All Work And No Play Makes Mummy Something Something

I’m very tired. So why am I not asleep?

Because I’m worrying I’m a bad mum, of course.

My physical and mental energies are so drained, and I don’t have a chance to recharge. Sometimes I stare at my kid and wonder if they’re old enough for flashcards. Maybe I should have been doing flashcards since birth. Why do they only want to rip pages out of book, rather than sit nicely and ensmarten themselves? I’ve clearly not done enough to make this 14 month old value literature. I am history’s greatest monster.

Toddlerhood is very much a CrushKillDestroy phase. It renders my house a war zone, and makes me anxious about taking the kid out. Yet another stupid catch 22.

I just want some sleep.

Finding out what it means to me

Lots of things make me mad.

Domestic violence and homophobia. Overcooked pasta and mealy tomatoes. Richard Dawkins. Donald Trump. Paying $17 for a garden salad. Drink-driving.

And I’m a snarky person. Raised on a steady diet of dry British comedy, by deadpan-snarker Australian parents, sarcasm is my automatic response to irritation.

One of the many things parenthood does is make you examine yourself, and critique the type of role model you are becoming.

Do I want my kid to grow up to be as angry as I am, as often as I am? Well, maybe. There are many things worth getting pissed off about. But there are healthier ways to express it. And there are ways to do so that don’t attack people on a personal basis.

One of my personal heroes, Andrew W.K., is a champion of positivity. In an episode of his podcast, America W.K., he mentioned respecting the inherent humanity of everyone he comes in contact with, even those who disagree with him. This is something I am not good at.

But being yelled at has rarely made me take a person seriously, or made me change my behaviours. It was repeated exposure to kind and helpful vegan friends that led me to take up a plant-based diet. It was laughter and music that drew me to join an impro class and start performing.

How can I expect to change something that gives me the shits simply by yelling at it? And if I’m not actively working to change it, why am I yelling? Anger for anger’s sake isn’t helping anyone, and it’s certainly not something I want to inflict in my kid, even tangentially.

So I’m resolving to pursue positive change through kindness. Every day. Even if it’s just little changes, like picking up some rubbish at the park, or choosing a gentle voice and actions despite my internal annoyance at having to redo a chore my child has ‘helped’ with. I’ll work my way up to changing the world.

It’s all connected. When you save any part of the world, you’ve saved the whole world. In fact, that’s the only way it can be done. – Robin Hobb

Being a mum IS hard, stop saying it’s not (but it doesn’t have to come easily to be worthwhile or enjoyable) Also, succinct titles are hard too.

I’ve been annoyed by a thing! Now I respond. Shauna Anderson wrote an article, which insisted:

“Being a mum is not hard.” 

Oh ho ho. Good one. Pull the other leg, it’s got bells on.

“We wear it like talisman. This burden of motherhood. This badge of honour.”

Of course we do. We take pride in a difficult thing done well (or on some days, just done at all.)

“It certainly isn’t a constant dance on a mountain of happiness. But it isn’t hard.”

Well, I beg to differ.

There are things about parenthood (particularly for those of us who, like me, are able to stay home by choice) that are of course infinitely easier and more enjoyable than working in traditional employment. I can do my job in my pyjamas if I haven’t the energy or inclination to wear real clothes. I can go to the beach or the museum or a friend’s house on a whim, and still be doing my job. Parts of it are gleefully, wonderfully, exhilaratingly fantastic and relaxing and wonderful. But parts of it are hard.

There are myriad ways in which a person might find parenthood hard. Pregnancy and birth can change your body into one you don’t recognise, swollen and stretched and scarred. Infertility can shake your world and turn your plans upside down. IVF and fostering and adoption all have particular struggles. Newborns, toddlers, teenagers, adult children, each stage has its own raft of hurdles and challenges and rewards. Moving from a job where your tasks are clear and your rewards tangible to one where the goalposts move constantly and the rewards are sticky, nonexistent, or made out of toilet paper rolls challenges your ideas about what constitutes ‘success’. Being excluded from conversations about parenthood because you are a father, or transgender, or a foster parent, because so often these conversations are made to be about ‘mothers’ (hint hint, Anderson) to the exclusion of other parents. These are all hard things. And so are the daily chores of keeping small humans alive, fed, and relatively clean. Sometimes we need to talk about the poo explosions and fatigue.

Anderson calls this an apparently constant “game of baby-vomit-and-sleepless-nights one-upmanship.” In one breath she decries this competitiveness, and in the next participates in it. She admits that parenting is demanding and relentless and exhausting and overwhelming, and continues to point out how not hard it is. Parenthood isn’t hard for me, so of course it isn’t hard for you. This isn’t hard. You know what’s hard? Being a working mother refugee textile worker with cancer is hard!

Well, hard is relative. Having twins is hard. Not sleeping is hard. Working outside (or inside) the home is hard. Having a chronically ill kid is hard. Having to touch poo is hard. Parenting while dealing with mental illness is hard.

But we’re not being awarded points. No-one wins Hardest Life Of The Year trophy. After all, if they did, they wouldn’t have the hardest life of the year anymore, because they would have achieved something

If a fellow parent is finding life hard, the helpful and kind thing to do is offer sympathy, support, and a glass of wine if required. Not to point out how much harder things COULD be, like trying to tell a person with depression that they don’t have the right to be sad on account of all the much sadder things that exist in the world (for the record, this is a real thing people do, which does not work.) We don’t talk about the hard parts in order to demean our role or imply it’s unenjoyable or undesirable. We talk about it so that we can be reassured that it’s not just us. That we’re not the only one with doubts and fears, terrified we’re not cut out for the epic challenge and staggering responsibility, not the only one who has gone a whole day without noticing a Winnie The Pooh sticker stuck to the back of our head. Not the only one struggling as they learn how to raise a person, be a diplomat, advocate for special needs, ask for help.

