Wednesday, 13 February 2019

What have you got to moan about?



Last week I took River with me to walk the dog, it was all fun and games until he had shaken his gloves off for the twentieth time in a row and then proceeded to stand and scream at the top of his lungs because his hands were cold. Trying to explain to a 17 month old that if he JUST LISTENED TO MUMMY then his hands wouldn't be painfully wet and cold, is literally pointless and I wouldn't waste your breath. So when I finally got home to my front door, I had the dramatic crier in one arm, refusing to be put down and the other arm was fumbling around for my keys (in the pocket that I had put the disgusting dog poo bag in, obviously) whilst trying to prevent the dog from chasing after thin air. Multitasking is a skill you have no choice but to perfect when you're a mum, but in this moment I. JUST. NEEDED. A. WEE.  These days my bladder has the capacity and elasticity of a pound shop birthday balloon, so when I say I need a wee, there's absolutely no messing about. Amongst a tangled web of dog legs and a freakishly strong grip from my child, I had to seriously muscle my way to the toilet before Tsunami Sue appeared. I sort of just about made it. Maybe I had to change my pants afterwards. Maybe I didn't...
In the aftermath of the madness, I sat solitary in the loo. The persistent wailing and banging from both River and the dog on the other side of the door began to fade into the background and I just cried. Having to rush to the loo when you’ve got your hands full is definitely not a reason for an emotional outburst, but it was the final nudge into believing I didn’t have my shit together that day.

When I tell people that I didn't go back to work after I had River, I'm almost always met with 'oh, lucky!' or if it's a mum who works, they'll immediately tell me how I must be so grateful I don't have to juggle children and work every day. I am lucky. And I am grateful. But fuck you if you think being with your child 24/7 whilst trying to maintain a sense of self is a doss, Susan! Being a stay at home mum is met with just as many, albeit different, hardships as a working mum. Yes, for the most part it’s lovely and it makes me so happy that I get every great moment of River , but I also get every worst one. These 'worst moments' like to present themselves in abundance and funnily all in the space of one day; and that’s the day you'll find yourself crying on the bog.

What I've come to realise is that the guilt of feeling shitty far exceeds actually feeling shitty. What have I got to moan about? I get to stay at home every day with my child, take him wherever I want, feed him how I want and oversee every part of his learning and development, without having to trust someone else to do all those things and keep him safe. I turn into a prize bitch if Jason even hints that I seem tired or asks if River has been hard work (he'll assume my period is due and/or I finished all the creme eggs in one go at my breakfast sitting) but I don't even want it put into the universe; I never want to appear ungrateful or that I'm unable to cope with anything. I also have a ridiculous stubbornness when it comes to accepting help. So if Jason offers to take over with River to give me a break when he comes in from work, I will refuse and tell him I'm fine. But then I will sulk later in the evening that I haven't had a break so he quite literally can't win.
But the truth is, looking after a tiny person from the minute they wake up in the morning til the minute they go to sleep at night is intense. It's fun and it's lovely and Riv's the most amazing little person but it's always intense and I wish I didn't feel guilty when I say that there are odd days when it's an absolute shit storm (metaphorically AND literally)

I make sure that our week is always filled with different stuff which does enhance the great moments for us. We go to a music class, a sing-and-sign class and a swimming lesson each week, which means that River is mixing with other children and I can seek sanctuary with the other women in the stay-at-home-mum club and not feel guilty when I need to have a moan about not being able to brush my teeth in peace that morning. I make sure we go out for a walk every day and I alternate the activities I give him at home to prevent any boredom. I've quickly learnt that a bored child leads to nothing but trouble so I try to keep that to a minimum. I love being with him and I love watching him reach every milestone along the way. When I see his little eyes light up as he's learning new things it warms my heart beyond compare...
But when I'm trying to clean up the soggy remains of the cream cheese sandwich thats been thrown at the walls and he's managed to climb down from his highchair, going zero to no-nappy in 0.6 seconds and is pissing on not only the rug, but the pile of freshly cleaned clothes I was just about to put away AND he's laughing at me... I'll be honest, the warmth in my heart tends to simmer down to a more tepid temperature at that point. There's nothing more sinister than a child laughing at you while you're slowly crumbling to your knees with a pack of Dettol wipes that you know won't even scratch the surface of the damage. I often find myself looking deep into his eyes and asking him if we're involved in the filming of a secret prank show because it feels too ridiculous to be my real life. 

There is also a certain amount of isolation that comes with being a stay at home mum and people assume that you have a plethora of mum friends that satiate your thirst for adult conversation at your beck and call when it's all getting a bit much. But no. In reality, I'm just begging all my existing mates to get knocked up, because making new friends when you're 29 is a task that I have neither the time or emotional capacity for; so for now I'll direct my questions about current affairs to a 17 month old and see what I get. I'll happily chat to the other mums when I take River to his classes but if I ever see one of them in the street or they're turning down the same aisle as me in Tesco, its like I'm 9 years old and I've just seen my maths teacher outside of the school environment - there will be NO acknowledgement of existence from either party. And that's just how I like it because I've got to get this shopping done and then get my pissy laundry washed for the second time today before I start dinner. 

I honestly wouldn't change anything about my situation but I definitely feel like theres an assumption that staying at home to look after your child is easy and it's not. Being any kind of mum is hard work and nobody should feel like they can't be truly honest about how shitty it is sometimes. Saying that your kid is getting on your nerves doesn't mean you love them any less. It's the hardest job with the biggest rewards and I'll never take a second of it for granted. Even when I'm having a snotty cry behind the door, I'm living my best life because I've got him.

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