Friday, 20 June 2014

Home Alone

My 9 year old is not well. Sore throat, sniffles, flat. He’s the type of kid that will be outside kicking a ball from the moment he gets up until I yell at him to come inside yet yesterday he spent the whole day in his pyjamas in front of the tv.  Even with all that resting, he’s still not 100%, so he’s having another day off school today.

My youngest, however, is fine and so needs to go to school. We walk to school every day. We never drive because it’s only a block away and it’s not worth the drama of getting the kids in the car and finding a park and getting them out of the car etc. So I am faced with the dilemma of what to do with the sick one while I take the well one to school.

“I’ll just stay home, Mum” offers my ever logical first born.

It’s not the first time he’s offered this solution, by the way. He first began his “Home Alone” campaign when he was 7. Declaring that it was ridiculous that he shouldn’t be allowed to stay home on his own for short periods of time. In support of his argument he told me:

  1. I won’t answer the door
  2. I won’t answer the phone
  3. I know how to get myself a drink or something to eat
  4. I know how to go to the toilet
  5. I won’t go outside
  6. If there’s an emergency, I’ll call 000

All of which is incredibly sensible and reasonable and logical – just like him. However, all the logic in the world cannot sway a mother’s protective spirit and so his application was denied.

While I was preparing for my day in the shower this morning, I considered the logistics of walking Stefan to school while Nathan was sick and I thought about his well presented argument from 2 years ago. He has already proven to be responsible enough to walk home on his own from school and I can complete the entire drop-off trip in 15 minutes if I push it. And so it was decided. Nathan would stay home, by himself, for the first time in his life today.

When I was growing up, my single mum worked several jobs at once to make ends meet so my younger brother and I were often home alone. We had our own key to the house and had rules and also had chores. One of mine was to start dinner, every day, so that we could eat at a reasonable time once Mum got home from work. My job was to peel potatoes and cut chips. With a knife. But we survived that. We lived in a housing trust home which had little security, no gates and no real protection from the outside world. We left the front and back door open until we went to bed and most of the time we played on the actual street, where the cars drive, riding our bikes without helmets. We survived that too. It wasn’t the life my mum imagined for us and I am certainly not singing its praises but we were ok fending for ourselves and we weren’t the only ones. It was quite the norm in the 80s and in our neck of the woods.

When I left Nathan home today, I locked the front and back doors [which he could still open from the inside] reminded him of every rule and locked the front gate behind me. I was gone for less than 15 minutes and my heart was racing for the entire time.

When I walked back in the house, he hadn’t moved from his position in front of the tv watching the soccer.

“Hey Mum” he says without looking up, completely unaffected and unaware of how momentous those 15 minutes were.

And now my heart is racing for an entire different reason.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Dear Mother Guilt, it's not me - it's you

We've been together for a while now. 9 years, in fact. Most of the time we seem to be able to live alongside each other. Occasionally you're even helpful, keeping me in check and providing 'conscience' when I make a decision that I'm unsure about.
But let’s face it, you were trouble from the start. I just wish I’d listened to my friends who warned me about you. “Beware Mother Guilt!” they cried. “She’s a bitch and once you let her in, you won’t get rid of her.”But it was too late. You were already in. Lurking in the maternity ward in hospital we first met when my new son couldn’t latch on. Big and imposing you sat in that room with me day and night. And we’ve been inseparable ever since.
Lately though, there’s been murmurings in the ranks that you’re not so welcome and I have to say, that I agree.
Don’t ignore me. I know you’re there. I can hear you, dramatically sighing. You know the sigh I’m talking about. The one that’s laced with disdain. It’s one of your favourite expressions of disappointment. I know you’re there, and I suffer your judgment, just like mothers all around the world do.
I heard you yesterday. Tutt-tutting when I snapped at Stefan for interrupting me for the 17th time in ten minutes. I know he just wants some attention from me and there will come a time, very soon, that I will yearn for him to want my attention again. I KNOW. All mothers know these simple truths and we don’t need you giving us your 2 cents worth [which, by the way is not even in our currency anymore – just saying].
I hear you in articles I read written by mothers all over the world. Working mothers, stay at home mothers, single mothers, gay mothers, divorced mothers. You’ve got your little claws in all of them. Every day we wonder if we’re doing it ‘right’. If we could do ‘better’. If our children are ‘happy’. If we have ‘given’ enough.  Every day your voice is heard and every day a mother feels worse for hearing it. And we are tired of it.
No-one invited you to this party and everyone wants you to leave. Oh I know I’m only one voice but I speak on behalf of so many who have not yet found the strength to. And believe me when I say it takes strength to stand up to you.
You’re a bully MG, striking at us when we are at our weakest point. At the times when we most need reassurance and support, you’re there instead. Judging. Berating. Blaming. And the irony? It’s usually the best of us mums that give you the most airtime.
You stifle the love in our hearts. Every moment we spend indulging you, is a moment taken away from our wells of love. That’s not how it’s supposed to be and that’s why you’re not welcome here anymore MG.
It has to end. Today.
Oh, and by the way, we know all about your cult. They’re everywhere – The Mother Guilt Disciples. Disguised as well-meaning strangers and internet trolls and sometimes even our own family, they do your work when you’re not around. They’re not welcome here anymore either.
So we’re over MG. Don’t come visiting. I’m not going to let you in. I’m going to be kind to myself and I’m going to love my family, the way all good mums do. But most importantly, I’m going to believe them when they tell me
“You’re the best mum in the world”
Me x