Monologue

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Late last year I had an opportunity to submit a piece of writing for the ‘Women’s Monologue Project’.  With 80 entries, and space to only perform 6-10 pieces, this wasn’t selected, but it might give an insight into why this blog has sat idle for so many months.

 

It is there always, my secret shame, an unspoken desire. Some days it is barely a whisper, a dragonfly flitting through the brain, a glimpse of something wonderful; other days it screams at me, loud enough to obliterate all else, so loud I can see how it would be, it demands that I pick up my car keys, my wallet and my phone and walk out of the door ignoring the two small children who are still utterly dependent on me, walk away from my husband who doesn’t truly understand, leave behind the attempt to have it all and just be me. A day, a week, a month, a year – I don’t know how long I would turn my back on them all, I just know I dream of doing so.

It was never a question that I would have a career – it was the assumption by all who knew me as I went through school and university. Some questioned whether I would have a family, but never that I would find a career and strive to achieve all I could within it. I preened under the inherent accolades this assumption laid on me, just as I bristled at the idea that I would forgo a family to achieve this. I was a master at juggling, I was a powerhouse who never sat still, I was a woman who would have it all. Failure was never an option, it is even less of an option now, now that the career, the family, the life I dreamed of is built. I just never knew that the building of these dreams would become walls that trapped me into a maze of my own making.

I wonder how many other women feel this desire to escape from the life they have slowly built for themselves, when they discover that trying to satisfy everyone else, manage a job and manage a home leaves no time to focus on themselves. The endless rounds of food preparation, lunch box stuffing, dishes to wash, clothes to fold, clothes to iron, baby to feed, floors to clean, kids to bathe, kids to dress, food preparation, baby to breastfeed, clothes to wash, clothes to fold, food preparation, baby to feed, baby to feed, BABY TO FEED… There is no room for quiet reflection, for self absorption, for me. And thus the desire to escape and find time for me, time to focus, time to reflect, time to allow the brain to shut down each evening and not reboot until morning grows.

Is it just me? Am I somehow one of those women shamed on social media for not being a proper mother? It is the ultimate sin for a mother to abandon her children. Father’s do not get the same treatment, but the assumed nurturing response of the mother is a sacred thing. We are only allowed to complain when confirming our mothering instinct – ‘I love my children, but they can be arseholes at times’; ‘I love being a stay at home mum, but I’m a little bit bored by kids’ TV’; ‘I love my job, but days with my kids are the best’.

I love my kids, but I want to escape, I love my kids, but my job is so much more satisfying. I love my kids (and my husband) but I don’t want this life anymore, I want to be selfish, I want to focus on me, I want to walk away and have time to just be.

But I can’t say this out loud, these are not the thoughts of the one who has it all, these are not allowed to be spoken by a mother.

I am told it gets better. As I voraciously read articles on parenting and happiness, as I consume texts on the modern family life and cult of busy-ness, as I search through online resources about women’s mental load and work / life balance, the resounding message is that the early years are the hardest. This period is when parents are at their least happy, relationships breakdown and women exit the workforce in droves. Does any of that help? No. The unspoken desire still calls to me and pitches battle with the perfectionist that still drives me on. The career, the family, the marriage, the house, all must be maintained, but at what cost? Which would I admit defeat on and step away from if the opportunity truly arose? The Gordian Knot is pulled tight and the knife is missing.

And so it is that each morning as I wake from a night of inevitable interruptions, I try to take pleasure in the smiles and chatter from the children; try to remember that the small touches and little intimacies from my husband are gifts of his love, not simply another obligation and somehow I find reason to turn the longing glances away from the door and the car keys and instead turn towards the daily tasks, jobs, and chores of this life; towards the life I have built with choices big and small, the life which will one day get easier. And each night I tell myself that I will never have to face this particular set of challenges again, the dragonfly can sleep for now, for tonight, and tomorrow will come whether I am ready or not.