Stop telling parents their lives aren’t hard. You don’t get to tell them how to feel. Try listening. Try helping.

Or just do whatever. I’m not the boss of you.

It’s OK.

It’s OK that you didn’t do a newborn shoot.

It’s OK that you didn’t get around to changing the baby out of their pyjamas today.

It’s OK that you didn’t take a photo every day of their life so you could make a viral video 17 years from now.

It’s ok that you didn’t get around to having your beer.

It’s OK that you’ve gone to bed even though the washing is still sitting in the machine.

It’s OK that the birthday party won’t have handmade bunting and carbon neutral goodie bags.

It’s OK.

Everyone is fed and clean and loved.

Including you.

Sisyphus’ Hill Was Made Out Of Laundry, Wasn’t It?

I’m at a total loss about how to keep a house clean with a kid around.

I mean, tidying the lounge instead of blogging would probably be a good start, but I am tired and sick and a grown up, so I can do what I like.

The Kid is currently asleep, and naptime is usually prime housework time. No-one to cling to my ankles! Or take all the washing out of the basket! Or pull all the books off the shelf! But I’m tired. The nappies are in the wash. That will have to do.

My goal this week has been to get the kitchen clean. Just that. One room. Everything away, benches clear, dishes washed, pantry neat. I have failed.

This inability to accomplish small goals is incredibly frustrating. Some days all I’ll need to do is make phone calls, but I can’t line up enough neurons to conduct a conversation.

I’m not very good with the thinking today. I slept in a puddle of vomit last night.  But I want to keep going. Keep trying. Keep writing. Keep swimming.

Someone once told me, or I read, or something, that if writing doesn’t consume you, if it’s not the first thing you think about when you wake up, and it’s not what you fall asleep doing at night, then you needn’t bother writing. If it isn’t your passion, you shouldn’t even try. Well, screw that. I’m tired of letting the words of other people overrule what I think or want or know. And I think I want to know if I can write again.

I’m going to go make some tea.

Aaaaand baby’s awake.

5 Thing I Learned When I Fucked Up My Phone Good And Proper

Anyone who knows me knows I spend a lot of time on my phone. Social media, taking photos, watching stuff on YouTube. There are so many types of crap to consume, and so little time to do it. Most nights I fall asleep just after I turn it off, and I check it again when I wake up. I’m worse now, as a stay-at-home mum, than I ever was when I was working. Part of it is that my phone is my connection to the world when I am too zombified or snotty to leave the house, but part of it is also that there’s no-one there to scold me when I spend all day on fooling about on it. So, when I dropped it (again) and it refused to boot up, I went looking for a new one. It wound up taking me three weeks to decide on a phone, order it, and get it in my hot little hands. In the intervening time, I navigated the world without a map, means of communication, or access to every kitten video in existence. Here’s what I found out about my phone and myself.

1. I rely on it to help cope with social anxiety. Nothing helps hide hands shaking with nerves like writing out the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody in a text you’ll never send. Worried you got the date of your appointment wrong? Why not quadruple check that email when the other party is 5 minutes late? Can’t face the thought of speaking to another human? Bury your head in a listicle! It’s the perfect shield against humanity.

2. …but I don’t need it as much as I thought I did. I had this fear that my brain, when left to its own devices, would fall back into old patterns. Namely, beating itself up over real or imagined slights and sins. I wound up packing a huge amount of other distractions in my handbag, just in case, but I rarely needed them. I let my mind wander, and it didn’t walk over any glass (or, if it did, it had remembered to put on shoes first).

3. I notice more. From the pattern in the sandstone buildings around the city, to the way my kid is getting stronger and more co-ordinated, I notice more details when I’m not just looking up and looking away again. I’m seeing. It’s not something I noticed until I was forced to stop not noticing it. You know?

4. I buy less. Sometimes I’ll see something in a shop, and think ‘Ooh, I need one of those.’ Then I think ‘I wonder if that’s the best model. And the best price. Maybe I should google some product reviews.’ And then if it seems reasonable, I buy it. So with no phone, I had to do any of that research at home, and usually by the time I’d gotten home I’d forgotten about the doodad in question. Sometimes this is good, sometimes not so much. Part of the reason it took me so long to replace my phone is that I didn’t have a phone to research phones on. What.

5. I don’t owe everyone my availability. Part of my constant checking of my phone is a remnant of my chronic people-pleasing issue. Failing to spot a text someone had sent me, or forgetting to reply, was a grievous breach of etiquette. Even these days, if someone takes a day to respond to a text, I automatically assume they a) are dead, or b) hate me (see what I mean about not being able to leave my brain to play quietly by itself?). But being without my phone, I had no choice. I couldn’t stay in the house for weeks on end. So I messaged my husband on Hangouts whenever I was going out, so he knew where I was, and let everyone else wait. Turns out, the list of people who need to know I’m alive at any given point is very short. And most of them don’t make the same association between radio silence and sudden death that I do.

So, I’ve learned some important lessons. Of course, now that I have a phone again I have fallen back into old habits. I’m hoping I’ll have the self control to cut back again, maybe even have a few phone-free days. And on that note, I’m going to bed.