Merry Fucking Christmas

It is fucking Christmas time.

Because it is Christmas time there are eleventy million things that you have spent the last few weeks panicking about and trying to remember to get done by writing loads of little illegible lists using an almost dried out felt tip that you found down the side of the sofa.

Do not dig too deep down the side of that sofa.

There has been a lot of shit to remember to get done and generally panic about like Christmas Cards and presents and secret santa presents and nights out and whether or not you have a big enough roll of tin foil in your cupboard to cover a turkey and crap like that.

I’ll be honest with you ok.

I am not a big fan of Christmas.

The things is, there is just this horrible pressure to get, buy, do all of this stuff and because everyone else is also out getting and buying and doing all this stuff there is a sort of post-apocalyptic kind of panic in every town, supermarket aisle and car park where people are pushing past each other to get tubes of twiglets and forming massive queues and overcrowding shops which are selling loads of really pointless gifts that no one really even wants or needs in any way.

I realise I just sound like a miserable old trout, but that’s the thing isn’t it? If you’re not that into Christmas you are then labelled as a scrooge or some kind of ruiner of everyone else’s fun and happiness.

Well, I don’t care. I am going for it. Here are some of the reasons I don’t like Christmas time;

1. It is so cold.
2. It is so dark.
3. Did I mention how cold and dark it is?
4. Turkey.
5. Also, those rank dates that everyone buys and no one wants to eat that come with a bendy plastic stick which is totally impossible to skewer dates with as they are all stuck together in a rock hard, inedible lump.
6. Tinsel.
7. The overwhelming pressure to be cheerful.
8. The overwhelming pressure to buy a prawn ring.
9. The overwhelming pressure to buy lots of thoughtful special gifts.
10. Not having enough money to buy loads of thoughtful special gifts.
11. The fact that Christmas is so great if you have this normal functional family where no one has any problems or terrible crises or no one has to spend it alone or when going through a really awful time but the fact of the matter is that people are very often alone or going through a really difficult time and that Christmas only serves to make people feel more shitty about how much they are not part of a functional happy family unit.

Actually, on that note, let’s break out of this stupid list thing and take a moment to remember those horrific newsletters that everyone used to send each other in the 90s in their Christmas cards.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Dear random family who I’d like to show off to a bit,

Well, another year has passed and we have had another year of wonderful holidays, promotions and achievements in our family which we’d like to list for you here. Blah, blah, blah, we have moved to a bigger and better house etc etc. Oh and little Johnny has now achieved his grade 8 with distinction on the trombone and the harpsichord and waffle waffle etc etc husband did something useful in the garden and got a new job and a shiny new salary and car to go with it etc etc etc We enjoyed a magical three weeks in the Costa del brava, oh and did we mention how Stacey achieved ten GCSE’s at grade A* or above and is soon to become an Olympic figure skater, blah blah blah . . .

All summed up at the end with a small paragraph about what they had learnt this year about the importance of family love and sticking together and how they are so rich and functional due to the blessings of Jesus etc etc

(because Jesus is probably so into people buying a third car and a fucking villa in Andalucía)

Anyway, I remember reading ones my Mum received when I was a teenager and urging her to send ones back that were brutally honest and listed all our biggest failures, arguments and housing crises over the year. I wanted to title it,

‘Another fucking year’

She wasn’t into it.

But anyway, now I am an actual grown up with children of my own and I am hosting Christmas lunch for eleven people like a real actual grown up person and having anxious thoughts about things late at night like whether or not I remembered to order mince pies and what kind of pickled onions to buy. I am queueing up in shops for fairly pointless gifts and getting all stressed out about whether or not to colour co-ordinate my decorations. There is a lot of stuff to remember and I am so crap at remembering lots of little things.

I feel this incredible pressure to have every kind of Christmas related food in my house just in case someone happens to want it on Christmas day and also to get loads of shit done like deep cleaning my house from top to bottom so that it is all perfectly clean so I can relax when it is actually Christmas and when I say ‘relax’ what I actually mean is ‘do a lot of cooking and get stressed out about my kids playing with really noisy toys or rollerskating in the lounge whilst telling my husband to fuck off during an argument about who said they were actually going to buy advocaat so that people could drink snowballs.’

