I cried this morning. After the school run. Shut the door, sat down on the sofa and cried. And I’ll be honest, it wasn’t because I missed the little darlings so much. Not even slightly.
We’ve been butting heads a lot lately. Especially the last few days. And it’s tipping me right over the edge.
It’s been a super tricky week. And yes, I’m well aware it’s only Tuesday. I’m basically drowning in pre-menstrual hormones, and fighting off a beast of a throat infection, which makes sleeping really awkward. And we all know what I’m like when I’m tired.
All of this whilst dealing with an Elvie who is supercharged and almost entirely hyperactive due to a renewed hatred of bedtime, actually going to sleep and anything associated with night time, routine, or reasonable behaviour in general. And Joel who, whilst being utterly delicious, is also terrifyingly easily led.
Safe to say I’ve had better mornings.
I cried for them today. A little. For the mean old mother they’d had to deal with. For how angry I’d got. For how confusing it must be.
But mostly, I cried for me. And for the final, knockout blow of realisation that actually, I am a much better mother to my children when I don’t see them all the time.
Don’t panic. I’m not planning on sending them to boarding school. Yet. Seriously, that stuff is expensive. It’s just that this last couple of weeks I’ve had a taste of it. Of being my own person occasionally. Of having something to say. And people who listen. And I’ve loved it.
In the not-quite-month since the book came out, I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve been put up in a nice hotel, ferried around by taxis, treated to breakfast in private West-End dining rooms and met more than my fair share of national treasures. Oh, and there was that morning that I got interviewed live on the telly.
I’ve loved every minute of it. Even the one where, after one glass of red wine I completely stacked it and the hotel waiter had to physically catch me so that I didn’t end up on the floor. And the one where I realised that my skirt felt so loose because it had, in fact, come completely undone and was slowly working its way down my legs. And so I had to adjust it. ‘Discreetly’. In the middle of a packed-full tube station. I am absolutely not the classiest bird.
I’ve loved finding out how tv studios work. Recording voiceover. Being on the radio. Hiding up against a wall on the South Bank to try and give a half-decent interview without the background noise of every primary school in London. who had come out for a field trip in the sunshine.
There have been moments that were awkward, admittedly. And difficult. Absolutely. Racing home to try and be back in time for a childcare changeover. Trying to learn how to deal with interviews; where you open your entire heart to a complete stranger who talks to you for ten minutes and then just says goodbye and leaves. Not sleeping. For about a week. Out of sheer, Lorraine-Kelly-related nerves.
But, in spite of that, I’ve loved it. If I’m honest, I’ve dreamed of this forever. The writing, and the speaking. The having-something-to-say and the being-listened-to. The feeling of being valued for something. By myself. Without the constant background noise of whinging, and demanding, and a barrage of dinosaur facts.
The amazing thing is, that every time I’ve gone out to ‘work’ over this last month, I’ve come home genuinely pleased to see the children. I’ve been delighted to see their little faces. To cuddle them. To hear their stories. And their dinosaur facts. I’ve wanted to do fun things with them. To make smores on the bonfire, or have our tentative, noisy, first stabiliser-free cycling lessons in the park. To make daisy chains in the sunshine.
It’s been fun. I like that version of myself. A lot. But now the dust has settled and, although the interview requests, and guest blog spots keep on coming, Wes is back at work. And I’m left juggling. Trying to be a stay-at-home mum, and keep the house clean, and entertain the kids, and cook the meals and keep everyone happy. Whilst keeping up the momentum for the book at the same time. Stuck in this awkward, massively unsatisfying middle-ground between working and homemaking. It’s pretty exhausting. Even if you’re not ill and hormonal.
I want to be a good mother. One who’s happy, and well-balanced, and up for some fun. One who knows who she is, and what she can be. One who encourages her children. And builds them up. And doesn’t end up sobbing on the sofa in the morning because she’s gotten so angry with them before it’s even 9am.
I’m only just beginning to realise that, in order to be that person, I probably need to get out of the house more. Regularly. To work. To earn some money. To be my own person. I’ve been an at-home mama for almost six years now and, as much as it pains me to admit it, I’m slowly beginning to realise that I just don’t think it’s for me.
Which is hard. Really hard. Because, in my wildest, most fanciful dreams, I’ve always seen myself as that person. That self-sacrificing, smiling, perfect at-home mother. I grew up with it. I certainly never thought I’d find it so difficult. I see friends who are clearly, entirely designed for mothering. Raising their children with such grace, and beauty. Even homeschooling, some of them. And it’s so horribly, desperately hard to look right into the centre of my soul and say that actually, I can’t do it. That I need something else. Something more.
I can’t help feeling like it speaks right to the heart of how we’re raised as women, that I’m finding this so gut-wrenchingly hard. That this sacred ideal of motherhood as the be-all and end-all is so deeply ingrained in my brain. That even stepping outside to find myself, in order to ultimately improve the quality of my children’s lives a hundred times over, feels like selfishness. And ego. And pride. That I would be sobbing, by myself, to realise that I just can’t stay at home forever. Not without losing my mind.
Enough tears. For now.
To quote Elvie, in a card she so sweetly made me last night when it was well over an hour past her bedtime, and I was weeping quietly downstairs because she just wouldn’t go to sleep, “There’s no point crying when there’s work to be done.” Thanks sweet girl. Now go to bed. Seriously.
Onwards. And upwards. Hopefully. To a world where I’m looking for a job, that fits around Wes’ schedule, and actually pays me some money. Of course, in an ideal world, I’d be writing. But I’m not sure how picky I can afford to be right now. And it’s pretty tough to find a writing job that comes with a pay-cheque.
It’s going to be an adjustment for all of us. A huge one. But I’m crossing my fingers that it will turn out to be the absolute best thing for all of us.
Feel free to cross yours too. We might just need it.