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 am a wife. My husband lives abroad.
I work full time in a stressful job that requires me travel a lot.
I have a part time job.
I am a school governor.
I am learning a foreign language.
I am writing a book.
I am all these things and I am also, today, struggling with my mental wellbeing.
I am tired. I am anxious and I am feeling miserable. I am also making life miserable for those around me.
I know why I am anxious, and tired and stressed; I only have to look at the list above to see why I feel like this, only I can’t seem to stop it. I take too much on. I can’t relax. I don’t even think I know how to anymore. It’s got to the point where I don’t even know what relaxing is.
Take today for example. Today is my only day off. I work 6 days a week and today, I don’t work. So what have I done today?
Well; 7am I was up and off to my Bulgarian lesson which is 30 minutes away and started at 8am. I then drove back to pick up the kids from Paul’s where I stopped for a coffee and took the boys clothes shopping.
I then did shoe shopping for the eldest before buying birthday presents and doing the weeks food shop.
Back home, I put the shopping away, made snacks, put a load of washing on. Did the kids homework (with them, not for them!), then put washing on dryer.
I baked a birthday cake. Wrapped 6 presents (3 grandparents birthdays in 2 weeks!), put a load of washing on, cooked a roast dinner. Put washing in dryer, got kids school uniforms ready, ironed uniforms, sorted out piles of socks.
I then Hoovered and steam cleaned the floor (never get shiny white floor tiles, you will live to regret it). Put another load of washing on, emptied dishwasher and finished cooking the roast.
I then changed sheets and bathed kids and put on another wash. I still need to do so many things, but my mind is buzzing and I’m finding it hard to cope.
I slept for 4.5 hours last night. About 5 the night before. I’m a terrible insomniac, who struggles to sleep then wakes up constantly.
I feel guilty because I haven’t visited any family, especially my elderly aunt, who will definitely have noticed that I didn’t go see her. I feel guilty because I want to go see my sisters but I cannot summon up the energy.
I feel guilty because I have 4 unanswered emails regarding school governor stuff that I really should look at and that’s without mentioning the other 263 that require attention.
I feel guilty that I have reports to write for tomorrow that I haven’t had time to do.
I feel guilty that I haven’t spent enough time with my children.
I feel guilty that I am doing my full time jobs far less than perfectly because I’m trying to cover the jobs of 3 people. I feel that I am letting people down left right and centre and half the time I don’t even know why I am doing it or how not to.
I feel guilty that I actually hoped that a patient would die so that I could go home and not have to stay late to deal with her. And that’s when I knew that I am on the edge. Because, that is not me. I am not that type of person and yet last night that was the type of person that I was.
And so I am writing this very jumbled blog, because I know that I cannot go on like this. I need to take a breath. I need to surrender stop trying to do everything and I need to cut down my commitments. But then I look at the list and I can’t see what to give up. I care passionately about all of it and my mind is too confused to be rational.
But I need to reexert some control in my life. I need to rebalance, to stop reacting and start preparing. Start setting realistic goals rather than think I am superwoman.
My mental health is not great right now; Today. Tomorrow it might be different and I will have regained my equilibrium. But for today it is ok to be overwhelmed. And it is ok to say that I am not coping. Because I am not, and there shouldn’t be any shame in saying that.
And this is not a cry for help. I do not need people to offer their help or say I am doing great etc etc. Because this is a battle call; to myself. And it’s a battle I’m going to win.
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?
I’ve not got many things right in my life; fewer as a parent, however one thing I have got right, weirdly, is divorce.
Readers of my blog will know that last year Paul and I decided to go our separate ways, after 10 years and get divorced. We didn’t hate each other, we’d just moved on, grown out of each other and realised that we could probably be a lot happier living separate lives.
It was difficult at first, we had to find a new kind of normal. Develop a new relationship, set new rules, agree new boundaries. Especially when (pretty damn quickly) we both started dating again. We had to argue, but not as a couple, as two people who’s children were depending on them to do the right thing.