And yes, I know that the real meaning of Christmas is that we all love each other and stuff and blah blah blah.

I do love my family and I am looking forward to stuff about Christmas but oh my God, the levels of stress are ridiculous.

And perhaps for some of us, Christmas conjures up more than just a little wrapping paper related stress?

Some of us find Christmas hard. We feel like we should be cheerful when it’s actually a time of year that can bring back sad memories or just highlight how un-festive we are truly feeling. For people who find Christmas hard it can be a rather dark time. A trip through town can be painful. Every shop plays music that reminds you of the ghosts of Christmases past. No matter how ‘ok’ you are now, that music reminds you of a time when you were not.

I want to write to you, if you feel like this.

Because you know what it is the worst thing about Christmas?

You know what is the most bullshit thing about Christmas?

Perfection.

It is the idea and the myth of perfection. It is the struggle to reach it and to display it for all to see.

You see the thing about those horrible Christmas newsletters that went round was that they often only told the easy pieces of news. They often only admitted to triumphs and positive feelings. But life isn’t really like that is it? Aren’t our lives full of difficulties as well? Aren’t our lives a mix of darkness and light?

And here’s the thing. I believe that it’s when we share the harder days, when we share our darkness that we really form any kind of real or close relationship with each other as human beings.

Down my road there is a house that is covered COVERED in bright white lights. It is absolutely blinding. It is unbelievable. The first time I walked past it I could hardly believe my eyes. Christmas nuts, I thought to myself. Some people really go for it at Christmas and this family must be one of those who just enjoy those perfect Christmasses together.

I found out a couple of weeks later that the reason their house is plastered in lights, apart from because it makes the local kids so happy to see it, is in remembrance of their young son, who they sadly lost around this time of year.

Isn’t it funny how it is sometimes the people who have lost the most, who have walked through the darkest of nights, are those who hold the brightest light for those around them?

There is still light.

There is hope.

Even in this darkest of months.

Even in these coldest of days.

And a friend or family member who you can cry with, who will listen, is worth a million ‘good news’ letters about a years’ worth of triumphs.

They are the brightest lights.

Lights that we often only find when we are scrabbling around in the dark.

When we have ditched the idea of perfection.

If you are feeling down at this time of year, please hold on.

Perfect Christmasses are as bullshit as perfect families, and now that we have made it into the darkest part of winter, we can surely make it out the other side.

I don’t want perfection from my family. I don’t want perfection from my friends. Give me your worst. Give me your fuck ups. Give me how your kids are crazy and they don’t sleep. Give me your sadness and your worries.

Give me that story again, you know? That one about how you got so drunk at your work ‘do’ that you had to throw up into the selection of tupperwares you found in your backpack on the train home (you classy girl you). I’ll tell you the one about the time I thought my toddler was playing so nicely with the shoes in the hallway, when in reality, he had managed to silently open the front door and go for a gleeful little walk down the street in his socks.

Merry fucking Christmas to one and all!

Here’s to another year of wonderful life,
Of darkness and light,
Of children and screaming and poo,
Of honesty and friendship and coffee.

Here’s to all you mothers out there
May your Christmas be not-perfect
In the most wonderful way.

As a little extra, I thought I would ruin some festive images of robin for you by giving them sweary speech bubbles. You’re so welcome. Don’t they look like miserable little bastards though?

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We are different now.

If you had asked me before I had kids, whether I believed in equality for women I would have said that yes I did, I did absolutely believe in equality, but I also would have described myself as someone who already had it.

People don’t really like to describe themselves as feminists.

I think sometimes we are afraid.

I asked a family member if she would describe herself as a feminist. She said that, ‘yes’ she would ‘but only if feminism acknowledges that men and women have different lives.’

What she said really made me think for a minute.

Then I stopped ‘really thinking’ because my baby started to cry and I couldn’t think any real thoughts apart from what I might do to stop my baby from crying.

Before I had kids I would say that as a white, kind of working to middle class woman living in England, feminism wasn’t something that I felt I needed. I already had equality, or at least, enough equality to lead the life I wanted. I had, at least on paper, equal opportunities in education and in work and when me and my husband got together we were equal. We earnt about the same, we shared the housework equally, we were equal players.

