Monday 31 October 2016

The unseen things.

This week:
I will be taking my youngest to nursery without a fancy dress costume.
I won't get into work until 11am.
I will turn up to meet an acquaintance, wearing no make-up.
I won't make any cakes for my son's bring and buy sale.
I won't have tidied up when my neighbour knocks on the door.
I will turn down a night out again because I can't be bothered to make an effort.
I will get caught screaming at my children in the street.
I won't reply to a close friend.
I won't write a blog post.

I know what you're thinking, I'm really letting myself go. How could I be so uncaring and inconsiderate? So lacking in professionalism and pride? Surely it's not hard to bake a few cakes or just slap a bit of lippy on. Make an effort. Pull yourself together. But these are what people focus on - the seen things. They do not perceive the unseen things. And of course, these are not self fulfilled prophecies – this is a list to my past self of the things that have happened since, but it could well be most weeks. This is not a downward spiral, or forgetting to look at the roses in amongst it all. It is a story of an upward struggle – one that cuts through the crap of appearances – the good, the bad, and those covered in weetabix and snot stains. 

This week I will be taking my youngest to nursery without a fancy dress costume. He will, quite possibly, be the only one. The nursery staff will ask if I forgot and I will likely say yes in a sheepish manor in order to avoid a long winded story. I will likely look like the mother that pays no attention to her children, like the time I didn't do the arts and crafts homework with him because I had no pipe cleaners in my cupboards (like, what kind of mother am I?!). The truth is that I spent two hours looking for an outfit and couldn't find one his exact size. I thought about the way he doesn't like things on his face and what he would find itchy or uncomfortable or just down-right scary. I attempted to make something; something we could create together before he ran off and had a melt down because he wanted to draw cats instead. I figured that he's not even two years old and wouldn't understand why I was trying to attach plastic bat wings to his back or plaster his face in green paint. I will opt out. I will opt out because I care more about him than I do about what others think of me. At least I think that's the reason. Or maybe it's because I'm too exhausted and he won't notice the difference. So we sat and drew cats.

I won't get into work until 11am on Monday. I work for myself so I can do stuff like that. The other workers in my building see me coming in late and going home early. Sometimes I do not turn up at all. I will look unprofessional. Someone will joke about me being a slacker and I will laugh apologetically. They do not know I have children to drop off and pick up or look after on sick days. They do not know I often work into the night, once my children have gone to bed, getting through deadlines. It's not on anyone's radar that I've been up since 6:30am, battling tantrums, cleaning up rejected cereal and forcing socks on feet and toothbrushes in little mouths. They do not know how defeated I sometimes feel before I've even ushered my children out of the door. No one looks at me and sees my passion; no one is aware of how dedicated I am, or that I want my children to grow up with a good work ethic, with passions of their own too. They do not know that this is not a part time job for me; that this is not a hobby. They do not know how hard I work. And why should they care?

I will turn up to meet an acquaintance, with no make-up on. I won't have had time to get changed or wash my hair in-between getting my children bathed and rushing out the door. My keep-fit routine consists of me solely weight lifting my two year old up whenever he tries to eat dirt, and my muffin top will likely pertrude out of my jeans more prominently than any of the cakes in the cafe I meet her in. She hasn't seen me in a while. Perhaps she will think I have let myself go – that I do not care about my appearance or that I have a bad attitude to life. I will say I don't have much time and she will suggest combining exercise with my daily routine. I will say I am really tired and she will say exercise will cure me. Not sleep. Not catching up on the 3360 hours of sleep I've missed out on since having children, but pushing a buggy up the hill in my Nikes. She does not know I was up playing musical statues before she'd even opened her super soft, bagless eyelids. She does not know how tired I am.

I won't make any cakes for my son's bring and buy sale. I will ask if I can buy some and I will get funny looks. They perhaps think I'm lazy or inconsiderate. They do not know that I always listen to my son read every evening or that I help him with his homework. They do not know that I added all the ingredients to the shopping list and planned a nice baking activity with him, but then forgot the sugar because I was stopping my other son from smashing all the free range eggs over unsuspecting passers by. They do not know that I nearly contemplated going back to the shops once my husband was home in order to bake some later that evening, but by that time my children were in bed and I had a deadline to work on and I knew I was only considering the seen things again.

