Slow Down

I watched a Youtube video on 15 minute dinners. Ways to cook dinner quick. Mad rush in the evenings to fit an entire life in. A life put on hold because of working during the daylight hours. Quick, quick, make dinner. Eat it. Hurry. So you can put the kids to bed. Or relax. Or do anything but cook and eat.

Some folks like to take their sweet time whilst cooking. Slowly chop and onion. Feel the satisfaction of a sharp knife sliding through the crisp layers. The gentle sizzle of cut onions in a pan. The creaminess of sauce coating spaghetti.

Why is it always a mad rush?

Where is intentionality in living?

Why does life feels like a horrible race?

Even when not racing?

I bought a really lovely book called ‘Slow Down’. It’s full of little stories. The story of a snail making silvery trails across the garden. The story of a bee collecting nectar from dahlias, and pollinating an entire garden as it buzzes about drinking from it’s straw-like tongue.

Gorgeous little illustrations.

My son and I pored over the book today.

He is ‘scared of the big snail’.

You see, we were collecting snails in the garden yesterday. Well, no. I was weeding a border and I kept pulling snails out with the weeds so I lined them up for my toddler to collect. The snails were small and green, and fit nicely in the palm of his hand. I pulled out a larger brown snail, and he gazed at it in wonder. I watched his eyes flit from his line of little green snails, to the big brown one. Light up. Make to go put it at the front of his little snail army… but just then the snail decided to peek out and see what was going on. Two tentacles for eyes grew out of the shell and my son threw the snail in horror.

‘Don’t like that one, mama. Put it away.’

‘Okay lil chap. I’ll put it away’

So I tucked it away in the weeds again.

That night he kept waking up and saying he was scared of the big snail.

And the next morning as I was leafing through my ‘Slow Down’ book, he noticed the page on the snail and he was fascinated by it. We looked over every inch of that page. Every illustration. The snails looked exactly like the big scary snail we found in the garden, so we talked about that too. We talked about how it leaves a trail, and how it comes out when it rains and hides away when it’s sunny.

We ‘slowed down’.

And I just thought that was meaningful in some way, but don’t quite know how yet. I feel like I want to slow down more often.

Slow down in the kitchen.

Wash the dishes and enjoy it, maybe. Allow little hands to help me hang out laundry. Make a fifteen minute dinner, but observe my pasta. Relish in the gentle simmer of a tomato sauce. Ladle some soup into a bowl. Nice and clean ceramic, smooth hot liquid. Brush hair softly. Feel the locks in my fingers.

Why rush the kids to bed.

Go upstairs slowly. Listen to my boy telling me stories. Even ones where he says he wants to squish all the woodlice. Listen. Breathe.

In Time

I am very fat these days but like to think I am a soft cushion for my babies. None of those waist training things. I am also in the stage of life where I have no time for what my generation like to call ‘self care’.

Now if I were from another era, I would be going to the salon weekly to do my hair. I would have a manicure and a pedicure, and leave my children with the nanny. Maybe. Or family. If they lived closer. I would spend time on my wardrobe and have a select number of outfits which complement my hair and handbags. And shoes.

I would have all the time in the world to figure out how to wash the clothes properly in the machine so they don’t lose their softness and don’t develop nasty little balls on them. Or feel stiff when they should be slinky.

I would figure out how to utilise vinegar and soda crystals to ensure my oven was sparking, my sink smelled fresh and my washing machine was a happy little Larry.

As it stands, I find myself in a constant state of disrepair. I look like I have been dragged through a bush by my toes. My hair is a mess, my feet are so embarrassingly rough, my hands look dry and rough and …. not feminine and soft. My fingertips are all peeling. My nails are jagged and weird. My laundry gets done but always comes out wrong, even though I research the right way to do things. Sometimes they get left in the machine overnight because I am too exhausted to remember to hang them out and my husband is…. a forgetful annoying person.