 

When I was pregnant with my first child I could not wait for our lives as parents to start. I had longed to start our family and to be a mum. When I imagined what life would be like as a mum I imagined it in the same way that my life played out before parenthood; I imagined that I would be an equal player in a team effort between me and my husband.

My experience of childbirth with my first baby was quite traumatic. It was an induced labour that was long and hard followed by an awful third stage in which there were complications with delivering the placenta. I ended up in theatre to have the placenta removed and before they transferred me to theatre there was this truly horrible ten minutes when they attempted to manually remove that placenta with no pain relief for me. It was an excruciating bloody mess. I lost a lot of blood. Each time I moved on the bed I remember kind of splashing around in it and it spattering off the bed onto the floor, like I was kicking around in a too-full bath. When I read in my notes how much blood they estimated I lost I remember thinking that I had almost lost enough to fill up one of those family size bottles of coke.

After I came back from the operation the afternoon passed in a haze with people bringing flowers and chocolates and various checks for the baby. The whole way through my husband was amazing and so supportive and was obviously going through the wringer himself, but it was time for him to go home. Visiting hours were over. If there was a way for him to stay with us in hospital then I think he probably would have done but there wasn’t, so what happened was that he went home.

As he gave us each a kiss and walked off the ward, they turned down the lights for the night shift and I felt the divide between us open up;

We are different now. Our lives are different now.

What’s weird about post birth care is that you have to try and get your head around the fact that despite having gone through what is often very physically and emotionally traumatic, ie childbirth and all the pain and complications and sleeplessness that comes with it, you then are expected to care for a newborn baby which is something that a) you don’t know how to do yet and b) involves very little or no sleep.

Also, because you are in hospital you are effectively on your own in the experience of caring for your newborn. Apart from the occasional injection into your stomach or blood pressure check you just lie in your curtained off cubicle wishing for it to be morning again and trying to figure out things like breastfeeding and how to use an empty sick bowl to hook your babies’ cot-on-wheels over to your bedside so that you can reach her to lift her in and out despite your legs still not being moveable.

At one point a midwife took my baby so that I could sleep but brought her back fifteen minutes later because she would not settle. I was learning my new place in life. I was learning that my comfort or sleep or feelings of isolation were not important. All that was important was that I kept caring for my baby. That any other feelings I had were to be soaked up under a blanket of gratefulness and maternal love for my baby.

I did feel love for my baby. I did feel happy. The only problem was that I also had a lot of other feelings like physical pain, exhaustion, shock and a generally great sense of inadequacy and stress.

And the loneliness.

There is something about having a little person to care for that creates an instant distance in your relationship with other people, partner included.

Now, let me get one thing straight, my husband is an excellent father and husband. He does his share of the parenting and the housework, but when his paternity leave was up and he went back to full time work after a week or two at home with me and our baby, I watched him get into his car from the lounge window and thought,

‘You are going back to your normal life, but mine has changed forever.’

Not fair?

Of course, his life had changed too, right?

Yes, it did. We both became parents and would forever spend our time when not in work, looking after our children. But our lives, although both changed, had not changed each into the same kind of thing. Before we had kids our lives were the same. They were not the same anymore.

He was smartly dressed and was carrying his lunch to eat on his break. He got into the car and turned his radio on, fastened his seatbelt and gave us a wave before driving off for the day. I rocked back and forth on my heels in my sick stained dressing gown with the baby crying on my shoulder. I hummed whatever I could think of and patted her gently on her tiny back. I wasn’t sure what I would do with myself and the baby for the rest of the day, except try to make her go back to sleep somehow so that I could sleep.

I wasn’t angry with my husband, but in a lot of ways, I was jealous of him.

He was going back to something straight forward really. He was going back to a job that he knew how to do where he would work in a team and chat to people. He would have a lunch break and read a book and eat a sandwich. He would end his day at work with a few frustrations but generally would feel that he had achieved something. He would feel good for it. That would be his life for the bulk of his day and the bulk of his week and the bulk of his years.

But work is also hard, right? Work is hard too.

I had spent years putting in 50, 60+ hour weeks as a chef. I knew hard, long, stressful, relentless, work and I was soon to know looking after babies and young children.

Work is easy, being a mother is not.

