I could feel my blood boiling through the sleep deprived fug. The GP was spouting poetry at me. Poetry. Not what I paid for. I was after some sort of solution/respite/ideas anything really to help with a milk hurtling, fist clenching, purple faced baby. Reflux. Second time around. So bad we couldn’t go out without a suitcase full of extra clothes. Couldn’t use bibs but walked around with old nappies over my shoulder to catch the deluge, most of which ended up on the carpet.
Here’s what he read to me:
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, champagne in one hand – strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOOHOO – What a Ride!”
Based on a quote by Hunter S Thompson, as it turns out.
He also suggested I buy an $1000 vacuum cleaner and hire a cleaner.
What I was thinking was, “You shit.” Because he’d missed the point. I wasn’t striving for perfection. I just wanted to get by. Wanted my son to get some relief and put some weight back on. To sleep (perchance) for more than three hours at a time before having to get up, front up, turn my PC on and write media releases for clients.
He didn’t get it. How could he? Middle aged, financially secure, intellectual (although his EQ was clearly lower than his IQ).
Fourteen years later, I can smile, kind of. I get it. I really do but it’s that assumption again that women of a certain age (yeah, yeah, we wanted it all so we shouldn’t complain) are living break neck lifestyle because they want too much.
Maybe it’s because the early feminist movement defined equality as having the same as men. What we have ended up with is working long hours outside the home while still shouldering the bulk of household chores and child raising. And being fantastic mums. The real head spinner comes when juggling work and parenting not due to career ambitions or a quest for a dated notion of equality but so that we can provide for our children.
So if you’re at your wits end, here’s some things I would do differently and a few I’m still learning to do to simplify the juggling act:
- Get support – turns out that GP wasn’t helpful (hire a cleaner? yeah right). If there’s no family around, make sure you can do mini-break swaps with friends. You do a half day with the kids while she gets some down time and vice versa.
- Stop comparing yourself to others – just don’t. It’s still true that the social status of most women is defined by her partner’s economic status (if in a heterosexual relationship) and if you’re on your own, I salute you. That’s bloody tough. So stop it. Just do the best you can with what you have. You don’t have to explain /justify/rationalise your choices to anyone, ever.
- Invest time with like-minded people – there were very few I could speak too when my first son was born about raising step-children. My ante-natal friends were in new baby bliss (a zen like state a bit akin to church camps). Luckily, I saw a group being run by a local social service provider, went along and made a really good friend in a similar situation. Such a relief.
- Don’t undervalue yourself – I got in a real pickle when self-employed juggling too many clients a few of whom were becoming a liability (small, tricky jobs). An accounting friend suggesting raising my prices. This, she said, would ensure I was dealing with higher end clientele who valued my efforts. I was a bit stunned but it worked.
- Only do what has to be done – groceries, meals, washing. Forget about ironing, windows, ovens for a while. The sky won’t fall. Just ask Chicken Little.
- It’s not a race – Mr GP had one good point. Sometimes, us Mums get so ground down by stuff, we forget to enjoy the small moments. Sit by the sandpit with a coffee, go on a bike ride with them, go down the slide (even though you’re pretty sure your butt won’t fit), go to the movies with the bigger kids.
At the end of the day, the trials and tribulations pass. What’s left is you, your relationships and your well-being. And only you can manage that.