No sooner do I clean than things get messy again.

And daily

Daily..

DAILY…

I find myself musing on the precious thing we call time.

Time and hours.

If I spend time working out I have to then spend time showering. If I want to look good I have to spend time doing things to my hair and skin and selecting a nice outfit and making sure my eyebrows are trimmed and my feet aren’t rough. All that takes time. Hours.

I also have to have my babies in clean nappies, clean outfits, and have them have a good sense of hygiene. That means hair and teeth brushed, nails clipped, feet clean, socks on, and all that shabang.

iI have to educate them and talk to them and read to them and teach them good life hacks and how to be healthy members of society. I have to take them out and expose them to things and give them experiences.

They must also be fed and not packet food. Broths and vegetables and wholesome grains. THAT TAKES TIME. I can no longer shove any old thing in the oven. I do that sometimes but I do feel guilty because I KNOW what is good for their growth.

So what is a priority?

I also have work to do and research for a literature review. I have to put in hours after the kids are asleep, and the house also needs cleaning? Mopping? Dusting? Fridge cleaned? Oven cleaned?

You see what i mean?

You can’t have a spick and span house, a well-groomed good looking persona, healthy, happy, clean kids and a steady job and good education all in one go.

Lord knows I try every single goddamn day.

THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY.

So I end up wearing the same uniform daily. T shirt, shorts, slippers. Hair back in a bun. Time for perfume? Maybe. Always a sports bra. I end up prioritising dressing my kids over myself. Feeding them healthy foods over myself. Educating them and taking them to places. Drinking coffee and coffee and coffee. Strong and black and in a huge mug. Only hygiene is brushing teeth and MAYBE hair. Washing face. Quick shower after they sleep. No creams anymore. No makeup anymore. No nice shoes and cute dresses.

I wish I could look like those mums. YOU know those mums? With the nice outfits and matchy matchy with their little girls. But I really don’t know how they do it? I wake up groggy and feeling like I haven’t slept enough (spoiler alert: I have not). I have to sort the babies out and feed them asap because if I don’t… they suffer and show me. Can’t put mascara on while they wail at me for their porridge.

I don’t know why I write this.

It’s just a reflection I guess.

Just some thoughts I am having about time and what to do with it.

Like right now I could be at the gym right? It’s 8:45pm and my babies have gone to sleep.

But here I sit writing this.

Priorities, ey?

You’re Horrible

‘You’re horrible,’ he said to me, leaning back on the sofa. I sat hunched on the table, angrily tapping on my laptop keys, fury racing towards him like daggers from my side eyeing.

‘No, you are.’

‘I haven’t seen you all day and all you do is be mean to me.’

‘Well I have been taking care of two babies all day and was so looking forward to going to the gym for an hour, MY TIME, but you choose to come home half an hour before it closes!’

‘So?’

‘SO, I am left rushing there, banging out a poor workout, and rushing back.’

‘Ok, at least you worked out?’

‘NO.’

‘Mean.’

‘Not mean. I wanted to take my time, walk there all psyched to go. I wanted to lift my weights slowly and with focus. I wanted to do some stair stepping and sweat to some tunes. But all I got to do was race there, dash in, quickly rush through my weight lifting routine, and rush out.’

‘Hmmph.’

‘And the music had stopped, the gym guy was waiting by the door, tapping on his phone, keys jangling.’

‘…’

‘And I rushed out, raced across the car park in the pitch black, jumped in, locked the doors sharpish and looked into my backseat.’

‘Why the backseat?’

‘Well you know in one of the X-Files episodes where that creepy guy with honey eyes – the one who eats people’s livers every thirty years – anyway, that guy was in the backseat when Mulder gets in his car.’

‘O…. kay?’

‘And I watched that as a child and it so terrified me that every time I get into a car, I have to look into the backseat to make sure nobody is waiting there to pounce on me.’

‘Alright, weirdo.’