I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a successful career woman but am I still me?

 

 

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Pester power for the win

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[No, this isn’t a post about how Chublet comes into my room every 10 mins from 7am on a saturday morning asking if she can watch videos on the iPad… I’d *never* succumb to that…]

Breastfeeding, settling babies, and trying to zone out from babies gives me a lot of time when I should be doing productive, brain developing things, but instead turn to facebook and become a digital zombie. As a result I find myself taking notice of the ads and themes that pop up with even more regularity than Hippo baby’s explosive bowel movements. Of late my feed seems to have been filled with ads and articles about the need to properly dispose of out of date medicines by taking them to your local pharmacy. Each time I see one of these I’m reminded that I intended to do that before we moved house almost two years ago, but it was too much effort and everything got dumped in a moving box then hauled out and tossed into a high cupboard on arrival.

So it was, with a few minutes spare the other night – dinner was simmering and the pasta was still a bit too al dente; Hippo was doing her 5 minutes of being happy playing with Daddy; and Chubba was dancing to music only she can hear – I quickly hauled everything down from the high up cupboard, grabbed a paper bag and got sorting. I soon grabbed another paper bag, and then a large plastic bag as the pile to return to the medicine cupboard got smaller and smaller. Some of this stuff went out of date before Chubba was born!

Anyway, a short while later I was feeling suitably chuffed at my excellent organisational skills as the medicine that is still in date got neatly stored in three different plastic containers and put back in the cupboard. I’d like to show you a photo of them, to prove my excellent ability to be organised every now and then, but that would require organising the rest of the cupboard as well. You’ll just have to image it.

Now I just need to be organised enough to get the plastic bag out of the house and down to the chemist. Small steps.

Remembering how to house-wife

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve been on here. Being a full-time worker, a something time mum and not-so-organised, meant various things fell away – blogging; fitness; house-wifing – all the important stuff.

So a quick summary of the past year.

  • Chublet went on her first overseas holiday when I had a conference in NZ.
  • B got a full time job in a new industry (and is doing really well)
  • I opened multiple new exhibitions at work, organised some big changes (rebranding, new light system, new website etc) and got two new staff after several months of being two staff down.
  • Lots of gardening, crafting, music making (Chublet is now learning the violin), occasional trips to Sydney, Port Macquarie and South Australia
  • We gained a family member.

Yep, that’s right, we are now a family of 4. After an early miscarriage in the middle of last year, we got pregnant again before we knew it and almost 4 months ago Little Hippo joined us. So I’m now back to being a full time mum, at home with Hippo and Chublet and trying to remember how to be a bit more organised than usual and balance the days between avoiding boredom, giving Hippo the space to learn to sleep and dividing my days into a 2.5 hourly repeat cycle.

You never know, if I succeed in the above this blog might just get regular attention again.

Not so perfect parenting

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I’m far from a perfect parent, and I constantly struggle with feeling like I’m messing it up. One area where I really have to give myself a strong talking to is when I do craft activities with Chublet. I’ve always been someone who like to do things as instructed, have a plan and follow the path – there’s a reason I was never great at jazz trumpet, but excellent at classical… and craft with Chublet challenges all my desires to do things ‘right’.

So with this in mind a couple of weekends ago I succumb to Chublet’s pleading to do the ‘giraffe puzzle’ given to her for christmas. To clarify – the puzzle wasn’t a puzzle at all, but a sweet little collage activity set with 4 partly illustrated boards, several punch out shapes, stickers, glue and a few select glittery bits. The kit came with a little booklet that carefully, through lovely pictures, showed how you went from partly illustrated template, to clever picture by selecting a range of punch out shapes, carefully arranging them on the image, adding stickers in pre-determined locations and finally putting a few glittery touches on the emerging image. All very lovely, and very clearly set out as to how to do it FOLLOWING THE INSTRUCTIONS.