Being a mother is utterly consuming and exhausting. Part of that exhaustion is that the overwhelming love you have for your children squeezes every last ounce of effort out of you as you strive to be the best kind of mother that you possibly can be for them. I believe that this is why we beat ourselves up about every little thing some days and feel we are not doing a good enough job. We want the very best for our kids and we will throw ourselves under the bus in an attempt to push ourselves to be the best carers we possibly can be.

So let’s talk about choice now because this is something that I hear a lot of. Well, if you don’t enjoy looking after children then why did you become a mother?

mmmmm yes, good point

Why don’t I just stop whinging?

Why don’t I just get on with it like I’m supposed to?

Would you believe me if I said that I actually love children and that I love my own children more than life itself?

They are my light in every struggle I have gone through in my attempt to adjust to this thing called motherhood and to do it right.

I write this blog to give a voice to the difficult feelings and struggles around being a mum and at times readers have responded by also sharing their feelings in comments either on my blog or on my facebook page. Inevitably a bloke called something like ‘Geoff’ who has a bulldog with an England flag in the background as his profile pic will wade in with a comment like,

‘Why didn’t you all just shut your legs if it’s so hard having babies?’

Thanks for your input Geoff.

Let’s look into that option for a minute.

Having children is as hard as it is wonderful and at times the hard bits can feel so overwhelming. At times when we are overwhelmed we might like to talk about how we feel. So mums, if you talk about the hard stuff, do you not deserve to be a mum and is it a choice you should not have made? If it is hard for everyone at some point then maybe we should just all ‘shut our legs’ right?

So, in a world where women just stop having babies because no one can handle it when they say they are struggling or are feeling overwhelmed what would that look like?

If women just ‘shut their legs’?

Eventually there would be no babies or children anywhere. For some people like Geoff this would be a massive bonus as there would be no crying children or breastfeeding mums ruining his experience of enjoying a gingerbread latte in starbucks. When Geoff goes to the supermarket there are no badly behaved threenagers threatening their mothers with French sticks for him to complain about on social media later when he gets home, which will be responded to by thirty-three comments from his friends and family calling for children to be hit more often and agreeing that in ‘their day’ children would never have dared to threaten their mothers with a bread roll, wouldn’t have been able to sit down for a week etc etc ad infintum

Anyway, if women stopped becoming mothers, stopped having babies, eventually there would be no children. There would be no teenagers. There would be no students. (Geoff would be very pleased about that) There would be no professionals, no doctors, teachers, nurses, accountants, politicians, chefs, roadworkers, train drivers, footballers, aid workers, writers, cleaners, bar staff, police officers, firefighters. There would just be the elderly, with only other elderly people to look after them.

One thing we often fail to recognise is that women having babies is the key to everyone’s future. It is the very existence and survival of the human race. Our children are not merely for our own pleasure. We bring them up to be their own people who we hope will go out into the world and continue making it a better place for everyone long after we have gone.

If women stopped having babies we would cease to exist.

To say, ‘well you chose to have children,’ whenever a woman voices difficult feelings about how hard it is to be a mum only really means ‘shut up,’ because do women really have a choice as a collective group to just stop having children? If it’s something that we all did then eventually there would not be a human race.

So, I guess that my point is, having babies and becoming mothers is something women do that is a service to society as much as it is a personal choice for our own pleasure and fulfilment. It is something that makes our lives irrevocably different from the lives of men, even from the men who have become parents with us. The world of paid work comes with more respect, monetary gain, appraisals, promotions, intellectual stimulation and a bit of a free pass to less housework, more sleep and more ‘me time’ even if that ‘me time’ is just being able to do a poo without anyone trying to get onto your lap or getting to eat your lunch without having to simultaneously feed it to someone else.

It is almost six years since I left the world of full time work to become a mother. I still work but on a part time basis and like the many women that have gone before me, I no longer do the same job as before I had children. It didn’t work with the kids. I have found other, less skilled and less paid work to fit around my life as a mum.

I do not earn the same as my husband anymore.

Not by a long shot.

I still have choices but I feel like I am navigating a different landscape to my husband.

I don’t know if we are really equal anymore.

We may be to each other, we may even be when it comes to the division of labour in the home (outside of work hours) but our actual lives; what they feel like and the choices we are each faced with, no, they are not the same.