‘Anyway and then I rush home. And there is mess everywhere. I was with the kids all day, bathed them alone, put them to bed alone, and I was hoping you would at least clear up the dinner things and tidy up, but it’s a pigsty. Literally. There’s dried baby food on the table.’

‘I’ve been at work all day.’

‘So have I?’

‘What, you were at home!’

And folks, I took my laptop upstairs, and here I sit, steam shooting out my ears.

Is this for real?

What I Want

As each day passes,

I realise

With starker clarity

That I don’t have to feel lonely

Or adhere to people’s expectations of me.

I don’t have to cook fancy meals when family come to visit

Even when I don’t want to

I don’t have to pretend to feel stressed over the things my husband stresses about, to show solidarity.

I don’t have to smile when somebody insults me, to keep the family peace.

I don’t have to drive to visit my in-laws, just because they think I should.

I can get up with my kids and go anywhere and do anything.

I don’t have to feel like a failure for not meeting the expectations other people have of me.

I can

Just

Do

What

the

DICKENS

I

want.

So today, in the pouring rain, I am going to blast some tunes in the car, pop my kids in their waterproofs, and go to a woodland garden. We are going to get very wet. We will look at stones and jump in all the puddles. I will get the biggest coffee with the largest dollop of whipped cream, bank account be damned. Thighs be damned too.

It’s not a failure to not adhere to a routine.

Sweet, sad sixteen

Today I found an old diary from when I was sixteen years old. That was eleven years ago.

Colour leapt out at me from the crackly lined pages of the cheap poundland A5 book. Band names, song lyrics, addresses and phone numbers. Random phrases, supposedly ‘cool’ taglines, self-depreciating paragraphs… and underneath it all a desperate and futile attempt to make sense of who I was.

‘Oh to be sixteen again,’ I thought with a sigh. I thought of my six month old fat cherub and my two year old little terror with a heart of gold and my mundane days and my anxieties and my adult worries and my tedious conversations about paint and toddler beds and sippy-cups..

And life leapt out at me from those pages.

Hope and elation and soaring optimism. I thought there was a road ahead of me and I was giddy because I did not know where it lead and I was full of beans because I did not have a c section scar and loose skin from insane pregnancy weight gain…

I remember running running running as fast as I could down a deserted street in the pouring rain and feeling as though there were wings on my converse shoes. You know the ones? Converse All Star? They were the rage among my group of peers when I was sixteen. I flew down that road. I sailed and my mind was above the clouds and my heart was … safe and mine.

Ohhhhh to be sixteeeeen.

But then I thought more about that. I thought about the vulnerability, the depression, the uncertainty. I thought about being a misfit and uncomfortable in my own skin and feeling ugly and like a failure and having no purpose. I thought about thinking certain people were God’s gift and feeling the desperate need to be liked by anybody.. so desperate that I would sometimes do and say stupid stupid things.

Oh I sure am glad I am twenty seven and not sixteen. I am glad I am on the nerve wracking train that is new parenthood. I am glad I am rediscovering myself again and gaining a confidence I wouldn’t have dreamt I could have at sixteen!

Do you miss being sixteen?

Image Credit

27.06.2021

I think early motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. Every single day is a battle I am fighting alone. It is a vastly lonely place. Time stretches endlessly yet snaps away in an instant. It’s exhausting, exhaustive, filled with guilt, self hatred and overwhelming love.

I feel like there is a huge lump in my throat and I need to cry and cry and cry but it is not high enough to spill out of me in tears.

I know I know I know this will pass and I will look back on it wistfully and sadly and nostalgically and perhaps… perhaps with heartbreak? I know this time will go and I will pine and yearn and ache for my precious babies as they are now. Thieves of my heart. Apples of both my eyes. Their names are scarred on my soul forever and my back breaks for them every single day. I ball up fury and resentment and frustration and it explodes in hugs and kisses and squeezes and promises and the occasional yell.

