It is such a simple question, “how are you?”, that especially in South Africa, it seems, everyone includes as a standard greeting , after “hello”. And we all dutifully respond “Fine, and you?” This morning, while waiting for my cappuccino froth to foam, I greeted a few people, and had the same clichéd “hello, how are you” conversation. And all I wanted to say was, “I’m not actually fine.” I am feeling sad and overwhelmed, and I want to get back into bed. But not the bed at home, because that would mean having to deal with “home stuff”. A bed in a hotel, (a nice big one, with crisp white, 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, a thick goose down duvet, that doesn’t have biscuit crumbs, or chocolate milk marks on it) would be perfect. A bed that is reminiscent of pre-baby days. A bed that is used for sleeping in, making love in, and perhaps watching the occasional spot of (grown-up) TV in. A bed that is perfectly made when no-one is in it, with beautiful scatter cushions, perfectly placed, just hanging about looking pretty. No kids in or on it, no toys, no pillows thrown on the floor, no high-pitched children’s TV programme flickering on the plasma.
This feeling has been brewing for a while now. I am not unhappy, per se, you see. In a lot of ways, my life is good. I have a good marriage, a good home life, good friends, a good job, and I enjoy and love my children. The thing is, I seem to have lost touch with me. I am probably not lingering on the edge of depression, but I do feel teary and tired some of the time, and I always feel as if there is something brewing under the surface. Small things seem to irritate me more than usual, and I find myself constantly biting my tongue to stop myself from saying something to someone that I will regret later. I am in a semi-permanent shit mood.
Between working, caring for two children, dropping off and collecting from school, cooking, cleaning up after everybody etc, I never have any time for me. Gary works hard, and is under a lot of pressure, so by the time he gets home, he’s hardly in the mood for mundane household chores, or listening to whining, but I’m just not coping. I feel like a single parent some days. I get angry because while everyone else is watching some crap on TV, I’m wiping kitchen counters, sterilizing bottles, tidying the play room… I can’t remember when I last went for a facial, or just sat idly reading a book or magazines. So as much as Gary and the boys do help, mainly with keeping Alex entertained so I can deal with the baby, I still feel like I’m always doing something for someone else. And if I do take a moment for myself, which I almost never do, I end up feeling guilty. Good old-fashioned “mother-guilt”. Guilty that I am not spending quality time with my babies; my husband. I feel guilty when I shout at Alex for whining or not co-operating, when I realise that all he wants is my attention. I am one of the first people to turn my nose up at people who say they don’t have time to do x, y or z, and I find myself saying it all the time. I hate the fact that I don’t have time to go to the gym, or have my nails done, or just soak in the bath for an hour, by myself! And I hate the fact that I moan about it all the time. Yes, we all work hard, we’re all under pressure, we all have busy lives, we all have no time to do the things we really want to do, but I am reaching the point where I am about to crack.
And what is frustrating me even more, is that I cannot seem to find a resolution to my dilemma. I have thought about resigning from my job, just to give myself a chance to breath, but that will just place us under financial pressure, and also, to get back into IT after a sabbatical is hard. I have tried to apply my mind to what else I could do, if I were to become self-employed, but I like the fact that I have time to spend with my children in the afternoons at present. If I were to start my own business, or work as a contractor, I would not have the luxury of working half day, and be as involved in my children’s lives. Hell, I’m not even sure about WHAT I want to do with my life career wise anymore. As much as I do not hate my job, I am somewhat bored, and working half day is somewhat career limiting anyway. When I had Alex, I made a conscious decision to be there for him, and not have a nanny or an au-pair raise my child. Having had a second child, has tipped my precariously balanced world off it’s axis and I am struggling to find middle-ground here.
I know that many of my mommy friends feel the same way from time to time. So I guess I am not alone. It’s funny how life is so full of co-incidences, as on Monday morning, at the height of feeling all woe-is-me, I read one of my favourite blogs, and writer was talking about pretty much the same thing. On Tuesday night, I went to a parent’s orientation evening at my son’s school, and the principal was alluding to the same thing in her opening address. About how mom’s (and dad’s) feel unappreciated, stretched, and never have a moment to themselves to be who they used to be before having children. That they start to lose a sense of who they are. She made a lovely analogy that raising a child is somewhat like building a cathedral, in that many people will contribute to the building and moulding of this little person, but will never get to see the “finished product”. The gist of her story was as follows: The great cathedrals were completed over many years, spanning centuries, and were worked on by many men and women who would never get to see the completed product of their hard labour. An artisan in one of the cathedrals, who was working on the ceiling rafters, took the time to carve a tiny bird into one of the beams, and when asked why he was bothering to do so, when no-one would see his artwork, he replied that God would see it. So the message was such: although we, especially as mothers, feel like no-one notices or appreciates what we are doing, that there is never an act too small to go un-noticed by God. As much as I am not a religious person, I like the analogy, I like the thought that someone notices the sacrifices we make, especially as mothers. I like to think that the sacrifices we make for our children, and the time that we would rather give to them than take for ourselves, are contributing to the brilliant people that they are destined to become. After all, I chose to be a mother, it wasn’t something that was forced onto me.
So, as much as I do not have a resolution to my frustrations, my lack of “me” time, I will try to be patient. I take comfort in knowing that my frustration is temporary, I will find my groove again. I will find the “me” that has been AWOL for some time now. I am going to try and ditch some of the guilt, and make a little bit of time for me. Even if it’s a quick swim at gym before picking up Alex at school, or banning everyone from the bathroom so I can have twenty minutes alone soaking in the tub. Because right now, being angry and irritable, is not doing anyone any good.
“Wake up sleepy head
I think the sun’s a little brighter today
Smile and watch the icicles melt away and see the water rising…
Summers here to stay, and those sweet summer girls will dance forever
Go down to the shore, kick off your shoes, dive in the empty ocean.”
– DAVE MATTHEWS BAND