Our lives were the same once, we were the same once, but now?

We are different now.

When I write stuff there is sometimes a toddler on my shoulder.

 

Doing our best

Is that the best you can do?
Was that your best?
Have you done your best?
Maybe you could have wrapped up?

Maybe you could have wrapped them up and gone to the park?
What about a day at the zoo?
What about collecting some leaves?
What about nature?
What about a nature collage? What about pasta?

Here is a list of things
Here is a list of things you have failed at.
Getting out and about. Embracing nature. The Laundry.
Being active. Being more grateful. Just getting on with it.
Having things in hand. Not making a fuss. Threaded pasta. A career.

I would really recommend this book.
I would really recommend that you look at all of your things
one by one
and then throw them into the bin.
I would really recommend
having things in hand.

Have you ever thought about opening a restaurant?
Have you ever thought about running a café?
Have you ever thought about writing a book?
Have you ever thought about just getting on with it?

Sit down.
Light a candle.
Make a list
of things
that you are grateful for
like not making a fuss
and just getting on with it

If you would diet and never go off that diet you would be happier.
The key thing is to never stop dieting.
If you would only tidy as you go more then you would be a successful individual.
If you could think about each object and whether or not it still brings you joy and maybe throw the stuff away that doesn’t bring you joy then you would be perfect.
If you earnt more money then you would have more options and you would be happier.

Have you ever thought about owning a food stall?
Have you ever thought about selling cakes from home?
What about starting your own chutney business?
Have you thought about chutney?
Or jam?
Why didn’t you do more with your degree?
Why didn’t you make your baby
do more tummy time?

If you never looked at facebook then you would have a more complete life.
In the olden days no one had facebook and it was just better.
In the olden days we were more grateful and it was better.
In the olden days we did more weeding and were thinner and had stronger pelvic floor muscles.
You need to get back to a more natural life.

You need to get in touch with nature.
Have you thought about writing a list of all the things that you are grateful for?
Have you considered lighting a candle
and writing more lists?
and getting into a more positive frame of mind?
I know that some of my friends will copy and paste this. All those who do not copy and paste this will be silently murdered when they are least expecting it.

You need to find more time for yourself.
You need to carve out some more time for yourself.
You need to get up at 6am.
You need to get up at 5am.
If you got up at 5am you would have more time to yourself.

You need to do facial exercises.
You need to remember about pelvic floor exercises.
You need to exercise.
If you did more stuff then you would be more happy.
If you were more funny then you would have more real friends.

If you would stop making inappropriate and surreal jokes all the fucking time then you would have more friends. If you were more grateful and had stronger pelvic floor muscles and a tidier garden and home then you would be a better person and a mother. If you were dieting and lighting candles and hung up the washing sooner then you would be prettier and more appealing as a human being. If you could focus more on having a successful career and remember to buy dishwasher salt and get on the floor more often to play endless repetitive games then you would be so much happier.

If you would try so much harder.
If you would relax more.
If you were better.
If you were just a bit more
If you could do better
If you could be more loving, slow to anger, abounding in love and gratefulness and within a normal bmi range.

Batch cook on the weekend.
Brexit means Brexit.
Make healthy stews and curries out of butternut squashes and pulses.
Eat more pulses.
If you were
If you could just

eat more pulses
or try to
and write more lists
Look
stop being hysterical

everything will be alright
you are alright
write a list of all the reasons that you are alright
write a list of all the silver linings
write a list of healthy meals and stick to them

My dear friend

do you hear this crap?

Promise me something.

That you will always be so disgustingly angry and ungrateful
That you will never stop making a fuss.
That you will continue to fill your home with tacky shit
and old drawings I made for you decades ago

That you will rage

That you will eat chocolate and cry with me.

That you will always be my best.

img_6120-1

Another day at home

This morning I dropped my daughter off at school for the beginning of a new week and wrestled my toddler back home through the rain. After we had gotten through the door and taken our coats and shoes off, I put the kettle on while my son went to go and play with the knob on the washing machine for a bit.

I’d like to tell you that it was nice to just be at home or that it was lovely that it would just be me and my son on our own for the day.

The truth is, I just felt myself sinking.

Another day in this house.