I am alone. I am lonely. I have no family nearby and barely any friends in the same boat as me.

We are all busy busy busy and people tell us to enjoy every single moment and we try we do we try we try try try but there is only so much you can give when you have nothing left inside.

I am a hollow shell of who I used to be. I laugh shrilly now. Anxiety lives in all my pores and breathes under my arms and heaves like a pit in the loose folds of the extra skin that has stretched and stretched and stretched over my stomach. Housing my two babies. Rent free but I paid dearly for it. A price I am not willing to accept has left my bank yet.

I think about everything all day. Everything everything everything. Things I have to do and haven’t done. I am not being a wife or a woman or a partner or a daughter or a sister. I have no time to be and no help to be but I am facing the consequences of not being those things.

I am lost lost lost lost dark drowned.

They all say every day, they all say over and over again. They say: This is hard. They say: You are not alone. They say: You’re a great mama. They say: This shall pass.

So I write a note to myself and put it on the fridge, because I am always opening that fridge. I write it with an old felt tip pen that is washing itself out.

I write:

When you are feeling overwhelmed and angry, remember this is just a moment out of many. Make it count.

So when they are old, older, oldest. When they are older and I have space to breathe and space to miss them and space for my heart to yearn for their small little faces. So when they are old I can have less things to regret and more to cherish.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Tonight, I struggled to put my two year old to sleep. Oh he was such a cheeky monster. I was at the end of my tether. Feeling irritated. Touched out.

Like I was about to explode into a million pieces of piercing anger, all directed at his little baby face with those big eyes and those rosy cheeks.

But I did not do it. I breathed. I thought of the sunset. Gleaming through the room, burning through the curtains.

I lay there still as a statue. Still as stone. Dead.

He touched me on my arms and kissed my wrists and climbed all over me and chattered away. Counting things, talking about things we did that day, asking to kiss ‘mum-mum’ (what he calls his little sister) – who was soothing herself to sleep with her thumb in the crib next to me.

When he finally fell asleep it was 10:30pm and there was no time for anything.

I took myself to the shower which turned into a bath, because the plug found its way to the hole and the bath started filling up.

I saw an unopened face mask beside the bath, the paper ones that you peel and place on your face and let whatever serum they soak it in do your magic. It has holes for your eyes and nose and mouth. I thought, why not. Been wanting to do this for months. Catching sight of my reflection in the bath taps made me shudder. Horror movie things.

I lay back in my unplanned bath and just felt tired. Guilty. Defeated. Like a failure. I felt like I failed my child because I did not manage him adequately. We did not do much today.

My legs felt sore and I just did not feel anything emotional.

Just numbness.

Couldn’t stay in the bath too long so I hauled myself out and … here I sit.

I don’t know why I couldn’t stay long. I couldn’t relax. My mind feels like it’s teeming with thoughts but I simultaneously have nothing to do.

My babies are sleeping.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Tomorrow I will do better.

New Chapters

25th March 2021

I never sugarcoat things. I don’t think I ever have. If I am happy I am sunshine and if I am not I am a cloud. It could be a fluffy cloud but the shine is dimmed as it pushes through.

I guess we can all be like that.

When the health visitor asks me how I am finding motherhood now that I have two children I say, ‘Well, I find myself looking forward to brighter days.’

Enjoy this time, they all say. Relish the cuddles.

And I am.

But I am also feeling low and resentful.

And I know it is not because I am ungrateful.

It’s simply because I have some mild form of depression. And it manifests in resentment and a wistful recollection of the days before I carried and birthed my children.

My body is unrecognisable and I always see women say this and think ‘yeah, duh’ but

but…

But

But

BUT

When it actually happens to you, it’s like a punch in the gut.

HOLY shit. Look at that sag. I DON’T HAVE A BUTT ANYMORE.

