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?