It’s not you, it’s me.
Wait, what am I saying? It’s definitely you. This is going to sound harsh, but seriously, everyone agrees. I just need to be honest with you, because it’s not working out. It never does, does it?
Every year it’s the same. I see you across the Christmas horizon and you make eyes at me. You send me articles about how this is going to be ‘my year’ and tell me about all the amazing things we could do together. We’ll join a gym, maybe I could go to that ballroom dancing class I’ve always wanted to try, or we could spend the weekends walking in the crisp winter sun.
I do try to remind you that this is a load of bullshit, and that every year we just end up in bed together. There’s nothing meaningful about what we have, and you know it. Duvets and leftover Christmas chocolate is our ‘Netflix and chill’. Well maybe ‘Netflix and duvets and leftover Christmas chocolate’ is our ‘Netflix and chill’; you and I do know how to plough through a box set.
Anyway, you’re insistent. ‘It’ll be different this time! You’ll keep your resolutions and I’ll drizzle less, I promise!’ You tell me take my Vitamin D tablets and it’ll be fine. Better than fine, this year we’ll be so good together.
But we’re not are we? I starts almost immediately, the back-tracking. “Oh we don’t have to start on New Year’s Day…” you say, “We’ll just finish that half a bottle of port and the chocolates from your Auntie Pauline.” Before I know it we’ve been together three weeks and all the good gym membership deals have expired. I think about going running but it’s so cold and so bloody dark!
And that’s another thing, every year you bang on about how you’re changing: “the days are getting longer now”. Are they, January, ARE THEY? Cos it doesn’t seem like it to me. What difference does it make to me if sunset is at 15:59 or 16:03? I’M IN THE FUCKING OFFICE ‘TIL FIVE THIRTY!
I’m sorry, I shouldn’t shout. But I’m sick of it. Especially this year, you’ve been worse than usual. You have! Five Mondays you’ve had this year, FIVE MONDAYS? What kind of fucked up shit is that? And there was all the sleet and hail and drizzle – Dry January my arse. I can’t take another day of this, it’s over…
Have I met someone else? What difference does it make?
Yes, you do know him, but it’s none of your business…
Look, it’s just a fling, you know he’s my rebound guy; 28 days and we’re done. Well, 29 sometimes, but I like that about him, he’s unpredictable. He brings me flowers too… snowdrops, crocuses, even the occasional daffodil if he gets his frosts under control. And for a day or two round the middle he’s dead romantic… well, yes that can be quite depressing but…
Look, January, I’m not saying other months are perfect, and God knows I’m not either. But the thing is, you make me feel like shit. And I try to make excuses for you, tell myself I build you up in my head and so of course I’m disappointed. But the thing is, you are the actual worst.
No, I don’t want to look back at the instagram pictures of those two nice sunny days. I just want it be over. I need to move on….
I’d like you to leave now please. I never want to see you again.
Well, okay, yeah, you can call me at Christmas, but I’m not promising anything…
1. Talking about mental health is a lot less awkward than talking about mental illness
Contrary to popular commentary, I think we’re getting okay about talking about ‘mental health’. Like, how we should talk about our feelings and listen to/make time for others, and all the things we can do to help keep ourselves mentally healthy, from exercise to mindfulness.
Everyone is comfortable so long as you talk about mental illness in the past tense.
— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) October 5, 2017
If you’re talking about something you’ve gotten over stoically or heroically it’s okay. It’s also okay if you’re talking about it in the abstract, or if you’re talking about ‘feeling down’ – we can cope with those things. It’s harder to say stuff like ‘everything is a struggle and I can’t see how it’ll get better’ or ‘I wake up every morning with an almost paralysing fear of the day head pressing down on me’. That’s still awkward, isn’t it. Even worse, admitting you take mood-regulating medication… erm… #NutterAlert*
2. Sometimes people get poorly
3. Sometimes it’s a one off
4. It can be a chronic illness
5. There’s a difference between thinking about suicide and being suicidal
6. Sometimes we need medicine
7. You don’t HAVE to get ‘off your meds’
8. People die of mental illness
Sometimes I time everything wrong.
Tonight I let my boy eat the chocolate someone at nursery gave him at 6pm, we pissed about in the garden til gone 7, I let him watch TV until almost 8 in the secret hope that he would fall asleep on the sofa and the evening would be mine. He did not fall asleep on the sofa.
Instead, he is a ball of angry toddler at the bottom of the stairs. He’s refusing to come up to the lovely bubbly bath I’ve run for him.