And I spend my days covered in baby vomit and when I wear makeup I kiss my baby girl and there on her face is the faint glitter of my bronzer.

29th April 2021

I wrote the above a month ago and had to stop because my then 9 week old had woken up and began to cry. Dismally. And then life happened. But what a difference one month makes postpartum.

You can go from feeling overwhelmed and out of depth to feeling happy and hopeful and looking forward to the future in four short weeks.

I don’t know why I am publishing this post. All I did was complain!

But it was interesting to open it up one month later and read it with a very different mindset. I don’t feel like that anymore.

I don’t feel resentful! I was not in love with my new baby back then but now I am so completely in love with her that it hurts to breathe! I remembered I felt the same way with my first little boy. Took some time for those postpartum clouds to clear away and once they did, wow, the love exploded.

Those brighter days I yearned for have arrived. I still don’t get much sleep at night, I still have to feed round the clock and we are DROWNING in nappies because my 2.2 year old is still not potty trained. But I seem to have more energy and zest for life.

I am in a new chapter and it’s unlike any of the old chapters. There are turns in this road that I never would have anticipated. They feel like wistful turns, like I will look back at them sadly and knowingly in years to pass, and wish that I had lingered longer on their gnarled and wonderful corners.

That’s all I have to say really.

Anniversary

Yesterday was our seven year anniversary and we both forgot.

I don’t know what we were doing. It was a Monday so D was working. In his office. Slash second bedroom. Slash nursery.

I was downstairs with baby. Who is not a baby anymore. He was sliding his teddies down his little slide in the living room and I was sitting on the sofa trying to get work done. And getting interrupted, so really nothing was done. It’s ok, I told myself, as I got up for the millionth time to do something or other, I will work once he is in bed.

Then it was lunchtime. For baby. I gave him leftover pasta from the night before. And then hustled him upstairs for his nap. As he fell asleep, I did too. The exhaustion of being 8 months pregnant, working, caring for a toddler and doing the million other things people have to do just took over.

I woke up at 3pm, and baby was still sleeping, so I stumbled groggily and in a bad MOOD to the office slash nursery slash second bedroom where D was still working. I grumbled about not doing any work, dragging my laptop towards me. We started talking about things one talks about when they are parents and trying to make a life together.

And then five minutes later a small voice called from the other room, ‘Mamaaaa! Mamaaa!’

We laughed, because it’s the first time he has done that. I got up and went to him. He was sitting up on the bed, smiling at me.

D closed the office slash nursery slash second bedroom door, as he had a meeting.

I sat on the floor, feeling heavy and deflated. Baby ran around the bedroom making a mess and being joyful. He grabbed all his books from the windowsill and made a little hill out of them which he attempted to climb. Then he picked one out and spread it open on his little legs and began to read in gibberish. Some real words made their way in there too.

‘Ann done!’ he clapped for himself, slamming the book shut. All done.

My friend called. I debated whether to answer. I had to work, I had to cook dinner, I had to sort out the baby clothes, I had to clean the room.

I answered. We hadn’t talked in weeks, so it was a good catch up.

Then it was 6pm. The room was messy. I’d been playing with the little one. D finished his meeting and took over. I was still on the floor, feeling achey and tired.

I pulled myself together, got up. Went downstairs. Made cauliflower cheese and mashed potatoes, with a side of fish fingers. D and our little came down, tidied up downstairs. We had dinner. We cleaned up. Baby boy ran around. D played tag with him. Then he began running up and down the stairs, in the slow and stumbling way little toddlers do. Lots of chuckling ensued.

Then it was bedtime. Wash, brush, PJs, books. Left him with his dad, closed the door. Sat down to work. Baby boy crying for 15 minutes straight before I went in there. He was sitting on his dad’s chest, looking at me with tears in his eyes.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘He wants you,’ D said, looking drained.

Mama.’

Ok. It wasn’t my turn to put him to bed so I felt stressed out and irritable. NO WORK was done. That means an all nighter which, in my state, I am not equipped for.

