It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. This is a regular thing for me, always has been. Even before kids. My brain whirs and clicks and I just can’t relax. In a past life I spent these hours reading books, watching films, baking or out dancing in a club. Tonight I’m cleaning out the fridge. Times have changed.
It’s hard to put my finger on what’s keeping me up. It’s not just one thing. It never is.
Years ago, during a period of suffering very badly with anxiety, I did a course on mindfulness. It was a freebie, put on by some charity. My GP recommended it. It was bloody brilliant actually. I learnt lots of coping strategies, and that although I can’t control my thoughts I can control how I feel about them. It sounds so simple, but I was bogged down so badly that it felt like a huge revelation.
One thing that they told me that stayed with me was the full glass theory. That’s probably not its real name but it’s what I’ve called it. The little things aren’t so bad. One their own they can’t do much to bring me down. But I’ve only got so much room in my glass for water. Put too much in and it’ll overflow.
Although I always kind of thought I’d be a parent one day, this isn’t quite the circumstances I imagined. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m lucky. I know I’ve got everything most people dream of. I am grateful, honestly I am.
I just pictured it differently. I think we probably all do that.
Wales was never on my radar. There’s nothing wrong with Wales. I love it here now, and think of it as home in the way Bristol used to be. If everything fell apart and my family broke up now (oh how I hope that never happens) I would probably still stay around here. I miss my few close friends and of course my family so very much. But I’ve worked so so bloody hard on life here that I couldn’t just quit.
My two closest friends hooked up, got married, and had a baby before I met Trevor. I remember thinking that if I had a kid, we’d raise our kids together. They’d be close, like cousins. Of course they are still my closest friends and the people I love most dearly, and their kids are ace too, but I don’t live nearby and our kids are best buddies like I dreamed. My sister’s kids aren’t around my kids all the time like I pictured either. It isn’t what I hoped for, but it is ok.
It’s been almost 3 years since I made the move across the bridge now, and I’m still not over it. It’s still hard. At the best of times, parenting can be completely isolating. I can be quite socially awkward, and if I don’t click with new people pretty quickly I tend to feel anxious and then avoid them. It’s so hard trying hard to make conversation, and I think how hard I’m trying shows on my face. I come across as a bit weird then, and possibly a bit rude too. I can’t help it.
Despite that, I’ve chucked myself right into valleys life and have an excellent supportive network of other mum friends that have been life saving. I mean that quite literally. They may not keep me alive, but they are essential in me maintinaing any kind of life outside of our home.
I imagined myself as a working mother. I thought I’d maybe go part time at the nursery I worked at, and take my kids with me on work days. I couldn’t see myself as a stay at home mum at all. I am so rubbish at the whole maintaining a house thing. I’d be better off earning some cash and employing a cleaner. There’s not really any jobs here though, and definitely not ones where I could take my kids to work. I’d never earn enough working with children to afford childcare for both of my little ones. I’d work simply to hand the money over to a nursery or childminder and that seems so illogical. I’d do it for a great job, but not for just a job.
So I am a stay at home mum and, although I never doubted that it was hard for a second, it’s much much harder than I thought. It’s constant. It’s a 24 hours a day thing. Obviously it’d still be 24 hours a day if I had a paid job too, but spending 24 hours a day constantly with my children exhausts me. I literally can’t do anything without them. If I try to do housework at least one of them will cling to my ankle and cry until I stop. If I want to go out we go to the child friendly places because they are always with me. If I go to the loo they watch, if I take a shower they cry. I love them dearly but they are like little cheese graters, just grating away at my very being.
I’m not too ashamed to admit that I don’t always enjoy every minute.
I am only a human being after all. And a human being in near constant pain too. I still can’t get to the bottom of my aches and pains, and my doctor isn’t interested. I should move surgeries or get a second opinion but the very idea of it fills moth dread and makes me feel tired. I’m exhausted. So painfully run down and exhausted. The medications that work for me are starting to lose their power. I should up my dosage but they are making me gain weight so rapidly, and the weight gain is making me unhappy. I’d love to stop taking them all together, but the fear of migraines returning and having panic attacks in public makes me doubt that idea.
The guilt is a horrendous. I feel guilty every single day for almost every single thing I do. I can’t do a thing without worrying endlessly about how it’ll affect my kids, Trevor, my step kids. To make up for it I work hard on trying to make life all fun and games, but I just don’t seem to be able to win. I thought we were having a ball as a family, but apparently everybody was annoyed that we don’t relax around the house enough. So I try to make the house nicer for us to be in, and that causes fights too. I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.
In a few short weeks Astrid turns one. I don’t have a tiny baby anymore. My days of being a parent to two under two are long gone, and I’m running out of excuses not to sort my life out.
I feel so pathetic.
Writing all of this down makes it feel even sillier, but it also gets it out. I can’t talk. I can’t talk to anybody. The people surrounding me don’t understand, and the people who do understand have their own things to worry about. I can’t offload without feeling guilty, so the writing is essential. I don’t worry that nobody reads it. It doesn’t matter.
I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. I know it’s all quite normal stuff really. It helps to know that I’m not a weirdo, even though I regularly feel like one.
I’m so many ways, for so many people, 2016 has been awful. I’m trying to have hope for 2017 but it’s so hard to imagine it being all sunshine and rainbows. I’d settle for less guilt and more sleep.