The cliche about life being a roller coaster could not be more true for me this year. One week I am black as black in my head, crying whilst reading bedtime stories to my boys, laying awake at night sleepless, imagining running away forever, even imagining what it would feel like to scratch myself up (at the darkest moments). The next week, that would be this week, I am seriously considering nominating myself for mother of the year (Delusions of grandeur see? Bipolar Disorder! See Mental Illness and Parenting). I can’t explain it, maybe it is that cycle of life stuff, hopefully nothing more sinister.
This week I have handled all tantrums with a) humour, b) tactical ignoring or c) mindfulness. I parented like a BOSS. I didn’t shout once. I didn’t worry about them not eating. I didn’t worry about mess. I feel like that elusive kind of mother I keep trying to be. I’ve touched, stroked, patted, snuggled and cuddled as often as I could. I’ve made a real effort to be there, when I am there. My husband and I took a night, turned off the TV, lay on the couch and just talked for a couple of hours. It was truly refreshing. My rejuvenation may also have had something to do with the fact that I did actually escape for two nights to Sydney with a girlfriend last week. We shopped, drank wine, talked and generally just enjoyed going out with one small handbag and no kids.
I also started working full time this term. That’s up from 4 days per week all of this year. Of course this brings up the mother guilt that we females often have to deal with but males never seem to. It’s not ever really considered whether my husband should or should not work, but for some reason there is always a question as to whether I should. My husband is encouraging and proud of my work, but he did admit that there was a part of him that wanted me to want to stay at home more. He gives and takes as much as I do when it comes to getting kids ready and to and from day care during the working week. In every respect we are equal partners in chaos. But that question always comes up, possibly more in my mind than his even. People very frequently say to me that they don’t know how I do it, that is, work and raise twins plus one. My response is usually that I couldn’t (do it) if I didn’t work. I worry every single day and half the hours of the day that my kids need me and I am not there. I worry about the number of hours I am way from them in the day. I worry that I’ll regret working. Of course I worry.
At almost 40, I know myself very well. I know what I need to keep my life balanced and I know when it is tipping off in one direction. Work is an important part of my mental health. It gives me so much satisfaction, I can’t imagine not doing it. Getting away is also so important. Giving ourselves those little treats and refusing to entertain guilty thoughts such as I am putting my own needs before those of my kids. Well of course. What my kids need first and foremost, is a stable base. That means firstly, that their mother and father are healthy and whole individuals. Secondly it means that their mother and father are a secure unit together. If those two things are on shaky ground, then everything’s on shaky ground. Taking time to put myself first, taking time to put my relationship with my husband first has a very direct benefit to my kids.