It’s got your favourite toys. I say. Let’s have a nice bath time. We can play dinosaurs.
My tone is getting pinched and I’m counting to 10 in my head. It’s not working.
With threats and coaxing I get him up the stairs. He is beside himself. He wants his daddy. He doesn’t want a bath. He wants me to put his pyjamas on without going to get them, which would mean ‘leaving him’. He is all exhaustion and melodrama.
I am hungry.
By the time we make it to his room he is curled up in a ball. Tonight he’s not playing any games. When I try to manoeuvre him from a crooked position on a rocking stool to the bed he screams like I’m about to administer some form of medieval torture.
I just can’t.
I wrestle his pull-up on and let him go back to his crumpled position on the chair. It’s a foot from his perfectly good bed. But I just can’t.
I tell him I going downstairs and will check on him soon, because I can feel that other me rising up. The one who snaps and yells at a tired three year old. The one I only show to the littlest, best person in my world.
And it’s there he falls asleep. In the chair. No bath, no stories, no songs. Not even the chocolate brushed off his teeth. I put him into his bed and lather cream on a few spots I’m supposed to have washed in the-bath-that-was-not. And I feel glad that at least I got him into his pull-up.
Tonight, this was the best I could do. Sometimes our best is just a bit shit…
Talk is cheap. Something I’m sure Theresa May is aware of as she continues to embark on her programme of saying nice-ish, sensible things whilst backing them up with fuck all.
Today it was all about the ‘shared society’ (very different from the ‘big society’, you understand) and reforming mental health services. Today she uttered the ground-breaking words that will, no doubt, go down in history:
“For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health.”
Well, thank God a political leader is finally talking about this… If only we’d had someone like Theresa May in a prominent cabinet position for the past six years… Oh wait… Continue reading
Being a mum… Bleurgh.
That’s right, I’m back bitches, and how better to burst back onto the blogging scene after three months in the wilderness than a good old honest post about how much parenting blows sometimes. (I agonised over whether to add the sometimes to the end of that sentence, right now I feel like it’s most times)
Approximately two and half years ago (!) I wrote a post called ‘Not enjoying it? That’s okay.’ It was all about how when you have a newborn loads of parents with older kids say crap like “cherish this time, it goes so fast” and you smile and nod in a way that implies that you’re finding ‘this time’ truly precious, whilst internally you’re screaming “I FUCKING HOPE IT GOES FAST! GET THIS CREATURE OFF MY BOOB AND LET ME SLEEP FFS!” Or something along those lines…
So that post was all about how it’s okay to not enjoy parenthood from the outset cos it’s bloody hard and you’re sleep deprived and all that. It was an attempt at reassuring those many millions of humans out there who think they should be feeling things they just aren’t feeling. Well, I’m here to tell you, my ‘Bubs’ just turned three years old and I’m still not enjoying it as much as I think I should be. True story.
Some context: Dear Reader, you know when you feel like you’ve got your shit together and life decides to give you a good hard throat punch? Without going into any detail (this ain’t that kind of blog) this year my particular throat punch has resulted in becoming unexpectedly single after ten years, and consequently becoming a single mum. Now, things aren’t that bad; we share childcare fairly evenly and in many ways I’m happier than I’ve been in years. But still, FML. My life admin requirements have soared in recent months and, I’m not sure if it’s a direct correlation but enjoyment of parenthood has somewhat plateaued. #understatement
“I love my son… I’m a frickin’ lioness of a mother.”
Let’s get something straight from the start: I love my son. I love him fiercely. I’m a frickin’ lioness of a mother. And I like him, he’s a frickin’ joker. Sometimes we cuddle up on the sofa and watch a film and I’m all loved up. On the other hand, I like him a bit less when he comes up to me just as I’m trying to show the gas man how to read our electric metre and says, with a gleeful look in his eye, “I did a wee on the sofa”. But you know what I mean.
He’s a great kid, I wouldn’t swap him for any other kid (except maybe my friends little girl who hoovers up after herself, that is the dream). But loving my son is a very different thing from enjoying doing all the shit that comes with parenthood and sometimes, more frequently in recent months, I just don’t enjoy it. I don’t, and I don’t care who knows.
Being a parent is hard. And doing it alone is hard. Even if you’re in a partnership you can feel like you’re being stretched too thin, like you’re fraying at the seams with all the different directions you have to push your mind in. Money, work, family, friends, children, children, children, children, children…
Recently the classic “I’m a bad mother” thoughts have begun to enter my head. Why? Because whilst I’m bathing, reading stories (and doing all the voices) and singing lullabies to my happy, healthy son I’m longing to be downstairs with a Pinot Grigio. Because occasionally I get so wound up that I raise my voice a bit too loud at an unnecessary moment. Because, basically I am a human with flaws that I sometimes let my child see.