It’s a nice house. We are very lucky to have it. It’s a three bed, 70s ex-council type place with laminate floors and double glazed windows. The kitchen and bathroom are fairly new, the heating works. I have nothing to complain about.

Also, I’m very lucky to be at home and to be able to be the main carer for my son. I work two days a week. The rest of the time I am at home or at the odd playdate or toddler group. This is how I wanted it. This is just how I always wanted to do motherhood.

So why does it feel sometimes, like after we have finished with the hustle and bustle of the school run and walked or driven back home, as if this house contains a silence that will deafen me.

The humming of the freezer.

The clicking over of the electricity meter.

The clack-clack-clacking of the zips hitting the inside of the washing machine as it turns over and over.

I stand at the fridge and drink some apple juice from the carton. My son appears at my knees. He reaches up and makes an ‘eeeeee’ noise. I pick him up. He points at the cupboard where the biscuits are.

‘Adgsh!’ he says and points at the cupboard.
‘Mummmah! Adgsh!’

Not a silence then but a wordlessness. There are no words spoken in this house but my own. I talk and talk all day to my son, hoping that he might pick up a few more of mine.

No one is making me stay at home. I could find a full time job if I wanted to, could put my son into childcare. I am no prisoner.

There is also a wealth of baby/toddler related activities available for a small fee and a short car ride. We could go trampolining, swimming, signing, shopping, gymnastics, play gym, playgroup, music time, bounce and rhyme, rhyme and rhythm, story time, etc etc.

Sometimes we do.

If I wanted to I could fill all our time up, but a day at home alone with my son should not be so hard. I should be able to do this. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

I have a coffee and we watch a few episodes of Bing together. The I turn the telly off because I feel guilty about it and start going through the toy boxes in the lounge, putting the duplo all in one box and cars in the other and broken stuff in a pile to be thrown away. He likes this and starts to play with the broken stuff.

We find all the bits to his duplo train and we put it all together.

There are now toys all over the lounge floor.

Every now and then he stops playing and gets onto my lap and we have a lovely cuddle. He rests his warm head on my chest just under my chin and says,

‘Mummmmah!’

He is having a very cuddly day and it’s so lovely.

Outside the window a thick fog has fallen. The view from the lounge becomes more and more whited out. After an hour or so of us playing, only the first few metres of grass in our front garden is visible and from the other side of the street I can only make out the faint outline of the houses and a lamppost.

We have lunch and we sit opposite each other at the table. I talk to him about things and he says ‘yeah’ and smiles and giggles at me when I pull faces at him. I smile back. He is adorable. He points at the cupboard for something,

‘Mummah! Mummah! Ugsh!’

‘What’s up honey? What are you after?’ I ask him.

‘Ugsh!’

‘Do you want some squash?’

‘Ahhhhhm? Doh!’ he replies, shaking his head.

‘No squash?’

‘DOH!’ He shouts quite emphatically.

‘Ok, ok, no squash! How about some water? Do you want some water in your cup?’

‘Ugsh! Mammah, urgsh! URGSH! UUURGSH!’

‘Shall I put some water in y-‘

‘DOHHH! DO! MUMMAH!’

‘Ok, so you do want squash?’

‘Errrrrrrr . . . .YAAAAA!’

‘Ok, I’ll do you a squash.’

I pour him a cup of squash. I take it to him. He shouts ‘DOH!’ again and then throws it onto the floor.

Let’s talk for a moment about a different scenario. The scenario is that I have a full time job. I go to my job everyday 9-5 and use a childminder to do school runs and to look after my toddler. I am at work and other people look after my kids. While I am at work my two-year-old does a lot more ‘activities’ and spends lots of time with other children being stimulated. In this scenario he probably has a more interesting day than he has at the moment with me at home.

He has a more interesting day. I have a more interesting day. The only thing is, we are not together.

Is it greedy of me to want both? To want to be with him but to also not feel so cut off from the world? To not feel so bored or so lonely?

Sometimes I feel that boredom and loneliness creeping up on me as the day goes on, just me and him in the house doing normal stuff; hanging up the washing, playing cars, watching ‘In the Night Garden.’ It’s like a kind of silence that gets louder, a kind of white noise, or a maybe a kind of cold which freezes at the corners of the building first before moving into the centre.

