys and I am an overtired, harassed mum of three. Whilst it may not be ideal, and I’d prefer we didn’t have the rows in the first place, the fact that we all forgive and forget so freely, that despite everything we all leave with a kiss and a cuddle, feeling loved surely says a lot more about our live than the fact we were at loggerheads 5 minutes before…doesn’t it?!
Anyway tomorrow is a new dawn!
Some days it is like I wake up and it just doesn’t matter what I do, what good intentions I may have, I mess it up. Every thing I touch turns to crap. In my head I will see a picture of how something is going to be; it could be anything, a day out with the kids, a meeting at work, and yet no matter my intentions it all goes to pot.
Take a day out with the kids for instance. The kids might all moan about getting their shoes on when I ask, they might sulk and whinge that they can’t find them, or they don’t want to go out they’d rather watch TV. And I’ll get pissed off. Don’t they know that this is supposed to be fun? Don’t they realise that I took a day off work to spend with them. How ungrateful are they? So what do I do? I shout at them, they don’t understand how this is supposed to be fun and so I tell them; In no uncertain terms I shout at them and let them know how they are ruining the day. They are selfish and ungrateful and they should appreciate me wanting to take them out.
They will then, 9/10 times all jump up and get moving and apologise to me. We will get going to wherever we were going to go, but the day will feel slightly tarnished, slightly forced and I will spend most of it chastising myself for being a terrible person/mother.
It happens in other areas of my life too. When I am tired or feeling low and all I actually want is to feel loved and needed and wanted, I often seem to express it in extremely unlovable ways. I might pick a fight with a loved one, then end up in floods of tears because, actually the last thing I wanted to do was alienate them. I just needed something from them (love, reassurance, support) and couldn’t express it in a way that showed how much I needed it. Maybe I tried to be loving and it was missed, or I’m sad and want to know that someone is there for me and so I behave badly. It is a child-like response that I am aware of but seem to have little control over it. I want the dream. I want it perfect.
And yet it’s almost like I self sabotage things that are good in my life. Seriously, why am I so bothered by the fact that kids would rather stay home watching the TV rather than come out and do something that I think is better for them. They were happy, perhaps I should have been happy too. But no, I have an image in my head as to how the day is going to go and so I relentlessly pursue it against all opposition. I need to learn to chill out more. To let things go. To know that the way things are in my head isn’t the way that things have to be. If anyone should know that it’s me.
Its not just me that does this though, I see it or hear it all the time from my friends, or people on the street. Somehow we are conditioned into thinking that things are always going to be perfect, that we will get married and live happily ever after, that our friends will drop everything because we need them, our kids will be beautiful and angelic and well behaved. And maybe that is a reality for some people. Maybe all of my friends are as bat shit crazy as I am and actually there is a whole community of “normal” people out their living the lives of their dreams.
Whatever. I honestly don’t think I care, because do you know what? Sometimes it is from the shadows of our failings that the best things happen. Perhaps if I didn’t feel that guilt for shouting at the kids I wouldn’t have made the extra effort to ride the zip wire with them. We wouldn’t have made those memories that hopefully they will remember forever. Perhaps I wouldn’t have reached out to a friend and reaffirmed our friendship over the stories of my fuck ups and their commiserations and affirmation that I am, indeed bat shit crazy.
Since my last blog about splitting up with P I’ve been amazed at 2 things:1) the number of people who took the time to connect with me, to check that I am ok, to let me know they are there (thank you all), and 2) the number of people who said they were stunned. That they thought that we were a perfect couple.
It’s made me think about how social media can allow us to share the life that we want people to think we have rather than the life we actually have with our friends and colleagues. I mean, we have all probably done it; we have a day off, at home with the kids, it’s been a hell of a bad day, they have spent nearly all of it fighting or arguing over important things, such as who is going to get to sit next to Mummy or who broke who’s biscuit. You wonder how you could possibly have borne these Devils, You are just about ready to kill them, and so, in desperation you make them put on their shoes and take them to the park.
The only reason you are taking them to the park is the hope that they might put 100 metres between you and their constant bickering. This is not about fun, this is survival! It works, you can finally see the arguing but not hear it, and if you don’t look up you can pretend not to see or hear the constant whines of “Muuuumm, he, pushed/hit/punched/licked/looked at me funny!” Ignorance is bliss and so you sit back and enjoy the peace. And then it happens; they stop arguing for 1.5 minutes, the sun pops out for 2.5 minutes, and so you seize the opportunity to take a few pictures of them, in the sun, playing together like angels.