‘Ok.’ I said. ‘Let’s switch.’

‘Are you sure?’ D asked.

‘We can’t have him sobbing himself into a state. He won’t sleep. Then we’re really screwed.’

I put him to bed. It took two hours. At 10pm I stumbled out again, and sat at my laptop. I tried to work until 2:45am. Not much got done. I felt groggy and achey.

At 3am I fell into bed. D was sleeping soundly.

At 7am the alarm went off. D got up in a rush to start a meeting.

At 8am he popped his head downstairs where I sat, trying to work while the little ate porridge around me.

‘Hey’, he said, ‘We were married seven years ago yesterday.’

‘Is that so.’ I said, absently.

‘Yeah. Have to run.’

Up he goes to another meeting. Tap tap tap I go on my laptop.

Crash, goes something in the kitchen. The little one is pulling saucepans out the cupboard.

I think I will let him.

To Document

I am just writing this here because I have had a Very Bad Day.

A

not

very

present

day.

A

Lost.In.My.Head.

DAY.

With lots of fog and tiredness and mounting worry and frustration.

Probably boils down to the fact that I am Very Exhausted and Really Struggling.

I spent the day alone with my son today as my husband had to work outside the home – usually he can work from home. See I think I take this man for granted, because today was horrific. I had no energy at all. I was trying so hard to get work done, and I did all the things I usually do to exhaust my boy, like going for a walk, painting, building things, making muffins, having a long bath with lots of pouring and splashing. Video calling Nana. In bed by 8pm.

He did not sleep until 11pm, folks.

He rolled around, pinched my arms, gave me cuddles and kisses, cried a little when I got frustrated and told him to GO TO SLEEP PLEASE. Eventually he fell asleep in my arms and I slowly heaved myself up and out into the light of the hallway and my goodness did I cry.

I felt really out of my depth and out of control. And I did not get any work done at all. With a deadline tomorrow this means no sleep for me tonight.

I also have other issues – health issues – that do NOT help the situation. For example I am

seven months pregnant.

So my fuse is short.

And my patience is thin.

My hips are locked, my pelvis is turned the wrong way and it’s bloody uncomfortable to sleep so sleep is not sufficient for rest. It’s actually funny if you really think about it. I have for sure laughed about it when I have had better days.

I am so done, folks.

And I frankly just want my mother around but she is a Very Busy Woman. You see she still has my other siblings at home and while two of them are adults and have jobs/lives of their own, the other two are still boys. Teenage boys. She also works full time and is currently undergoing lots of household changes.

It’s very difficult to acquire help in these times. And I know I am probably being pig headed about this but I refuse to travel two hours to stay with my in laws just so I can get ‘help’. To me it’s not help. To me it’s having my son babysat while I struggle with heart palpitations and walking on eggshells and crippling anxiety. I lived with them before and being pregnant, working full time and having a toddler will make it worse than it was. I would probably end up in deep depression like I did last time. They can stay over all they like although when they do it’s actually more work for me, but nobody sees it that way.

See if my mum stayed over I wouldn’t feel the need to get out of bed early and make her breakfast or cook full meals for everybody or appear in control. I would let her see me in my glorious half naked frizzed out state. I would feel comfortable. Not so with anybody else, and I suppose that’s mostly natural, people’s personalities differ. Their expectations differ.

Anyway.

I do not write to complain.

I write to release and document.

It’s a hard phase of life and one day I will look back and say, ‘Man, that was rather a hard time wasn’t it.’

Or maybe I will say, ‘Man, I wish I had it as easy as I did then!’

Lol. Who knows, eh?! And if you can’t laugh about it then you’ll jolly well cry and I am going to laugh about it.

Tomorrow. With my husband. Who I DO take for granted. And I will tell him so. He makes my life easier. So much easier. When he is gone it’s totally miserable.