The Black Dog is back

I’ve got that skin-crawling-uncomfortable-what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life feeling again. You know what I mean – or perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you’re perfectly happy with your life. Perhaps you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

Black dog

Or perhaps you do.

It has been a familiar companion of mine for years. Like … so long, I can’t remember the first time. It’s the claustraphobic feeling of being trapped and not knowing how to get out of it. It’s the bone-tiredness of not wanting to deal with the everyday drudge that is life. It is the dread of work the next day. Wanting to bury yourself in bed. Guilt that you’re playing the role of a person that is ‘perfectly fine’ but you’re really not. The wanting to not ‘be’.

I usually share these blog posts on Facebook because I know more people there than Twitter (no offence Twitter, but I really don’t get you) and honestly, if you didn’t Facebook it, did it really happen?

But I won’t be doing that with this one.

I don’t want my partner to see it. (Yeah, you guessed it. He’s not a Twitterer.) I feel ashamed of feeling this way. If I was to actually mouth these words out loud to him, I would feel so stupid and ungrateful and at a complete loss to explain why … just no.

He’s seen me in childbirth. I shall spare him this. Try to keep the romance from completely dying out.

Of course, my logical brain – the one that doesn’t get swayed by the huge behemoth that is emotions – knows, or at least suspects, that this is due to being in lockdown for 4 weeks.

And also spending the last 4 weeks averaging 9-10 hr days working from home on things that are slightly outside my comfort zone because of changes in circumstances (yeah-dohy), new opportunities and the desire to appear indispensible should the shizzle hit the fan for our company and hard decisions need to be made.

Ooh. That last point made me tear up. Must be the one I’m most worried about.

So yeah. Not a good place. I do strongly suspect I’m not the only one and this is indeed a traumatic experience that we are all working hard to make light of when in fact it has changed the way we work, play, view our world and plan for the future.

We had a family get-together planned for end of July. Two-thirds of my grown-up kids and my mum were coming over to spend a week in gorgeous Queenstown. We’d booked an AirBnB and paid the deposit and everything. Now we don’t know if they’ll be able to come over. Should NIH and the littlest princess and I still go down there and spend a week in a huge house, just the 3 of us? If the bans on international travel still exist, should we ask local friends if they’d like to join us? Should we see if we can get the booking postponed until another time?

These thoughts swirl around in my head. First world problems, to be sure. But damn, we’ve been planning this for a year! And we are not exactly flush with cash – it’s taken so long to gather the savings to pay for it. But I haven’t seen my grown up kids since last May. Nothing makes me feel the distance as much as now does.

And whilst I can neither confirm nor deny it, there may or may not be an impending addition to the family tree in mid-November. Will I be able to be there to support the arrival of this impending addition? It’s so hard to say – at the moment, we’re just hanging out for contactless takeaways to be reinstated.

So much emotion pressing down, it’s hard to breath at times (no covidesque pun there).

I feel like the proverbial rat in a trap, wanting to gnaw its own leg off to get out yet knowing that’s not an entirely wise course of action. Thoughts and prayers, right?


And prayers.

Massively Multiplayer Real-life Role-Playing Game

I’m struggling to align my mental image of myself with my new role as SAHM in this Massively Multiplayer Real-life Role-Playing Game called ‘Life’.  You may have heard of it – like World of Warcraft only without the healers to come and get you back in the game after you’ve accidentally set yourself on fire.

It’s nothing new. I’ve been here before and asked the same hard-hitting question:

“What the Sam Hill will I do with myself while the baby is sleeping that will make me feel clever and worthwhile and maintain the shreds of sanity I’m barely hanging onto … but doesn’t involve cooking, cleaning or craft?”

In the olden days of my first time around as SAHM,  I discovered study and I really do attribute it to keeping me from going completely ga-ga.  I started my Bachelor of Science (Library Technology) via Virtual Campus and of course, fell pregnant midway through my first semester. Never one to let a mere trifle as children stop me, I carried on for the next 10 years, cutting back to one unit a semester when life got complicated (i.e. had another baby) until I finished.

Once I’d completed that sucker, I was hooked and went on to do a few other courses and diplomas related to teaching, editing, proofreading and graphic design.

The only one I didn’t see through to the end was the teaching grad dip. One round of prac finished me. I had three kids at home already – did I really want a class full of them as well?

Looking back, I note that I started them all at a time where I was struggling with my identity and self-esteem. Some people drink and take drugs. I get my jollies from assignments. Drugs would probably be cheaper (just ask my accountant about my HECS debt)  but hey, my addiction fills out a CV really well and makes me look smart.

This SAHM do-over, I vowed to take a different path from the norm. I would get involved with mum’s groups and baby play-based education sessions. I would take the baby for long walks in the pram. Leave baby home with Dad occasionally and go out for Friday afternoon drinks with the girls.

