I GOT EXCITED the other day about buying a new brand of washing powder. It’s called ‘Tropical Lily and Ylang Ylang’. It felt like quite a bold move on my part after two years of Fairy Non Bio. Sounded terribly exotic . A change is as good as a holiday they say. Variety is the spice of life and all that. So in the absence of a holiday, going wild in the detergent aisle is about as spicey as it gets these days.
I actually caught myself savouring the aroma in our laundry-come-living-room. Until I realised that I had turned into a housewife. And any minute now I was likely to break into the jingle from the Shake and Vac commercial. It was around the time of the washing powder watershed that I realised that part of me needs to go back to work. For my sanity as much as my bank balance. That being Mum is not enough.
I hate that part of me
But somehow I can’t help but hate that part of me. Who knows deep down that the kids are not enough. Who tries so hard to feel fulfilled. And satisfied. And happy at home. Day in. Day out. Week in. Week out. And fails.
That part of me who fears my brain may actually implode if I don’t put it to good use soon. And that the four walls may close in upon me. Who feels like a fraud when others remark how wonderful I am to stay at home. Because little do they know that a large part of me is only clawing at the walls to get out. I hate that part of me because she does not feel like a mother. Or whatever ideal I somehow have inside this thick head of mine of what a mother ‘should’ be.
I hate the part of me who doesn’t value what I do at home. Who stuck a post it on our fridge in January to remind me that ‘I am doing the most important job in the world and I am good at it’. Lest I forget. Which I do on a daily basis. Because a very large part of me does not believe it.
The part me with letters after her name and an ego to massage. The part of me that feels inadequate every Monday morning and relieved every Friday morning that I am back in AdultLand. Who cringes every time an enquiry is made that ‘I haven’t gone back to work?’. Who believes that I have relegated myself beyond the slow lane of my career, and well and truly into the hard shoulder. Onto the scrapheap of fellow failed female professionals who felt that they simply Couldn’t Do Both.
Mummy is bored
I hate the part of me that fears my brain will become like so many other parts of me have since having kids. Floppy. Weak. Underutilised. Who explores a million different ideas in her head whilst pushing a buggy. Or a swing. Or a supermarket trolly. And isn’t ‘present’ with her kids. But miles away on some unrelated topic. Because Mummy is bored. And screaming for stimulation. No matter how hard she tries to muster an enthusiasm which oftentimes just really isn’t there.
I hate that part of me because my babies aren’t bored. They adore me unconditionally. Think that mummy is the best company in the world. Love nothing more than my undivided attention on the rare occasions I can manage it. And in return I’m about to trade them. For a commute and a pay cheque.
I hate that part of me because she feels so ungrateful. And selfish. For wanting to have it all. And for leaving her kids behind in the process. I feel ashamed of her. The part of me that hasn’t the energy to raise the kids I chose to bring into this world. Because 24/7 with them is Just Too Hard.
The other voice
I have another voice inside my head which is screaming at me that my kids deserve someone who values their company more than their own mother does. That they won’t be young for long, and that I shouldn’t need to dilute their company because, in many ways, it is the best in the world.
My own mother returned to work in 1970 when my eldest sister was five. Surprised my dad upon his return home from a jolly abroad with the announcement that the girls had both had the chicken pox and that, oh yes, by the way, she’d gone out and found herself a job. To this day, I would love to have seen his face.
Strangely, this fact makes me feel both better and worse about my own predicament. Better, because I am following in the footsteps of a woman whom I greatly admire. Worse, because my earliest memory is of standing at our front door banging on the glass pane as she left of a morning. And yet now, 30 years later, I replicate my own mother’s choices. And part of me hates me for it.
And yet I know I have to learn to accept her. This post-feminist part of me which has always been taught that ‘The sky’s the limit girl. Kids or no kids’. Even if I don’t like her.
Because I am a mother. And I am individual. And I can be both. Apparently. Or the very least, I owe it to myself to try.
Claire Micks is the mother of a (reasonably behaved) three-year-old girl and an (entirely spoiled) 15-month-old boy. She survives by day and writes by night. Croaks rather than tweets, but despite that somehow manages to get her ramblings published on occasion.