Big. Fucking. Deal.
“Most of us are fumbling around, just doing our best not to completely fuck our kids up.”
The problem isn’t really any of that stuff; it’s my feelings about that stuff. I know that some people genuinely do love being a parent; it’s their vocation and for one reason or another they just take to it. But most of us are fumbling around, just doing our best not to completely fuck our kids up. We are loving them fiercely and trying hard but also occasionally wishing that this wasn’t our lives. Right? You can admit it, Dear Reader, this is a safe space.
Every now and then I have a momentary thought that I just want out. Out of this motherhood malarky. I can’t cope. I’m shit at it. Let me out!
The consequence of this split second thought is utter, corrosive guilt. It’s as if that very thought proves I am simply not qualified for parenthood. How could any loving parent think such thoughts? Am I the actual worst?
The answer, of course, is no. Those thoughts (and I think it’s safe to assume I’m not the only one who has them) aren’t directed at our children, but at our lives in general, at the relentlessness of it all and the fact that, in that moment, we really can’t deal with a small person shouting ‘I hate you’ in our faces. We just need some sleep. And some fun. Leave us alone!
“There is literally no thought that can make you a bad parent. None.”
The thing – as this is a big one so listen up – there is literally no thought that can make you a bad parent. None.
It’s very hard to define what a ‘good parent’ is, but we could all list the traits of an objectively bad one: neglectful, demeaning, abusive. We are not those parents. We are simply not.
Because, whilst you may be thinking “someone get me the fuck out of here I can’t watch another fucking episode of In the fucking Night Garden” you are also making your child something to eat, playing whatever strange game is the order of the day and, yes, letting them watch CBeebies for a bit so you can clean up their mess/check your email/drink a cup of tea. You are making sure there is enough money so they can eat and be clothed and have stuff. You are probably doing a thousand things besides this, with very little credit for any of it. Women, especially I think, are just expected to do all this, you not gonna get a medal for motherhood, though it’s the hardest, longest serving job you’ll ever have. And on top of that, there’s some weird unspoken thing that requires you to ‘love every minute of it’.
“The real wonder is that we enjoy it at all!”
When you think about it in that way, the real wonder is that we enjoy it at all! These small people are unfathomable and unreasonable in the extreme, but we love them fiercely. And they make us laugh. And sometimes it’s really really nice. Like, the nicest thing ever. In the whole world. But sometimes the nice moments seem rarer and the tense clock-watching-til-bedtime moments feels much more dominant. We’re tired and often lonely and we can’t love every minute, or even most minutes, however much we love our kids.
Well, all I can say is, that’s okay. And it’s bloody normal!
Do you also not always feel completely in love with the whole parenting thing? Please share! The comment section is waiting for your outpouring of FMLs!
Oh dear. The news.
Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary and the Department for the Environment and Climate Change has been scrapped, but astoundingly that’s not even close to the worst thing that’s happened in the past few weeks. If it’s not the ugly, power-grabbing underbelly of British politics then it’s racist abuse and attacks on our streets. If it’s not that then it’s the deaths of more innocent young black people at the hands of the police in the USA, or misguided, tragic attempts at ‘retaliation’ that also spread mindless violence. Then there’s more atrocious violence in Nice on Friday and Turkey not long ago (oh and the coup that seems to be occurring as I write this), as well as the continual bombing-to-shit of Baghdad by ISIS and the uncomfortable truth that we seem to care a little bit less when it happens there than in Western Europe or the USA. Then there’s the Chilcot Report, and all its unheeded reminders of the dangers of the ‘West knows best’ attitudes of so many powerful people. It’s enough to make you think that the world is unequivocally bad to its very core. Bleurgh.
Back in December, shortly after the Paris attacks and the UK’s decision to join in the bombing of Syria, I wrote a sort of ‘reasons to be cheerful’ post listing some actual good news stories that had been lost amidst all the horror. I thought that we could do with another one of those right about now. So here they are, 6 more things that prove the work hasn’t completely gone to shit…
1. Tanzania and Gambia just voted to outlaw child marriage.
Unlike the UK and many parts of the USA, parental consent is no longer a factor that can weigh in and ‘approve’ of marriage at an earlier age (nor should it be!) – neither boys nor girls can marry before they’re 18. This will make it much easier for campaigners to save young girls from forced marriage, which can only be a good thing!