I would not sign myself up for more study and would definitely not spend countless hours at the computer with the baby asleep (or waving its arms frantically in hopes of gaining my attention) in a bouncer at my feet.

If I were grading myself on how I’m doing so far, it would look like this:

“Welcome to Stay At Home Motherhood … again.

So far your efforts to get out and socialise are to be commended and you seem to be tracking well for achieving some semblance of regular adult conversation and interaction – even if it is baby-centric. Excellent work. Keep it up.

I see you’ve arranged to get together with former work mates this week. Please remember that whilst your world revolves around your baby’s bowel motions and cute smile that may or may not be related to said bowel motions, not everyone will want to hear about it.

A simple “Baby is still alive. Husband and I still talk to each other with words of more than one syllable. I am a little tired but all is good” will suffice.  Try engaging interest with topics other than your baby such as world politics, the state of Kim and Kanye’s marriage woes or, if desperate, the weather.

However … I see you’re getting into the blogging again and I wonder if this is a wise choice?  That baby is only going to take vigorous bouncing at your feet for so long before she really jacks up. Please arrange an appointment to see me about this before it goes much further.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone is waving their arms at me frantically …

Today is where your book begins …

today isThere’s a great song by Natasha Bedingfield called “Unwritten“. It’s been around for quite a while but I find myself humming it often nowadays – and not just because of our change in course. The kids have been affected somewhat by our plot twist and it’s exciting (in a nerve-wrecking-homesick kind of way) to see what they do with themselves now they’re effectively in charge of their own pens.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s been a major adjustment for me. I’ve grown used to having at least one child living with me for the past 25 years and to be suddenly living in an empty nest is just as unsettling as moving house – or country, for that matter.

I know it’s a good thing for everyone. The boys have adjusted to living together in their own bachelor pad quite well, as I knew they would. Chalk and Cheese, their various talents and personality quirks dovetail together and they’re learning the fun of rent and landlords and things breaking down and needing fixing and illness and how much spaghetti you need to cook for two people.

The girl and eldest child of the clan left home years ago but we’d still see each other regularly. We played in the same soccer team and most mornings did some form of exercise (mainly our jaws) together.  Even though I’ll always be mother first, we’re friends as well.

In fact, I think I’ve managed to become friends with all three of my kids and it’s something I cherish. They are all unique in their own way, which serves to define to some extent how we relate to each other.

My eldest and only girl is quite driven, methodical and organised whilst being funny as hell and totally gorgeous to boot. She has lots of lovely friends around her and takes care (charge?) of her brothers, as a big sister tends to do. The girl and I did girl-type things together. We texted – a lot. We talked about girl stuff, office gossip and TV shows. Even now, we still text lots and I am grateful for the wonders of smartphones and wifi to maintain that contact. She’s currently whirling her way around the US and Canada on a seven week trip she and her boyfriend have planned for 18 months and having an absolute ball. I’m so pleased for her.

The middle child and first born son has always been a still pool of mystery that would occasionally allow me a glimpse of his inner depths. From an early age, he often surprised me with his analytical skills and memory. In recent years, we’ve enjoyed many deep and meaningful chats about Life, The Universe and Everything – much like I did with my dad before he passed away. I worked from home and he was studying a pre-vocational course so we had many opportunities to meet in the kitchen at some point during the day for a chinwag. I’ve really missed our discussions and his dry wit and deadpan humour over the past 12 weeks. He tells me he’s taken on the roll of Kitchen Bitch at the Bachelor Pad, working to expand his self-confessed limited repertoire of dishes and making sure he and his brother eat relatively healthily now they don’t have a mother to nag them on the perils of junk food and sugar.

The baby boy has always been a gregarious ray of sunshine and all-round people-pleaser. From a baby, he was such a happy chappy but always charging at life at 100 miles an hour, invariably winding up in trouble for some reason.  Always curious, infernally loud, incredibly generous but surprisingly inciteful now that he’s hit 20. For some reason, I’ve never really worried about this kid making it through life. He’s like a rubber ball, just bouncing his way through any trials until he gets where he wants to go. I miss his energy, his smack talk and his delicious coffee.  He’s a barista and a very good one at that, kind of falling into barista work after keeping me company on a course. I always knew he’d be good in hospitality as he’s quite thoughtful of others and very social.

It’s great to see them taking new steps into their own unwritten futures and coping quite well with the storylines they’re developing. But whilst I take comfort in the fact they don’t seem to need a mum anymore, it’s probably a good thing we’ve moved to another country so I can’t do a drive-by and ‘just check their work’.

As the song says “No one else can speak the words on your lips.” Without a doubt one of the hardest parenting things I’ve ever done is letting them go off to write their own books.