…And Yesterday I Cried

“The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”

-Annabel Crabb, Policital Journalist

{Also features on The M Word }

I’m very sure there are lots of us for whom this quote resonates. Most of the time it’s a case of just getting on with it, stopping every so often and wishing things like, ‘if only they could sleep all night’ or ‘if only they could sleep past 6am’; most of my ‘if onlys’ definitely tend to revolve around sleep and the lack of it. For the most part we don’t do too badly, they are great at going to bed at 7pm, following the routine without any resistance, it’s usually smooth enough. Some nights they don’t wake up at all but other nights they’ll wake up for random reasons. But mainly I really cannot complain, they are really great kids.

But this week has really made me feel sorry for myself. This week, I can read that quote and it screams absolute relevance at me, this week has been a big lesson on trying to juggle and balance everything all at once. Thankfully, I’m not talking about major disasters, we’re all ok thankfully, but everything is relevant. I have found this week a big challenge of trying to keep all the plates spinning and I’m not ashamed to admit, this week has reduced me to tears.

It started last weekend when Alex suddenly went off his food and we realised he had caught a dose of Hand Foot & Mouth – a highly contagious virus, but very common viral infection that  most kids will pick up at crèche. It would mean he would need to stay home for the week. The risk of course was that Rian would likely catch it too – however instead, Rian caught a dose of tonsillitis so was also disqualified from crèche for a few days. This meant juggling around work options to be able to make sure they’d be minded, while also needing to get Rian seen to at the doctor.. and following an allergic reaction to the penicllin they prescribed late in the evening, and a very worrying hour as his body broke out in a frightening angry looking rash… things were getting stressful.

Thankfully, I’m extremely lucky to have an understanding manager who relieved a lot of that stress by letting me work from home, and Gavin has enough holidays to be able to look after the other half of the week. It was multi-tasking at a new level. Answering emails whilst wiping a face. Taking phone calls while cutting toast into triangles, and definitely not into squares. Dealing with work queries whilst dealing with various types of rashes that kept appearing on each child… essentially activating the two main parts of myself – the mother me and the work me – working each job in the same place at the same time. The feeling of being pulled in two opposite directions at exactly the same time.

And I’ll repeat – in the grand scheme of things, it’s just life. These things will happen, these types of weeks will come along. I’m thankful it wasn’t anything more serious of course. But that doesn’t mean I should just shrug it off and pretend I didn’t feel like I was really up against it, and really feeling under pressure.

Exhaustion, frustration, stress and worry were the main reasons behind the tears, but also the feeling that I’m inadequate in conflicting ways –

inadequate at being a mother because despite the boys having to be at home, I also had to work, and inadequate at my job because although I had to perform my duties, I also had to be their mother.

And it’s hard.

I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that I’m allowed to find it hard. I’m allowed to take a moment and feel sorry for myself – more than that – I think it’s really important to do it, acknowledge it. Throw in the fact that we haven’t had  much sleep to speak of all week, the fact that I’m most certainly coming down with something myself now, the fact that the commute was extra crappy this week with a two hour delay getting home.. all these little things chipping away and any sense of control I have over things normally.

So yesterday I cried. But also… I did it. I eventually got home last night after that disastrous commute, I got inundated with cuddles and hugs from the boys and from Gavin too that almost made the long delays worth it! I tucked them into bed and I put my feet up and – although tempted by a nice cold glass of Guinness! – had a cup of tea instead and figured I deserved to treat myself to something nice. So I did.

Today, the week continues and we discovered that Rian has also managed to catch the Hand Foot & Mouth virus from his little brother – let’s face it, it was probably inevitable – and so it means a weekend ahead of being housebound. It’s the week that keeps on giving – yes it is hard, and we’ve no doubt another few sleepless nights ahead until they’re virus free – but it was the week that made me realise that yes, the obligation of that working mother is that I will have to work as if I don’t have children, and be their mother as if I don’t have a job.

But at least I’ve learned that I can do it.

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To Rian, who is F O U R!

{Part 2 of 2}

Monday 3 November, 2014

You were due on October 28th, which as we know now obviously is your little brother’s birthday. Incidentally, they originally wanted to deliver him on November 3rd – but I flat out refused and said that no, you can’t do it that day, that’s Rian’s birthday. The doctor looked at me funny, as if that shouldn’t be a reason not to deliver Alex that day, but I insisted: you should both have your own day to celebrate, and we should have our own days to celebrate each of you ourselves too.

So it remained that the 3rd of November is our Rian’s day.