30 seconds later they are back to bickering and arguing and generally being little sods, what do you do? You retreat back to the park bench, you ignore the yelps and screams coming from the other end of the park and you upload those few rare peaceful moments to Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. Look at how perfect they are, look how nicely they play together (Yeah right!).
The point is, I didn’t bother taking photos of them arguing, and I certainly didn’t post them to social media. Anyone who looked at my profile would probably assume that my kids and I had a whale of a time at the park, smiling and playing together. Which we did. I mean those perfect 1.5 minutes of not bickering or arguing, in the sun were indeed perfect. However I unconsciously edited my day/life down to those few small moments in an otherwise poxy day when I uploaded those pictures to Facebook.
Too many people accept that what people portray on social media is the reality of other people’s worlds. And that is quite a scary thought. If I was friends with someone who was depressed or not coping particularly well, they may well be under the illusion that I am coping perfectly, that I manage to be the perfect mother/wife/girlfriend/sister/employee/whatever. What they may fail to realise is that they are only seeing the highlights. The best bits. The parts that I want to show the world. They don’t see the me, snot hanging down my face, sobbing down the phone that I am a failure, that I can’t cope, that I am too tired, too sad to deal with this crap; because that’s not they way I want most people to know me. So those times get conveniently missed out from my Facebook feed and instead you see the times I’m winning at life, you see the good and I edit out the bad. To someone who is depressed or struggling to cope this can make them feel a failure, they may see everyone else’s lives through the rose tinted glasses of social media and this can make them feel worse.
And that’s how people form the impression that everyone else’s life is better than theirs. That they must be doing something wrong. They don’t see the cracks in the lives of their friends, they only see the paper that their friends have covered over the cracks with. But nothing is perfect, everything has cracks, and so you know what? Those 1.5 minutes of perfection, in the park, sun shining and kids loving me were the closest to heaven I’ve been for a while. And so I’ll carry on sharing those moments, however perhaps we should all bear in mind that what we see is not always a reflection of our full time reality, it’s the reality we’d like.
Whilst I love being pregnant in many ways, I have never been very good at being pregnant. I have 3 children and all of my pregnancies have been complicated in some way, each one in a different way, but definitely complicated. This time 5 years ago I was 27 weeks pregnant with my youngest child, my last child. Even as I type that, my stomach churns and my mind does a little spin. You see, whilst I know that Billy Bob is going to be my last baby, there is still a part of me that can never quite believe that. The finality of it. The redundancy of me. The admission that I will never again feel that rush of dread/excitement/anticipation of realising that I could be pregnant. The tiniest flutter of the first movement and the whopping great kick in the ribs that takes your breath away.
When I had Bean, the Middle one, I remember going down to theatre on the way for a section and insisting on stopping and using the bathroom, not because I needed the toilet, but because I wanted those last few moments, alone with my baby, to recognise that this was the last time I would be fully responsible for his every need, to feel his heart inside me and to come to terms with him leaving the protection of my stomach. It was a moment of supreme peace and clarity.
When I had Bill, I didn’t get that. I didn’t have a section and so I didn’t have the warning that he would be leaving. Well, obviously I did, but I suppose the pains of labour aren’t as peace and clarity inducing as the gentle stroll down to theatre, knowing that in 20 mins it would all be over. It’s something I wish I had had the forethought to do. The last time I will ever hold a baby inside of me and I can’t really remember much apart from the pain and concentrating on getting through it.
Then before I knew it he was in my arms and everything we at once perfect and at the same time bittersweet because, I suppose I knew all along that in all likelihood that he was my last. Whilst I felt unable to definitively state I was having no more children, I knew in my heart that it wouldn’t be practical or sensible to have any more. Billy Bob was a surprise baby and childcare was going to cripple us, another child would drown us financially. So, without actually admitting to it, every time I looked at him I knew that this was the last time I’d go through this.
It was my last time to breast feed a baby, it was my last chance to finally master the use of reusable nappies. I would never again choose a pushchair and car seat combo, or go through the saga of picking out an appropriate name that we could both agree on. There would never be another first smile, or crawl, or first steps. It was the last time I’d experience the magic of the first words.
