You know that moment when you think something is hilarious and brave and full of truth and you share it with someone and they look at you like you might have lost your mind? Yes? That. I’ve had that this week.
All because of Tim Minchin.
I love him. Let’s get that on record. I love what he does with words. How surprising he makes them. The way his lyrics are always one step ahead of you. He’s possibly my favourite Australian. (Sorry Kylie.)
In December, Wes and I went to see Matilda in the West End. If you haven’t been, go. It’s outrageously good. The choreography, the set, the acting. And the lyrics. Oh, the lyrics.
We laughed out loud. We cried a little. We were first on our feet for what is surely the obligatory standing ovation.
And so, when a friend introduced me to another Minchin masterpiece, I was pretty sure that Wes would appreciate me sharing the genius. Turns out, not so much.
The song in question is ‘Lullaby’.
Before you listen to it, make sure that there are no children in earshot. Or wear headphones. Don’t play it if you struggle with a) strong language or b) brutal honesty. There’s plenty of both.
Parental advice over, feel free to Youtube it. Whilst you ponder when exactly Youtube became a verb.
Then let’s talk.
I’ve listened to it several times this week. Every time it creates an actual physical reaction inside me. The lyrics, those frenzied violins, the nervous laughter of the audience. His “seriously, I’m just telling the truth here people,” face.
When I played it to Wes, and to Elvie’s godfather, they both had the same reaction. Intake of breath, pursing of lips and the pronouncement that, in their opinion, it had crossed “some sort of line.”
For me, the song was like a kick in the guts. As though someone had seen inside the furthest reaches of my brain at the darkest points of the longest nights when exhaustion was at its peak and it was 3am and the morning was coming and the baby still wouldn’t sleep.
Like a kick in the guts and a huge exhale. All at once. Because finally there was an acknowledgement that, no matter how bad things got inside my head in the middle of the night, I was not the only one. Somebody understood.
I realise now how important that is.
To acknowledge that, away from the magazines and the Pinterest boards and the status updates, parenting is tough. Really, really tough. Sometimes you’re winning. And sometimes you’re crushed into the ground.
It’s so easy to feel that you’re the only one.
I remember lying awake through the night. Envying the parents whose babies were in special care, because at least they could sleep for more than an hour at a time. Sometimes, fleetingly, I would envision the need for hospitalisation – for me or the baby. And smile.
I remember walking the buggy down the road and contemplating briefly, fleetingly, what it would feel like to push it out in front of a bus. Walking downstairs, baby in arms, and pondering what would happen if I ‘fell’. Wondering how long it would take for someone to reunite us, if I just left the baby somewhere. How much sleep I could get in the meantime.
Sleep deprivation is a truly awful thing. So is depression. Worst of all is the way they make you feel. As though actually, it’s you that is truly awful. Horrible. Shameful. Monstrous. Unfit to be a mother.
Like nobody else understands. Like if you tried to tell them, they’d breathe in and purse their lips and tell you that you’d crossed “some sort of line.”
I’m willing to bet that most mothers, most parents, can identify with those feelings. I’m also willing to bet that it’s not in the top 3 conversation starters at your local toddler group. “So, you know those times when you feel utterly wretched and have terrible thoughts and know that you’re an awful mother? I do that too – turns out you’re normal. Fancy a custard cream?”
It’s not the easiest subject to broach. But it’s desperately important. To find people who understand. Who can share the darkest, hardest parts of parenthood. Not just the first steps and the swimming badges.
Without that, it’s all in your head. Going round and round. Getting bigger and bigger. Trust me, that’s bad news.
It’s a tough conversation to start. But, find the right people to have it with, and I promise you’ll feel like a whole new person.
In the meantime, let me tell you this:
One day, your children will sleep.
And so will you.
Things will get better. Maybe with medication. Maybe with therapy. Maybe with time, and tea, and lots of tissues. But they will.
You. Are. Not. The. Only. One.
At the very least there’s me, my friend and Tim Minchin. That’s worth a custard cream, for sure.