It’s hard to believe it’s only four years that we’ve known you because you’re so much a part of us now. And in other ways, it’s hard to believe how fast the last four years had gone. Having your first baby is such a massive change, it’s like living a whole other way of life overnight, everything is upside down! Although you feel like someone’s mother from the moment you’re pregnant (and I’ll tell you the story of how we won you another time– because you really are amazingly unique), the feeling of protecting  you and loving you so fiercely, is something I had never known before. There is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do to make sure you were safe – and I knew that before I ever  met you. After a long, exhausting, and sometimes scary labour, at last you arrived by emergency section at 22.22 on a Monday night in early November. So beautifully perfect, our little Rian, here at last.

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Your first ever morning 

It’s an amazing thing to know someone since the very moment they existed, to feel them grow within you and to watch them change and learn new things, and especially when they’re a part of you, a mini version of yourself, mirrored back at you. To hear you repeating phrases we say, or imitate gestures we make. To see my own traits in you, and your Dad’s too, and lots of your own, you teach us just as much as we teach you.

Even thinking about you now as I write this and I can feel my heart swelling up, butterflies of happiness in my tummy and little pings of happy thoughts zip around my head at all the funny things you do, the sweet things that you say, the way you’re so kind towards your little brother. Other times of course you’re not so kind to him, especially when he wants a toy that you’re playing with! But I guess that’s normal!

You loved books from very early on. Before you could talk you used to drag your favourite books, which were almost as big as you were, over to me and indicate you wanted to sit on my lap and I’d read the books to you, over and over again. Stories about Snails going on adventures with Whales, Highway Rats terrorising other woodland animals for their food, dragons called Zog learning how to breathe fire, so many that you loved, but your absolute favourite of course was The Gruffalo, and the Gruffalo’s Child. Your eyes would widen at the mention of the Big Bad Mouse, and your little face would light up with wonder and excitement when Owl appeared. And so began your love and fascination with Owls…. when we brought you to meet some real ones during the summer, I honestly thought you might explode. Every time we go for a walk in the woods beside our house, we have to examine every single stick, carry half of them, and constantly check the ‘tree-top houses’ to see if Owl might be home.

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Magic

It’s amazing watching you grow and change, and finding out what you love and what you don’t. You love dinosaurs, and anything with wings. You love books, and you love dragons. You love Penguin who is actually a doorstop and weighs a tonne.. you saw him in the shop one day about a year ago, and refused to leave him behind. You can’t carry him because he’s too heavy so he sits on the shelf beside your bed. Your bedside shelf also includes a T Rex, two owls, a tiny plastic octopus, some owl lights, a skeletal crow (don’t ask!), your dinosaur light projector… but above all else, your best friend Sniffy.

As soon as you laid eyes on Sniffy, you loved him. You called him ‘Snissy’ at first, he was clean and fluffy and brand new. Now he’s hugged and squeezed, his hair is worn, much thinner and his colour is slightly duller, but he’s never looked better, very clearly loved. Sniffy is there with you when you wake up, scared of the dark, you talk to him and mind him so well, and he cuddles you back to sleep. One time when you were sick and poor Sniffy was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he had to go for a bath in the washing machine. You kept vigil beside him, watching him spinning round and round, by the door of the machine. Singing him songs and making sure he was ok – then when he had to lie on the radiator after his bath, you checked on  him every 20 seconds or so to see if he was dry yet, just to get a cuddle.

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Sniffy (with Penguin on the shelf!)

And when your baby brother arrived – the moment you met him is a moment I’ll remember my whole life. You peered in over his crib and put your two year old hand on his cheek and said in your babyish words ‘Hello baby!’ And right at that second a bond was formed and you’ve been adoring each other ever since. I hope that lasts your whole lives, you two are best friends already.

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Rian, you teach us things every day. You’ve taught me how to look at things like they’re new again, to see wonder and excitement in simple things I wouldn’t have even noticed before. You teach me how to be better in myself, and you’ve shown me how strong I can be. But above all else, you’ve taught who and what a Pachycephalosaurus was – and how to say it! (It’s pack-ee-sefa-lo-saur-us! You’re welcome!)

There just aren’t the words to tell you how much you are loved, not just by me and your Dad but by everyone who meet – your kindness and gentleness, your stubbornness and your determination shine through. I hope they stay with you, the strength of mind you already display. I hope you can keep your determination, to not be afraid to speak up for yourself, and for others who might not be able to do it for themselves. To have the courage and confidence to be whoever you want to be, no matter what anyone else thinks or says. To always be kind. And to show your little brother how to do the same, to be the best big brother you can be. And I promise I will always do my best for you both to help you with whatever you might need.

Happy fourth birthday Rian – you light up our lives. And as we say every single night before falling asleep :

‘We love  you more than all the twinkly stars. How many twinkly stars are there Rian?’

‘Too many to count them Mama’.

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