I found myself not wanting to start those firsts…Billy Bob was over 6 months before he started on solids, something both the other two were accomplished at by 4 months. I wasn’t in a rush to get him to give up breastfeeding or to stop getting up in the night. I saw both as opportunities to have more cuddles. Evidence that I was still needed. That my boy still needed me.
Whilst I delighted in every milestone, my heart also broke a little bit at everyone. It’s like a list that I made of everything fantastic that I ever wanted to do and each time I completed one, it was great, but at the back of my mind was the knowledge that soon it would be over. I’d be at the bottom of my list and wouldn’t know what to do next.
I found myself start to worry that soon he would be too big to comfortably be picked up for snuggles, that he wouldn’t think that a Mummy cuddle was the best thing in the world. Things which had never occurred to me with the older two now became matters of great importance. The day he called me into the bathroom to show me that he can touch both ends of the bath if he stretches out his hands and toes, his excitement was phenomenal, my heart broke a little more.
But gradually, I’m coming to notice something and I’m not entirely sure how it started. My first recognition of it was a few months ago when I realised that it was 9am and I hadn’t yet been woken by a child. When my baby boy asked to go to the shop for me to buy bread (he’s 4!!) when we’d run out. When the eldest offered to go and pick his brothers up from holiday club so that I could relax on a rare day off. All small things that are signifying a new era in my life. A whole new realm of “firsts” that I hadn’t imagined existed. That nobody had ever really told me would come. These firsts are every bit as precious to me. The birth of my last child signified an ending in some ways but it has also opened up a chapter that no one seems to talk about. A new life after babies and toddlers, a life where your children stop relying on you and start to rely on themselves and each other. And it’s different, and it’s emotional but it’s every bit as full of dread/excitement and as significant as those other firsts. And I’ve now realised that I’ve come to terms with having no more babies, and I’m looking forward to the coming years with my growing lads without regrets. Well, hopefully not too many.
There’s something that no one ever warns you about having kids. Or perhaps they do, but it is incomprehensible to you before you have them. I mean, I’m sure people told me, but I just didn’t really get what they were saying to me. Maybe I just didn’t want to hear, maybe we are genetically predisposed to not get it. The thing is, you find out. Pretty damn quick, and then you realise that it’s too late.
I didn’t actually plan my eldest child. That would have been stupid. I was 21, in a violent relationship and had a class A addiction. Ok, so I was obviously pretty stupid, but not that bloody stupid as to plan to bring a baby into my messed up world. Kids were not in my game plan, not that I actually had a game plan, but if I had, having a child would have been at the back, something distant, a target for my mid thirties.
I don’t know really why I took a pregnancy test (there was no real reason to seriously consider pregnancy) but I do know that I was alone, my partner was in prison for not paying a fine from years before that had finally caught up with him. I was driving from my house 100 miles to borrow the money to pay to get him out and I stopped and in the toilets of a service station, I pissed on a stick. To my utter terror, two little pink dots appeared. Well, I was utterly terrified when I bothered to read what that meant! I was pregnant. I was having a baby. Within minutes the terror turned to a strong feeling of protection and amazement. I had a baby inside of me. The ferociousness of that feeling was breathtaking. I remember going to pay for the fuel and telling the cashier; I just found out I’m pregnant, and her look of bewilderment at my random imparting of this news.
Within minutes I acknowledged this sudden turn of my life and now my life was completely changed. I knew without a doubt I loved this baby and wanted it, even though I knew that my partner would be furious and a terrible father.
And really, in that life changing moment, I should, in hindsight have realised what it was that I had never been able to realise before, but I didn’t. I focussed on getting through pregnancy, where I would end up with my beautiful baby and my life would be amazing. All I had to do was to bring this baby into the world safely. I still didn’t know the truth.
I was induced into labour many many weeks early due to complications, and then I couldn’t wait to give birth; to meet this baby who was a part of me, as much a part of me as my hand or face of nose.