So on a rainy day when B was away looking after his Dad, I pulled the box down, showed Chublet the instruction book, helped her do the first bit, explained again that she should look at the picture to see what shapes she needed and where to put them, and then I walked away to tackle the dishes and leave her to it. Less than 5 minutes later, and barely giving me time to get the washing up gloves on, Chublet announces she’s finished the first picture and is ready for the next one. So with a big breath I go and see what she’s done. the internal monologue was going mad ‘leave it alone, she’s done it herself and is proud of that achievement, it doesn’t matter how it looks, etc etc.’ But you know what, I just couldn’t help myself in fixing one little bit – the flowerpot, that should have been at the bottom of the carefully printed vine that spread all over the page, and was instead randomly plonked by Chublet in the middle of nowhere. As she turned to chose the next picture, I carefully re-positioned that flowerpot, the right way up and just where it should have been – those instructions must be followed!

One day I might manage to be a perfect parent by worrying a whole lot less about doing it perfectly correctly.

Trying to adult

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The problem with being a not-so-organised housewife is the times when you realise that about the only thing you are truly successful at is failing as an adult. Those points of failure where not being organised, tidy and having really good routines lead to loosing things, forgetting stuff and having a carpet that hasn’t been vacuumed in too many weeks to count.

My current failure quota is pretty high when it comes to home life. Work is flying along with regular wins, but all that comes at a cost at home and a failure to balance the demands and pressures of the two parts of my life, as well as a failure to cope with high levels of interrupted sleep (yes, Chublet has been on a sleep avoidance bender recently).

Do you think science will get a point where we can swap lives for a little while? Sometimes I think it would be nice to see what it is like to be organised, neat, in control and properly adulting. But only for long enough to get the house and general life stuff in order, then I think I’ll swap back to being me – not-so-organised, preferring to play with Chublet, read a book or do some crochet to all that organising, adulty stuff.

A not so organised guide to bliss

Being a not so organised housewife you have to grab at moments of bliss as they disappear awfully quickly.

There’s the bliss of having a perfectly clean and clear kitchen bench – for the 60 sec it takes for you to start preparing the next round of food a growing preschooler demands at all hours.

There’s the bliss of finally achieving a clean and tidy house, toys put away, floors mopped and vacuumed – right up until that moment when Chubba comes home from swimming.

There’s the bliss of having nothing in the washing baskets (dirty or clean) – as long as you ignore the washing line full of things soon needing to be folded, sorted and put away.

But most of all there’s the bliss of that hour each afternoon where Chubba sleeps and the constant chatter finally ceases and despite all the chores and things that should be done, you ignore them and get a cup of hot tea a book and head to the couch – only to fall asleep yourself within 2 min.

ch-ch-ch-changes

It’s been a while since I sat down and posted here, and there have been many, many changes in that time. The last few months have been an emotional roller-coaster, but I think we’ve landed in a good place.

The first change was a new job for me, which necessitated a significant relocation, meaning B had to quit his work and we’ve switched roles with me out working full time and him at home looking after chubba, studying and looking for part time work.

Not at the beach for once.

Yes, we’ve finally broken free of Sydney and landed in a regional centre. I’m not sure if it’s a tree change or a sea change as we’ve got a bit of both. We’re now located a little over 2 hours out of sydney, and about 20min from the coast. In the last two months we’ve spent more time at the beach than we did in 10 years in Sydney. My morning commute now takes about 10min (15 if i get caught in traffic around the local primary school) and B and Chubba are easily able to join me for lunch near my new work once a week. We’re in a wonderful honeymoon phase and the new life feels blissful – long may that last.

 

Swapping roles has proven a little more challenging and I fall into the trap of trying to do it all far too often, but we’re getting there. B and Chubba have had difficulties in adapting to being with each other much more, and not having me run interference, but gradually they are sorting it out and finding a happy place.