I won't have tidied up when my neighbour knocks on the door to collect their parcel. I keep wishing someone would call in at 10pm because that's when my house looks tidy, after everyone else has gone to bed and I've cleaned up all the toys and the plates and the clothes thrown on the bathroom floor. Admittedly, it's a limited window of opportunity, because by 7am it will look like a rubbish dump again and I won't have time to clean it if I want to get into work by some half respectable time. And if it's half I'm onto a winner. 

I will turn down a night out again because I can't be bothered to make an effort. I literally can't be bothered to go. Like, how rude and lazy. I have been so exhausted that the thought of socialising with people and mingling with complete strangers (who make no allowances for muffin tops and tired eyes) makes me want to sleep for a million years. They will greet me with the usual 'you look tired.' They do not know that missing another few hours of sleep makes the following few days the equivalent of running a marathon backwards with trainers made of pinecones and two tonnes of Duplo strapped to my back. In fact, who am I kidding, that's what it feels like already. Besides, I have nothing to wear – I haven't been to a mall in about two years and all my going out clothes make me look like I'm from a 1980s episode of Neighbours. 

I will get caught screaming at my children in the street. I'm that mother that loses the plot – that doesn't know how to show her children respect whilst exerting authority, or know how to at least demonstrate calm and collected behaviour. They don't know that I was calm and collected when my two year old chucked his breakfast cereal all over my clean top. They don't know that I was calm and collected when my five year old peed all over the bathroom floor just as we were about to leave. They don't know that I was calm and collected when my two year old found the rice and proceeded to spread it all over the kitchen floor. They don't know how well I handled it, or how calmly I told them to put their socks on for the sixth time. But then I will lose it, right there in that public place. And on my head be it.

I won't reply to a close friend. She knows I've seen the message and I still haven't replied. She probably thinks I'm a shit friend because I just had time to post a status about losing it in the street with my children, but I didn't have the time to find out how she is. The truth is that I care too much to reply to her in my tired state – I want to give a decent reply, to be able to read about how she is and really focus without distraction. I want her to know I think about her often and care about how she's doing, but that sounds weird all on it's own without a 'how are you?' or 'how's the work going?' or with another long awaited response to her reply. 

I won't write a blog post.
But hey, I did. This is it. I almost didn't. People ask why I'm not writing regularly when it's been so helpful to so many people. Instead, I'm blogging about things connected to my career and scheduling social media posts to market myself and my work. I'm pouring all my efforts into other paid passions, making sure I'm earning a living so we can afford fish fingers and Pokemon magazines. I'm doing it to invest in something that makes me feel sane; something that makes me feel alive. I no longer feel the need to debate breast or bottle, or justify pain relief. I'm done with my identity being solely wrapped up in motherhood. I am so much more, fighting for my right to be treated as an equal to my childless equivalent. Is that possible?

This week someone will joke about me being a part-timer.
This week someone will question whether my children are happy while I'm at work.
This week I will wonder whether I can be taken seriously in anything anymore.
This week I will be told that women who want careers should't have children.
This week I will question whether it's acceptable to invest in my own interests and passions.
This week I will get told I'm boring for picking up my kids over going out for drinks.
This week one of the school mums will insinuate that I'm a diva for not bringing cakes.
This week I will make my children laugh.
This week I will pass my husband on the stairs and we will embrace for a second, mid chaos.

Can I be respected in my profession when I have to leave work before 5pm? Can I still be good fun when I can't go out drinking every week? Can I be classed as a good citizen when the only people I have capacity for are those closest to me? Can I be classed as a good mother when I don't always bake buns or make fancy dress costumes? Am I allowed to say I find things hard when this has been my life choice? Am I allowed to ask for a leg up when I'm told I just need to work harder? 

Are the unseen things enough? 

Am I enough?