It’s been a while since I posted anything. I was meant to be away in Wales now, relaxing on the beach, posting casual, chilled selfies of the perfect family life on Facebook. Instead I am home, eating kebab, sitting on the sofa, wearing pink, fluffy slippers, wondering where did it all go wrong.
I get the feeling we know this already, but to what extend is the common denominator of a good family life far from the truth?
A while back, having a chat with a good friend of mine, a mum of 3 boys age between 4 and 8, she informed me their kids go to sleep at 6:30pm. I had to slowly collect my broken jaw off the floor and wonder what she uses to drug the poor sods. Maybe intoxicating underaged is legal in her county? In which case I need to move.
She’s got her make up on point, she’s in high spirits and working whilst kids are entertaining themselves. I would like to say I don’t work in front of my children, because I’d love to give them full, undivided attention, but the truth is it’s bloody impossible. One cannot simply do anything productive till they are asleep. This is anywhere between 8:30pm and 9:30pm, at which point my brain resembles the said fluffy slipper, and computer work becomes barely possible.
I had an epiphany. The decision was made. I wanted to become better at the wife and mother malarkey. I took on less clients, started dressing less as though I was dragged up to the world of the living from a pile of rubble, and even went as far as updating my whole cosmetic bag with make up suitable for a woman that I was allegedly.
I wanted to be back in the world of humans. Get my shit together. Get a grip.
All my friends seem to be on the ball. They meet up for coffee, hold decent jobs and their kids wear colour coordinated outfits.
Social media makes me believe I am surrounded by the likes of Stepford Wives almost daily. The snippets of organisation and “on-the-ballness” flash before my eyes yet they are never my snippets.
I am writing this on my unplanned staycations. We had 5 days booked as a little family trip to Wales this week. People travel the world with multiple children, what’s a little trip for two adults and one 4 year old? Surely we can do this?
We got broken.
The trip lasted 24h including 4h drive each way. It ended up with me pulling my child across the beach, in public, screaming “You wanted to come to the beach, no, no more ice cream, no more toys, no we are not leaving 2 minutes after we arrived because you are bored.” We were on the way home 10 minutes after. Driving back to the other side of the country because I would rather be home with my daughter in the nursery, than pretend this “holiday with kids” is an actual holiday. I got approached by strangers patting my shoulder saying “we know how you feel”, when I was raging through the beach, with the screaming animal of a child. Everyone seems to have been there yet you never see anyone else losing their shit. Is everyone else not ok? If so, why are we doing it to ourselves multiple times? If you don’t suffer with occasional meltdowns, I want to know how you do it.
Where did it all go so wrong?
Before kids we had an idea of the life “around” our children. They would blend in seamlessly, and we would form a loving whole. Backpacking around the globe, whilst holding two full time jobs. This idea rapidly disappeared when the reality hit us in 2014. This was meant to get easier, never did. The grandparents are not a daily fix in our lives, it’s just the two of us. We share childcare between us both, there is no “village” to help out. Unlike in the 40s, the expectations on women are higher, but worst of all women expect more from themselves. If that wasn’t the case, the simple fact one salary is no longer enough can confirm this new reality.
We get bombarded with everyone seemingly holding it together and with a smile, whilst all I want is to go on 3 days long holidays to a 2 star hotel down the road, with no one knowing where I am. Ordering a pizza and a bottle of wine to the room with mismatched curtains and locking myself away from being a mother for a couple of days.
My friends ask me if I am off on a date on the days when I commit the wash and brush hair combo (as opposed to “add a third layer of dry shampoo”). My child spends around 30 minutes every morning watching various cartoons on YouTube, something I despised before having kids. I have given up on forcing greens down their throat, as it ends up in arguments I cannot take.
The pile of ironing is sky high but if I start on this, I will drop the ball elsewhere, something else will get less of my attention and time. How thinly can we spread ourselves?
After a brief investigation, I realised it’s not only not as good as it seems, but it’s frighteningly bad under the surface. Half of the people around are on some sort of antidepressants. The other half has parents who would happily scoop their children, when you get close to the thin, red line. Having on average 800 Facebook friends, if each one of them goes on a great date / amazing holidays / to the Zoo, for a fancy lunch, and posts about it twice a year, that’s 1600 posts about someone else’s life looking better than yours may be on the day. That’s more than 4 Facebook posts reminding you that you are there in your slippers and a screaming kid, whilst they are jetting off to New York with their four and all of them seem happy. You then chat to them and they tell you it was the worst holidays they had and now they are looking for a break to recoup after the traumatic few days in the underage lockdown. It doesn’t get easier with age. It gets different. Children annoy you in more unexpected ways as they grow. They change us as people. Someone you chose to spend your entire life with may turn out to be less aptient than you think when shit hits the fan. When you have to spread yourself thinly to keep everyone else happy, they may be the last person on your list, because they assume they will understand. They may as well do, just choose not to put up with being number two.
The divorce numbers are creeping up. Not only due to the ease with which we can now obtain the “freedom documents” and the disposable and replaceable connection it brings. We get closeness from online relationships, the need to procreate is still there, but the energy is not. The purpose of tight, monogamous relationships is almost lost on us. And if the values and need for emotional and financial support still keeps us together, the remaining sanity vanishing like a mist will surely push the partner over the edge and justify the breakup. We get called crazy, needy, when all we wanted to do was.. well everything. Accomplish the acceptance of our mommy peers, excel at work and have a home that resembles a magazine spread. In between all this there is not enough of us being a human to each other, giving each other the time of day and caring for each other’s needs. Staying sane and keeping up the appearances of sanity takes its toll on the closest connections. When the glue dries out, the pieces fall apart.
Next time you see mother letting her kids paint on walls, dressing her children in cute, themed outfits, watching a brain numbing thing on TV, running with her kids into a water fountain in the middle of town, getting wet in 10 degrees, because it made them smile: give her a break. This little act of insanity may just be the thing that keeps her sane.