Whatever it is I can feel it pushing in, filling up the unoccupied space in the house on a day like this. Like the fog outside the window, its threatens to obscure all else.

Boredom and loneliness isn’t quite right though. Those aren’t quite the two words to describe it. My body is busy playing, cuddling, wiping, walking, tidying, scrubbing, chasing, tickling and my mind is constantly churning, constantly telling myself I should be doing a better job at being a mum; that I should be tidier, more energetic, more patient, more compassionate, better organised, more lively and that I am always falling short.

Can you be bored and also be in a kind of mental overdrive?

And loneliness isn’t quite right either. I am with my son. I do see other grown ups for the odd coffee. I connect with people. I go to a toddler group. I have friends and most of all, I love to be by myself, to be left to my own thoughts and to be able to do my own thing. It is my best luxury.

So what is this thing I feel myself sinking into on days like this?

It is . . .

a kind of unhappiness I suppose

and also a kind of struggle to accept myself as a mum and to believe that I am doing a good job, that I can do this, that I am doing it, that my children are happy, that I am doing ok.

I find it hard to be at home with a toddler on my own. I find that day long and tiring and frustrating and mentally unstimulating. But I also would rather be there with him than anywhere else in the world. I want this time with him. So this then leaves me to ask; was motherhood meant to be like this? Is it normal to feel so cut off on days at home? And without going to every single baby/toddler group going how the hell can we make it feel better?

Sometimes I wonder what you would see if you took a slice through all the houses on my street. How many others mums on their own would you see? How many carers? How many elderly people who have not spoken to anyone all day, all week? How many out of work or too sick to work? How many metres away am I from someone who feels they are a million miles away from anyone else?

And I guess I am writing this because I feel this is important, just to say all of this out loud or not quite out loud. Just to put it somewhere.

I started this blog to create a space where I could write what I was really thinking and feeling about motherhood, but if you want to write how you feel too you can do that here. You can comment on my facebook page or you can leave an anonymous comment on this blog post if you want to.

I could end this post by explaining that I’m actually ok and by telling you how much I love and enjoy spending time with my children, but you know what? I don’t feel I need to do that anymore.

Those are the kind of things that go without saying.

These are the things that often go unsaid.

At home with a toddler
Check out my ‘arty’ black and white filter skills

We carry on

A few days ago, after the school run, I went round to my mums house for a cup of coffee. I wanted to use her washing machine because ours had broken and we had also planned to go out shopping together because I needed to buy some warmer clothes for my toddler.

When I got there she told me about a dream she’d had the night before.

She dreamt that for some reason we all had to evacuate our homes and never come back. She dreamt that she was looking after the kids and was trying to get them to each put their things into rucksacks. She was stuffing her own clothes and bits and bobs into an old suitcase and telling them to pack their things and they wouldn’t listen to her and were just playing with their toys and generally just acting like little kids.

‘Just go and get all of your pants,’ she was saying to them. ‘Just go and get all of your pants and socks and put them into a bag.’

In her dream she knew that we had to leave and we would never be coming back. We were all being evacuated. She desperately shoved stuff into bags, knowing that our transport would come and go and that it would be our only chance to get away.

She told me about this a few days ago now. We were sitting in her quiet lounge drinking coffee. Outside the street was still apart from the odd car now and then, and on all the trees lining the road, the leaves were silently and ever so slowly turning brown. The sky was a dirty grey and the air had been getting colder and colder over the last few weeks. I thought about how I really needed to get some long sleeved t-shirts for my toddler and we started to discuss whether we should go to Marks and Spencers or to Sainsbury’s.

We talked about how it was worth paying a bit more for some bits that would wash well.

I thought about his chubby little arms in his short sleeves and how I didn’t want them to get cold.

‘The thing is,’ I said to my Mum

in the quiet lounge

while my son played with a train set in the corner

‘The thing is,’

and outside the trees flicked their branches around in the wind and more leaves blew off into the sky

‘Don’t you just feel like here we are, living our lives just like normal, but then there’s just this sea of people, there’s just thousands and thousands of people who are just suffering and dying

and

and

like when I am on facebook or something and I just see these pictures of toddlers

who are just white with dust

who are just lying in the dust

of another blown up building

Where will they go?

What will happen to them?

What will happen to all of these people who have had to leave everything?

