So…. I am trying to resist a major rant and keep a well balanced, cohesive, accurate and thoroughly rational perspective whilst I write this post. But… I have a strong feeling that I am going to fail miserably and give in to the volcanic eruption of complete negativity that is fighting to surface any moment…. NOW!
How the hell is it that one minute you are a small girl with pig tails (yes, I had pigtails… and a wonky, DIY fringe from an extremely shit hairdresser) playing with a Doll and dreaming of rocking a REAL baby in your arms one day, and taking a REAL baby out for a stroll in a beautiful buggy, and cooking a REAL meal for your baby and putting them to sleep in a REAL cot. Then, in a blur of exams, qualifications, work, parties, relationships and sex, you suddenly find yourself with bills, washing up and a baby on your hip that can’t just be cleared away into a toy box when you grow tired or bored.
Which brings me to the main basis of my rant. How the hell do we do it all? How can we conquer this? Why does it even feel that we should be ‘winning’ at something? It feels as though it is no longer enough to simply create a human life and then rear it up into a well balanced individual. We have so many choices, so many opportunities, that it is impossible to ignore them even if we were allowed to (which is a whole other debate right there by the way… stay at home parent = dying breed!) and the idea of ‘not working’ isn’t even something that can be entertained. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for feminism and for equal rights…. the amazing prospects we have shouldn’t be sniffed at. I’m just acknowledging that it can all get a bit overwhelming…. especially if you are like me and have eyes bigger than your belly whilst perusing the buffet of life.
When I was nearing the end of my pregnancy, possibly before I even WAS pregnant, the idea of giving up my work petrified me. It was all I’d known and I am a self confessed workaholic. I love my trade, I love my clients and I love my independence. Then the world flipped over, and everything changed, yet stayed the same. That is parenthood. Your little bubble changes but the air around it carries on flowing just the same as always. As a result, juggling a small, developing mush of a human as well as work plans, commitments, chores, relationships, and even hobbies, suddenly takes the precision, patience and timing of a NASA landing on the Moon.
Gone are the carefree days of grabbing my bag and keys and skipping out the door to my car, brain in full gear, focussed on the day ahead (albeit slightly late due to oversleeping/spending too long on my eyeliner/running low on petrol). Now, planning a work day can start days, even weeks ahead. I sit with my diary, PB’s diary and a noted down version of potential days my client’s need me. I have to ensure that PB is well rested after working night shifts, that social engagements aren’t clashing, that on the days PB can’t be Daddy Poppins, I still have back up childcare in place. I have to ensure that I evenly space out who looks after Baby Bear and when, so that they don’t feel taken for granted or resentful. I have to piece in chores, my hobbies and the golden goose that is known as ‘me time’. Things are even more pressurised because I am self employed, a one man band. Other mummies on maternity can slip back into their chair and feel as though they have never been away. I have spent 7 months away from my seat and the insecurity that someone else is sitting in it haunts me all the time. After all, it is completely unreasonable to expect people to go over half the year without getting their hair done. Like I say, the world stays the same for everyone else except you.
I manage to negotiate time for work and feel euphoric and like some super efficient WonderBrain/Woman type person. Like I have won the maths round on Countdown or something. I pat myself on the back and skip off proudly to earn my crust and eagerly embrace some time to have one to one conversation with adults and drive the car without having to load a small convoy in and out of it. I strive to keep a little bit of myself where I can, with my work and my hobbies… it is a little bit of sanctuary in a very grown up world. And I feel proud for managing to do it all. Then…. it all flips around and somewhere between my diary and leaving the house, it all starts to lose shape and things creep into my mind.
Things like guilt for instance. The guilt is palpable. Guilt for having something of your own. Guilt for leaving this precious person who you are so responsible for. Guilt for taking up someone else’s time whilst they care for him. Guilt for your client having to listen to your incessant rambling about the baby you have made and are rearing because funnily enough, you haven’t been up to much else for the past 200+ days. Guilt to your spouse for having to be the main bread winner and not being able to have any conversation besides what to have for dinner, sharing out the chores, convening diaries and discussing possible reasons why babies cry around 90% of the day. Guilt for being a tired, cranky bear with a sore head. Guilt for not being Superwoman. Guilt for not getting all the washing done or for leaving a huge pile of dishes in the sink in order to take part in Let’s Get Squiggling. Even guilt for not feeding the cat on time!
The guilt then gives way to anxiety. I get anxious that I am taking the piss if I don’t finish my work on time, or the traffic prevents me from getting back to him and whoever is sitting when I said I would. I get anxious that he will be a terror for whomever was lovely enough to help out in our time of need. I get anxious that I am neglecting everything and everyone. I get anxious that I won’t get enough work. I get anxious that I won’t ever be able to watch a TV episode or film ever again without falling asleep half way through. I get anxious that I will have forgotten all I have learnt and that mother hood has changed me into some blob who has CBeebies theme tunes stuck in her head.
Then the insecurities start. I am a bad mother, a bad fiance, a bad hairdresser… a shit business woman. I get insecure that not being able to wash up every utensil we’ve used, or hoover up every dust particle from the floor will leave lasting horror impressions on our house guests and deem me an unfit mother and home maker (see… told you rational perspective was going to leave me in this rant). I convince myself that Teddy prefers to be in other company, that he doesn’t need me as much as I thought. That PB will get sick of me being a sleep deprived and self consumed bitch and leave me for a more reserved and peaceful woman who is selfless and balances all aspects of life perfectly whilst still having time to go to the gym and perform the karma sutra 3 times a week. I spiral into a wallowing cesspit of negativity and give into a whole load of self loathing, self pity and usually finish it all off with a bloody good rant (a bit like this post really!). Then, just as I am losing all hope and feeling as if I am drowning…. my little family, who I worry so much about, become my life raft. PB usually gives me a proverbial slap around the face with a big dose of reality, I take a deep breath and adopt a little bit of perspective and positivity, then all is well and has a way of working out. But. It is hard. Being Mummy is hard sometimes.
The girl with pigtails didn’t have a clue!