The other change I hoped to celebrate in this post was the anticipated arrival of a second child after so many months of hoping. I should have been able to talk about the terrible timing – finding out we were finally pregnant just as I accepted this new job. However that isn’t the case. Instead we learnt the hard way that even after the 12 week mark things can go badly wrong and we lost our son after I went into labour at only 16 weeks pregnant. It’s been a strange time, so filled with joy and a sense of rightness in where we are and how our work / life / family balance is coming together, but with a new grief behind it all. Even writing these few words now bring fresh tears to my eyes. Most days pass in a blur of contentment, busy-ness and general life, and I sort of forget that i was pregnant only 6 weeks ago. Most days now our tiny little boy hovers at the very far reaches of my consciousness, not really forgotten but not actively thought of.

As terrible as the loss of our baby was and is, it has been a remarkable catalyst for forging deep caring friendships with people in our new community. The midwife who delivered him, happens to live within walking distance and is rapidly becoming a good friend; the friend of a friend at church, who came and minded chubba for an hour while B and I cried together in the hospital room cradling our tiny son, has become an almost grandma for Chubba and a caring friend for me; and my manager and colleagues have shared stories of their own losses, given me space to grieve as needed and accepted my return to work with just the right amount of care, sympathy and practicality. I am certain we are in the right place at this moment.

In reflecting on a turbulent end to 2015 and what lies ahead, 2016 feels like it will be good.

signs of a not so organised housewife #8

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That feeling of mild shame, mixed with pure relief when you discover the baby sitter is actually a cleaning / tidying fairy in disguise.

Followed a few months later by that feeling of disappointment when the same babysitter doesn’t work miracles the next time she’s booked for an evening.

All those dreams of coming home to a house given a bit of a tidy up and polish, shattered…  Back to reality and a not so organised home.

Feeling Lucky

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I’ve been reflecting a bit of late on the times I’ve said ‘we were so lucky’ and not properly understood exactly what that meant. In some ways I’m now gaining an awareness of just what it meant. You see, we’re not so lucky this time around.

When B and I decided we were ready to start a family we thought it would be nice to be pregnant within 6-12 months. Instead we fell pregnant within 6 weeks. Having many friends and some family members who have struggled with fertility issues I was able to say ‘we were really lucky and didn’t even have to think about it’. Yet I blithely rattled off that sentiment without properly understanding.

I didn’t understand the incredibly complex emotions that increase each month; the feeling of failure as the blank white space on the pregnancy test stands testament to your inability to reproduce; the tension of waiting to see if your period turns up, wondering if you should test now and get the disappointment over with early, then realising that it won’t help – every fibre of you will collapse a little on the day it arrives, regardless; the feeling of anger that is directed at no-one and nothing, but is there anyway; and the incredibly mixed emotions that come with each friend who falls pregnant or has a baby.

You see, it’s been almost a year now since we decided we wanted to add to our family. A three year age gap between chublet and no. 2 sounded about right to us, and we blithely assumed we’d get pregnant nice and quickly again, after all we were one of the those lucky couples who didn’t have fertility issues. And yet, Chublet turned 3 recently, and my womb remains empty. To add to the pain, Chublet has been doing a lot of role playing recently, and in most of it she chatters away about her brother or sister. Her brother can be anyone from her friends at daycare, to her teddies or a friend’s dog, and her sister is usually her doll or her cousins, but her inclusion of the phrase in her play sends a little arrow into my heart. How I’d love for her to properly understand the term and be able to use it in referring to her actual sibling.

It is an agony that is so hard to talk about, so strange to share, and yet so deeply a part of me each month now that some days are difficult to get through. But still, I know we are part of the lucky ones. We have Chublet who is a delight and brings us so much joy; we are only just starting down the path of being considered to have fertility issues, so our journey is still young; and we know that we can have children, so there is always that small hope. We are part of the lucky ones, but it is only now that I understand what that means as I start to uncover the other side.