And then he was born, after an excruciating labour, a long and torturous night, this tiny perfect baby. He was no longer in the cocooned protection of my abdomen. I cuddled him to me and held him and kissed him and stared in awe at his gorgeousness, and then it happened; for the first time. They said that he needed to go to special care. He was too small and unable to maintain his temperature, but it was ok, they were going to sort him out in special care and I could go see him later. The midwife, took him from my arms and as she turned away I realised, I realised this terrible thing that no one had told me about: it was agony. The baby that I had been in sole charge of, that I had nurtured and caressed and been fully responsible for, who was part of me, I was no longer able to protect. I still loved him as much, maybe more, however whereas before he was part of me, now he was separate. I wasn’t solely able to account for his safety and wellbeing. It was like a little piece of my heart was out there alone. Anything could happen to it. Even if I was there next to him, I was no longer able to have the illusion of being able to completely ensure he was safe.
As he got older, it got worse. There is a piece of me out there, every minute of every day, that I can’t live without, and yet over which I have limited control. If anything happened to him I would surely die. My natural instinct is to keep him close, keep him safe. And yet, to be a good parent, I’ve had to try to ignore the flutters in my heart when he walks out of the front door. I’ve had to stem the flow of my own veins and tears when he has been injured or upset. He is a part of me but I’ve had to accept that he is also fully his own self, with his own ways of crossing the road or dietary tastes. He could, one day make a decision that breaks my heart. If anything happens to him it will surely kill me too. It’s like walking around blind, deaf and dumb: at any moment your entire world could come crashing down around you. Your heart ripped away and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You can’t even see or hear when it is coming.
The stupid thing is, that even after finding this out, after watching a piece of me walking around unprotected, I didn’t ever think that having another child would mean another little piece of my heart walking around, jeopardising my life, as I know it. Or with the third. It just didn’t register, until the very moment that I had to let them go for that first time, and then it would hit me, a part of me was out in the big wide world without me to protect it. And that is huge. That is scary. And so I suppose it is no wonder that no one tells you, or if they do, that you might hear it, but you can’t understand. Because if anyone asked you, at any time, whether you’d like to live with your heart open and vulnerable, the very thing that keeps you alive, unprotected and uncontrollable, you would never ever agree.
I work too much. There ok I’ve said it out loud. In many ways it is not a problem, I love my work, I get great satisfaction from doing it and I get paid at the same time. Sometimes. I even welcome the break from wife/mother. I relish the moments when I feel competent and capable, something which as a parent/wife I often feel the the complete opposite.
The problem with that is that it is a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. You see the more I work, the more competent and capable I feel at work, but the more incompetent I feel at home! If I work long hours, I feel guilt because I’ve hardly seen the children, or my house is a mess. If I work less, I start to feel concerned that I am losing my professionalism and capability at work. I also strongly care about my clients and genuinely want to do my best for them.
And the stinger here is that I want to work hard, so that I can provide my children with all of the opportunities that I think will provide them with a good stable home environment and the best possible start in life. However I’m also aware that having their Mum there is also an important piece of the growing up puzzle.
The other thing with working a number of jobs and long hours is that it leaves me with very little time to relax, and so socialising with friends has become something which I treasure. I look forward to it, however at the same time I feel guilt as its time I could be a) spending with the kids, b) spending time with my husband or c) working. I am a nightmare to book a social event with as due to work and other commitments it may be we suggest meeting up today, and by the time I can actually fit in a couple of hours of uninterrupted time, it is 3 months away! Not great when you want your friends to know that you care about them. That they matter too.
And my poor husband. To be honest I’m amazed he puts up with me. I’m lucky, I suppose that he can see why I work and the benefits of it and is pretty relaxed about it most of the time. To be fair, he’d probably have to diarise an argument even if he did mind!
It’s interesting to me though that I feel this unending guilt about working and my children, when it’s actually pretty normal for Dad’s to work long hours and no one really comments too much on it. Im forever being told that I work too much, what about your kids? I don’t think I can remember a time I’ve heard it said to a male.
If kids need their Mum, isn’t a Dad as important too? Are my kids missing out, on having a Mum at home with them after school etc? Possibly. Are they benefitting from having their Dad there as a constant, stable and reliable role model in their lives? Definitely. Although, their nutritional intake would likely be much better if I was the one feeding them at weekends!
Life is a balance and, I’ve definitely not managed to balance those scales yet. However, I’m certain that sometime soon, I’ll work it out. The concentric circles of guilt have me spinning at the moment, I’m aware that it wouldn’t take a lot to topple me.