Friday, 14 March 2014

It's not like parking a car

Have you ever had this conversation with a fellow mum? The one in which she sighs and bemoans how little her husband (or partner, or boyfriend, or girlfriend, or wife, just use 'husband' to cover all eventualities for now) understands her daily life.

Perhaps he's asked her to do more housework, or is wondering what she does all day that means the house is a tip when he gets home, she's exhausted and there's laundry everywhere and dinner still needs cooking. If she's working, perhaps he can't understand why she's still sometimes overwhelmed by the nonstop juggle and endless balancing act 'when the kids are at nursery all day!'

Or maybe she just needs some time out, time to herself, and he can't really understand why. 'What about my time to myself!?' he might exclaim. 'I'm out there busting my guts at work all week and now you want me to spend all Saturday with the kids while you swan off shopping? When do I get my down-time? What about me?!'

Maybe she's finding it hard to make him understand her perspective and they've slid seamlessly into one of those awful competitive arguments about who has it harder and whose life is more difficult - tit for tat, her versus him, opposing one another instead of being kind.

And then have you ever opened your mouth and said the following: 'Next time he's at home, arrange to spend a day without the children. Go out for the day, have lunch, see friends, spend some time on you. Leave the children with him ALL DAY. He'll be on his knees by the time you get back - and he'll finally understand.'

But I'm still breastfeeding, she might protest.

'No problem,' you pipe up helpfully. 'Just express!'

But what if, she'll continue. And you'll continue to helpfully come up with solutions for her. What if he can't cope? Oh come on now. He's a grown man. What if the children miss me? Oh come on now. They can cope without you for a day! Nobody's THAT indispensable. You're being too controlling.

Yeah, me too, and I can only hold my hand up and say I was wrong, and I am sorry.

The best analogy I ever read about the endless work/life/childcare dilemma is that leaving your children is not like parking a car.

You don't just forget about them once they're in their allocated parking space.

They might not be with you physically but they're always there. They're inside of you, next to you, behind you, in front of you. You look for them constantly, think about them incessantly even when they are in the loving and capable care of, say, THEIR OWN FATHER.

Or a qualified and registered childcare surrounding.

Or their grandparents.

They're always with you.

It's not a choice. You can't snap yourself out of it, give yourself a stern lecture, remind yourself to enjoy the freedom you've probably missed. You can't apply logic to an emotional situation. And just because a situation is emotionally-led or can be explained by 'hormones', that does not mean it isn't real.

You can't undo the dramatic, physical, biological changes that becoming a mother creates.

To be a mother is to never be alone. Mothers are in a crowd in an empty room.

Leaving your children is not like parking a car.

1 comment:

  1. All of those things that imaginary husband is saying to that mother are things I say to myself! I'm rubbish at leaving too, partly because I am too controlling and don't let go enough but also because I'd just spend the whole time feeling like I've been halved and one half of me is at home. Obviously, I'll not be leaving Ophelia to go be on my own for a LONG time (though I do have to leave her for an hour's driving lesson this week!) but I imagine it'll be doubly hard to leave them both when the time comes. I only begrudgingly accepted Talitha needed to overnight at her grandparents' when I was giving birth!