We had to agree on childcare, money, and a whole lot of logistics such as who was getting what from the house. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. On occasions I wanted to kill him! Did he not realise how difficult this was? But in reality we were both struggling to come to terms with our new lives.
I think a pivotal time for me was when we first disagreed over money and my Chris said to me “no amount of money is worth your children’s mental health.” And that really hit home. It was true. We could do a lot of damage arguing over stupid things, but at the end of the day what we would achieve apart from upset kids? We had to work out things and we had to do it in a way that was amicable. More important than anything else was that we had to remain friends, which when you think about it isn’t that difficult; I liked him enough to marry him, have two children, he’s actually a good guy. We used to be best friends.
And so we have spent the last year doing just that; being friends. We have spent Christmas together with our respective new partners, clubbed together to buy the boys presents or school uniform. He has keys to our house, I have keys to his. If I needed someone in the middle of the night and I couldn’t get hold of Chris, I know I could call Paul and (after much bitching and moaning) he would be there for me.
Last week was our middle sons birthday, and so my Mum and Stepdad along with Chris’s parents, Paul, Chris and I all went out for dinner with the boys to celebrate. It means so much to me that our boys don’t have to choose between us, or feel guilty about being with one or the other of us.
Paul has come round for dinner because he can’t be arsed to cook and I am cooking, so he’s come to get the boys and had dinner with us before taking them back to his.
Today I’m at work and Chris has the boys. He will be dropping them off with Paul this afternoon. They have spoken to each other to arrange it. You know, like adults do. Not arguing and hating each other, just getting on.
Because we get on it makes all those family occasions that bit easier; he still gets an invite, he still bitches about having to go, he sometimes shows up (probably more often than he did when we were together) and all my family still talk to him. His sister, who I love has come to visit me, I’ve visited her.
And the weird thing is that people seem to find us doing this odd!! I don’t really understand why, after all, we are still a family, linked together through our children, we can’t change that; in truth, I wouldn’t want to.
If you’ve enjoyed this please read my other posts or find me on Facebook: Facebook.com/themadnessthatismylife or on Twitter @101madness
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!
I’ve just read back over my last two blogs and I’ve noticed a theme arising; normal people. I’ve mentioned them a few times in a number of blogs and I’ve started to realise that I’m jealous. Or deluded. One of the two. Let me give you some examples:
I’m currently laying on my bed, having just got out of the bath. I am surrounded by piles of clothes that need ironing (see picture), and tonight is the only night I have available to do it. I really cannot be bothered. Last week I got halfway through a massive pile and decided that actually I couldn’t be bothered to do it and who needs this many clothes anyway? So I put what was left into 2 bin bags and I took it all to the recycle point outside a local supermarket! I didn’t even look through it to see what I was throwing away! I didn’t care! Are these the actions of a normal person? Even worse I’m considering doing the same tonight!!
One reason I can’t be bothered to do the ironing, is that earlier today (in my unerring idiocy) I decided to finally take some time to clear out the kids room. Big mistake. I have got as far as creating a huge mess that started off as piles of things to keep, things to put away, and things to give away, and has ended up just becoming a mixture of random stuff that I can’t decide what to do with. Or I did decide but the piles have merged into one. I’ve just been toying with the idea to get the bin bags out and chuck it all. That will sort it!! However I can’t actually summon up the energy to even do that and now I have a pile of ironing and whole room of crap sitting here waiting for me to do something!
As I say I’ve just got out of the bath. Prior to getting in the bath I looked on the mirror and realised that it was domething I should probably have done much earlier on in the day; like before I set foot out of the house! Perhaps that way I might have noticed that I had forgotten to brush my hair since washing it last night, perhaps I’d even have noticed the bit of sellotape that was stuck firmly to my chin, I’ve no idea how long I have been walking around like that. I know I have a propensity to the dishevelled look but blimey, I’ve excelled even myself! I’ve even been shopping like this.