“If you want to know whether what I am saying is true or not, try it tomorrow and see…”
2. The United Reformed Church just voted to welcome same-sex couples to get married in their churches.
This is one of those things that simultaneously shouldn’t be news at all and is actually AMAZING news. Slowly the church is cottoning on that loving who you love is something to be celebrated and marginalising LGBT people is probs not what Jesus would do.
Talking of churches…
3. One church in Tottenham has turned itself into a shelter for men that even charities won’t help.
A few years ago, one random church in Tottenham decided to put its money where it’s mouth was, literally. After every service the congregation stack the chairs away and give the space back over to its main purpose; a shelter for 50 destitute men. Many of them also donate 10-20% of their income to keep the shelter running.
These men are some of the most troubled people in our communities, sometimes addicts and thieves, sometimes dangerous – many charities and government services won’t touch them. By some miracle of bravery the church provides a space for people most of us would be afraid to walk past on the street, and they see results. A recent study estimated that For every £1 invested in Highway House, £5-£8 is returned to society due reduced strain on public services. Boom.
4. The Eiffel Tower has new wind turbines, and they are beautiful!
Clever engineering types have installed wind turbines on the Eiffel Tower and they are powerful enough to power the whole first floor (restaurant and all that jazz). Very clever, and very beautiful. Somehow they’ve also managed to make them look good and not interfere with Form of the iconic structure, daaaarling. (This video isn’t the best but you get the idea)
5. This guy…
Responding all of the racist, xenophobic bullshit that followed the leave vote, one lovely man posted this note through his neighbour’s door…
6. These guys…
Okay, this video isn’t new, but since there will inevitably much prejudiced nonsense spoken about Muslims and Islam after the Nice attack (#YouAintNoMuslimBruv), if you haven’t already seen this you really should…
This is the British version, but check out YouTube for Dutch, German, Chicago versions and more. I defy you not to smile!
Well, that’s it, despite my FOURTEEN suggestions of satisfying, Archers appropriate deaths for Rob Titchener that didn’t a) traumatise Henry or b) turn Helen into a stabby attempted-murderer, they’ve done both. Bloody BOTH. Not only this, but in the aftermath there has been literally nothing hopeful, apart from the odd magical appearance of Anna Tregoran (#TFITregoran). We’re all counting on you Anna!
Nope, instead of a nice, humiliating, satisfying end to Titchynob (as he’s affectionately known on Twitter) we have a horrible, bloody mess. And, frankly, more questions than answers. So here they are, or a few of them anyway, for the purposes of my own catharsis and your reading pleasure: 13 questions we’re all asking about The Archers. Continue reading
Recently, it’s really struck me how we all (or at least those of us who spend too much time googling shit and carry around an abundance of middle class guilt) aspire to a certain kind of birth. Pain-relief free, in a birthing-pool and, ideally, at home. The natural way.
(Incidentally, this line of thinking partly started because of the whole Helen-home-birth storyline on the Archers, which has since paled into insignificance).
Before I go any further I should say – if you did give birth at home, then props to you. I ain’t no hater.
But I do feel like women who manage to do it all ‘naturally’ receive a particular, celebrated status. They are sometimes talked about in a way that I rarely hear women who had assisted births being described. “Such a hero”, “amaaazing” etc. And I don’t think that status serves anyone. Because, for one thing, it dictates how you should feel about your labour. At home with no pain-relief? You should feel good! In hospital with an epidural and some ‘assistance’. Bad. Obvs. Continue reading
Well, we all really hate Rob Titchener, don’t we? The Rob and Helen saga has hit somewhat of a nerve among those who are used to tuning in to Radio 4 for 15 minutes of conversations about curtains for the church hall and the reassuring sound of lowing cattle.
We’re all sensible, grown-up people (sort of), and really we want to see justice served. Rob should be exposed and held to account, preferably with a good helping of public humiliation thrown in. I’d like to see (hear) him shoved forcefully into the back of a police car by Harrison Burns during some sort of village green shindig, just so the whole of Ambridge can get a good view… and maybe throw a few pastured eggs while they’re at it. (my money’s on Rob for the hen house arson, by the way, for no other reason than him being a complete dick).
But we don’t want a trial on the Archers do we? It isn’t Brookside for goodness sake. No, we either want that all to happen in the background, and then for Helen to happily announce that “Rob’s got a 40-year combined sentence” (for fraud, coersive control, rape, sabotage, assault etc) in a few months time. Or… Well, we’d like him to die. Wouldn’t we? Continue reading