I can see why so many mothers write blogs. It is keeping in touch with yourself and making contact with others in one elegant package. Both these things can be a challenge when you are absorbed in the task of raising a family. Blogging is a way of sorting through all the disparate threads of half finished thought that accumulate in a typical day. I can remind myself that I make something which feels whole, rather than the piecemeal making do which comes from spreading yourself thinly across the needs of three little ones and holding up your end of a marriage (common-law or otherwise).
I often find myself composing letters to people which never get written…
Dear friends and family,
You may have noticed that I have not been keeping in touch all that well, these last six months. You may feel unloved, unconsidered. I assure you that it is not you, it is me. I have never worked so hard, got such little sleep, or been so often undone by life around me. I have never loved so much, but also not been needed so much. It is a wonderful feeling to have brought these small people into the world and to have the task of raising them. I love being their mother and spending time with them. So it is difficult sometimes to reconcile with this, the thought that it can be so damn hard. I do not want to be a person who only talks of coping with their children. It is more a case of figuring out how to work together with them and spend our time in a way that means no one feels their needs totally sidelined. The transition to becoming a family of five has been the biggest leap in some ways, bigger than the jump from two to three or three to four, because it is not so easy to meet the needs of five people at once compared to two, three, or four. Add to this the attention needed for houses, cars, work, tax returns and other admin, and the pressure mounts a bit more.
On good days I am finding my feet, and on bad ones they are buried under a pile of dirty dishes, adorned with dressing up clothes, or covered in nappies. I always love to catch up with you all though and I think of you often.
Dear Mother Bloggers,
I understand why there are so many blog posts that talk about being overwhelmed on a daily basis, and I think it may have to do with expectations surrounding parenting. Jennifer Senior talked about this recently, saying that there is so much emotional capital invested in our children that standards for looking after them are placed incredibly high.
The internet, and books (remember them), provide amazing resources for connecting with others and sharing ideas. You can learn about whatever floats your boat: child behaviour and development research, communication skills, nutrition, mindfulness, upcycling or unschooling. The downside of this is that rarely a day passes where I don’t see an article titled something like ’11 Things You Didn’t Know You Were Doing Wrong For Your Children.’ Parents are invited to rethink every social norm and belief that they took on in their prior lifetime and to reshape their approach to raising their kids. For every article which promotes one way of doing things, there will be one which admonishes it. You have to develop a robust sense of priority and devil-may-careness to focus on what really matters in your situation and discard the rest. The more intense and lonely your parenting situation is, the more you have to discard what you do not have time or energy for. I try hard not to feel guilty about this.
I wonder too if there is a tendency for parents, perhaps most especially mothers, to ignore the warning signs that they need to slow down and take a breath. Sometimes you want to look after everyone and everything else, yet cannot find the voice to say ‘I need X. I cannot do Y.’ For some of us it may be easier to write it down. Hence, the anxiety ridden missives from the blogosphere. It can be hard to recognise when you have a need that cannot go unanswered, still harder to answer it. I am writing this now because I broke out into big gulping sobs in front of my husband, thus bringing the matter to light that I wanted a few minutes ALONE. I wanted it like plants want light and water. I wanted it with my whole mind and body. Here I am. Mother bloggers, I feel your pain. There seems to be various things we can do about it though:
- articulate what our needs are to ourselves and other people,
- discard prescriptive rules in favour of simpler guidelines like ‘do activities other than TV’, ‘get outside’, ‘keep healthy food in the house’, ‘listen to each other’,
- get better at saying ‘Fuck it. I’m doing a great job.’
- keep blogging
So mother bloggers, I think we’ll be ok. Sending you all a big hug of support,
I could go on, but now I feel a cathartic wave of peace has come over me. What a marvellous thing writing is and how much it helps to sort your head out. Husband is in the garden playing with the big kids and baby Evie is asleep. Time for that G and T. Bugger, it’s not yet noon and I will have to breastfeed soon. Well perhaps a cup of T. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me.