Speaking of shopping, I joined the Cycle2work scheme at work this week, giving me £500 to spend on a nice shiny new bike. So, naive as I am, I thought I’d pop to Halfords to pick a pick, maybe a few shiny accessories, to make me look the part. Who knew that buying a bike could be so bloody difficult? So many decisions, about things I know nothing about. Do I want hydraulic brakes or cable ones? Mountain bike or road bike; actually perhaps a hybrid would suit me better? 20 inch frame or 18? Cross bar or no crossbar? Suspension or not? The questions came out of the salesmans mouth like he thought I might be a person who would know the answers to these questions, or at the very least understand what on earth he was saying! Seriously, had he not noticed my hair?! I spent half an hour doing both of our heads in before politely excusing myself and saying I would do more research online prior my return tomorrow with a decision!! Yeah right! Decision? That’s not going to happen.
Today the kids are at their Dads. I am always saying how lovely it would be to have time alone and yet the minute I drove away from dropping them off, I came over feeling all desolate. Like I am alone. Turns out I actually quite like having the little sproglets around. They make me feel complete, no matter how badly behaved and demanding they can be. The thing is I know that within 5 minutes of them returning tomorrow, I will be fed up of the bickering and moaning and wonder what it was I missed exactly whilst they were away!
So, I ask you is it any wonder i appear to be obsessed with being normal? My life would surely be so much easier. No one else I know seems to struggle so much with the basics of being a grown up as I do! Surely at the ripe old age of 36 I should have mastered the art of brushing my hair and checking the mirror before I leave the house? I should be able to pick out a bike, or clear out a room? Shouldn’t I?
I’ve never thought about it before, and have probably been guilty of it many many times; but how come everyone seems to feel that they can judge on my life. Or more to the point, my life decisions, marriage, separation and/or divorce. I don’t mean I expect people to not comment or ask about it or acknowledge it. That’s normal, it’s what friends do. They care. They check that you are ok. They offer support.
The thing is some people go past that. They offer, no they give, you their view on your own life and then try to tell you how to live it. The thing is it’s just that, their view, their opinion, their experience. Not mine. My experience is completely different to anyone else’s, and thank goodness it is too, especially after hearing some of the divorce stories I’ve heard this week.
I know that people are trying to be nice, they care, but my experience is completely unique to me. It’s not even the same as P’s experience of our divorce. We are all different and we experience things differently.
The thing that appears to have shocked people most and that they have strong opinions about, is that P and I have moved on fairly quickly. Within weeks we have both begun testing the path of dating again. People assume that we were both having affairs, or tell us that it’s too soon; we need to let the dust settle. Maybe they are right, heaven knows I’ve been wrong many many times in my life, as anyone who reads this blog will know, but maybe P and I are right. Maybe the decision to separate was long overdue and has just drawn a formal line in the sand of our relationship. What if we both end up with the partners of our dreams? Should we turn down the opportunity of happiness to please people who don’t have to live our lives?
We think not. It is difficult. It is strange, what people might find even stranger is that P and I have openly discussed this. P knew I was dating before almost anyone else. I knew he was almost from the moment that it started. Turns out that we were right; we are really good friends. We talk more now than we did married and living together. The cynics might say that will change; that things will turn out acrimoniously in the end. Perhaps they will, but at the moment we are going through a transition period and it is working for us.
That’s not to say that it hasn’t been tough. I will always think of this as one of the toughest periods of my life. I have had doubts and worries and I may (once or twice) have been found snivelling on the bathroom floor sobbing that I can’t cope with being on my own. I’m terrible at decision making when it comes to my personal life. Things that I used to find easy, such as parenting our boys seem so much tougher knowing I’m where the buck stops. Only, in reality it doesn’t. P will always be there for our 3 boys. Whilst not conventional, we are a family. It may be different, people may think it strange but it is most definitely true, like it or not we are stuck with each other. And we will work it out our way. Probably with a lot of shouting and screaming on my part. So thank you all for your support, and your well meaning words but excuse me if I carry on regardless.
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.