I am currently sitting in my bed. Some of the best things happen in bed (like sleeping, having time away from my children watching mindless drivel, sometimes with a glass of wine).
What were you thinking I meant...? Naughty.
I'm sitting in bed because at the moment there is nowhere else to sit. The downstairs of our house is currently a building site. At the moment my kitchen is home to a plasterer; a rather burly man with a slightly troubled look on his face. I can hear the boom boom of his radio, and every now and then a little grunt which is probably followed by a fart but fortunately I'm too far away to be sure.
I like it up here. I have shut the door on the chaos and I am using this time to withdraw into myself for the day. My friend thinks that recently I have been hibernating. I seem to have developed an aversion to going out, particularly in the evenings, and love nothing more than my slippers, a cup of tea and complete silence. I hope Burly doesn't need me for anything.
Ben and I have been binge watching a series called Motherland. It's all kinds of wonderful:
A group of Mums (and a Dad) candidly embodying all the many characteristics of a parent. What we choose to show the world and what we keep just for our kids. What we have and what we fear we don't have. I find it far from relaxing as I recognise myself in each woman. The painfully funny way they demonstate the universal need we have as parents to do it right, to be loved ourselves, to be recognised and affirmed makes my insides recoil and I sit and laugh in a kind of hysterical 'I so do that, that is so me' way.
They even think of the tiny details - the stress-induced sweat patches, the mum who pushes her five year old in a buggy to save face and prevent a melt-down, the mum with walls in her house littered with inspirational quotes.
So much of our identity is wrapped up in who we are as mothers. The weight of the responsibilty can feel overwhelming. To raise children that are well-behaved, respectful and well-mannered. That know they are 100% loved with their needs always being met. That have an excellent imagination and capacity to play. That are kind and generous and thoughtful. That eat anything and everything and never complain. That are quiet when they need to be and able to self-regulate. That can talk openly and eloquently about their feelings. That spend no longer than half an hour a day on screens and some days don't even ask for them at all.
I always thought I'd be the kind of mum that would love doing role-play with my children. That wouldn't find it even remotely boring. That would enjoy daily walks to find conkers, pinecones and interesting leaves for collages. That would love to sit down for hours and chat to them about life and that would look forward to reading them their bedtime stories and take my time every evening to savour those cherished moments.
I'm a little bit different to the kind of mum I thought I would be.
And I think I'm so different because being a Mum can actually be really hard.
My boys are so much fun. My eldest is strong, determined and earnest. My middle boy is passionate, sensitive and caring. My youngest is single-minded, feisty and fun-loving. They are wonderful, and they are exhausting. They know how to show me love in abundance, and they know how to hurt me. They bring me so much joy and they drive me to tears of frustration. They are the people I think about as soon as I wake up, and they are the people I need to not see when I go to bed.
When they are hurting I feel physical pain.
My love for them is fierce and my heart without borders.
My boys are LOUD. They are physical. They are beautiful.
After my middle boy was born I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. At the time I was struggling with very debilitating health anxiety and not coping with anything beyond getting myself up and dressed and feeding him. We were living in a flat that permanently smelt of weed (because of our downstairs neighbour, not me. Although that probably would have helped). We were dealing with a neighbour who liked to go out all night and leave her dog alone. Judging by the frequency and tone of his barks, he clearly hated it. And to add insult to injury, we would regularly be awoken in the small hours by the sounds of bonking upstairs.
So with sounds of incessant howling coming from above and below it hardly needs saying I didn’t feel safe in my space.
I felt violated.
And as a result, the tiniest of diversions from the strict routine I had built around us sent me into a whirlwind of panic. (By the grace of God he was a dream baby and slept well, but on the rare occasions that he cried I felt like my insides might implode.)
Because for me, It has always been to do with capacity.
Living with anxiety as a Mum whilst running a home has meant that I only have a certain amount of capacity for anything else.
When you have anxiety and it gets dark you want to close your eyes and go to sleep.
When the noise levels rise around your head they fight with the sounds inside it.
The smells, colours and voices of others encircle around your whole being but nothing is able to penetrate because you are too full. So they collide, bounce, fall to the ground around you.
So sometimes, in order not to drop anything you have to just sit still, and allow yourself a safe space.
Whatever that is.