All these people who are living in tents in the cold and the mud.’

And we talked about it for a minute and we both said how awful it must be and how good it is that finally, FINALLY at least the children are starting to come, even though it is not enough and it is far too late for some.

We talked about how we see these stories on the television and on social media and we want to do something. We talked about how we just carry on living our peaceful lives, but just a few miles away, thousands of people live in a chaos of tents and cold and hunger and how there are children there, children with nothing and with no one to look after them.

We talked for a moment about how we would like to do more and about what we could do.

After a few minutes we stopped talking about the refugee crisis and started talked about where we should go to buy long sleeved T-Shirts again. We drove up the M2 to the shopping centre. I tried some stuff on but it didn’t fit me very well and my mum tried a coat on but decided not to buy it. When I had picked out some bits for my son and two T-shirts for me we went to the café and had lunch. I had a BLT and my son had the chicken nuggets kids meal.

We just carried on with our lives.

Carried on with the school runs and dinner making and work and watching telly.

Carried on with reading stuff on twitter and Facebook.

Carried on watching gogglebox.

Me and my husband carried on with our late night conversations about what day we should order the food shopping and what washing machine we should buy.

On the weekend I took my five-year-old to a birthday party. It was a great party and an animal man had brought some owls and birds of prey to show the children. He did a little talk about the birds and got them to do some flying demonstrations. As part of the demonstrations he laid a sheet down on the floor and got all the kids to lie down and had an owl fly over them. They loved it and they all lay on the floor in a line giggling next to each other.
We just carry on with our lives.

I watch the news and I google stuff I don’t understand and try to read about how things have gotten like this in Syria and in other countries where people feel so unsafe that they have no other choice but to flee. I sign petitions and click that ‘I am interested’ in going to certain demos and events, but I am too scared to take my kids along with me and also I couldn’t afford to keep going into London.

Those are my excuses anyway.

Do you remember when we all marched against the Iraq war in 2003?

It was said to be the ‘largest protest event in human history.’ I had never been part of something so momentous and big before. It was five days before my twentieth birthday. My last five days as a teenager.

I wonder how my generation would feel about politics if those demonstrations had made any difference. I wonder where we would be now.


I wrote all of these thoughts down the other day and I wasn’t going to publish them, but then last night when my kids were in bed and I was going through my photos on my phone and I saw this one photo and I just didn’t know where it had come from and I thought,

Did I screenshot something from a news article by accident?

Why would I screenshot something so horrible?

It was a picture of twenty or so children. Children the same age as my oldest. They were all laid out in a line on a sheet. They were all face up.

I looked at it a few moments more and I realised what it was. I zoomed in a bit and saw that it was my daughter and her primary school friends on the sheet, not because they had been dragged out of a bombed building, but because they were waiting for an owl to fly over their faces.

I deleted it.

I did not want to look at a picture of my daughter and her classmates all laid out on a sheet together. All in a neat little line. All those little faces that I see on playdates and birthday parties and at the school gates each morning, running around with their little bookbags flying out behind them.

And after I deleted it I decided I would publish this, despite it being a jumble of fairly ignorant thoughts on the refugee crisis.

I hoped that if you felt like me, maybe horrified and also a bit helpless as you see this endless suffering unfold in Syria and in the people who have had to leave and walk and walk and walk and risk drowning in the sea in order to find safety. That if you, like me, are thinking this week about the jungle as it is closed down and about the thousands of people who will be moved on again, then maybe we could at least give some money together.

I’ve read around a bit and found that unicef are doing some amazing work to help in Syria and to help in refugee camps throughout Europe, especially with children and families . I’m going to ask if you’ll give five pounds with me. It seems so trivial in the face of such a crisis to just give money. It feels so removed somehow but the thing is, maybe a thousand other mums will read this tonight. Maybe more if you feel like sharing this post on your social media. Maybe two thousand mums will read this tonight and if we all gave five pounds together then that’s really something, ten thousand pounds is a lot of money.

Please join in.

You could donate £5 to unicef by texting UNICEF to 70099

Alternatively you could visit their website to a donate a monthly amount to the Syria appeal here

 

Looking out from Dover to Calais on the day the Jungle was demolished
Looking out from Dover to Calais on the day the Jungle was demolished