I’ve always been a busy person. I like to be busy. Even when I’m not busy, I’m busy. It’s both a strength and a weakness. Things get done but, often, I struggle to switch off. Being a naturally busy do-er is actually a bit of a hindrance, I think, in my role as a mum. I have a warped sense of what is manageable and, instead of just focusing on being a mum – making tea, breastfeeding the baby, doing the school run, playing with the kids etc – I try to pack in a million and one extra tasks as well. Making the tea while answering emails, doing the school run while planning work deadlines, playing with the kids while doing the laundry, for example. It means I’m never really focussed on the task at hand, and it’s left me… frazzled.
Recently, I’ve been drowning a bit. A mixture of cumulated sleep deprivation, increased work loads and squeezed time have left me sapped. My usual motivation to get stuff done has withered and died. I’ve let laundry pile up, dust settle and my inbox is fit to bursting. It seems like I’m constantly chasing my tail, often trying to focus through a haze of treacle as my tired brain attempts to create some sort of order in the chaos of life with two children. I hate chasing my tail.
Part of this is all my fault, of course. If I had a normal job then I’d still be on maternity leave. I wouldn’t need to factor work into life with a small baby and a school-aged child. If I worked in an office, with childcare, then I’d leave the house to go to work and, when I was at home I’d be at home, proper. As it is, it feels like I’m never really off duty. I’m trying to cram work into baby nap times, after I’ve rushed around stuffing endless laundry into the washing machine and shoving a hoover around the place occasionally. “Lower your standards!” my husband tells me. But the truth is, I can’t. I don’t feel happy living in a messy, grubby house. I see the chores that need to be done and I can’t turn a blind eye to them. I wish I could be more laid back about this type of stuff, but it’s in my DNA. It probably doesn’t help that part of my income comes from writing interiors features…
Anyway, something snapped yesterday morning. Baby Girl is teething at the moment and has had a string of bad nights on top of bad nights. It was 5.45am and I was done in. I’d spent the previous two days in Bristol with the baby, to speak at a blog event (check out the #BlogCampUK hashtag by the way) and I was tired to my very bones. “I can’t do this!” I wailed at the (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine. “You’re not giving me proper support!” I accused him. “I NEED SLEEEEEEEEEP!”
He promptly took the kids downstairs and left me alone to sob in the bedroom. I cried myself to sleep and slept for two hours, waking up in just as stinking a mood but, at least, feeling a little less tired. As I showered I started to mull over all the things that I needed to achieve that weekend. I worried about finances and school history day costumes and unwritten features. The time I needed to do all of these things was squeezed into a tiny space, as I realised it just wasn’t possible to get everything done. For the first time in a long time I felt anxious, on the verge of a full-blown panic attack.
I ended up shouting at my four year old when she asked me a simple question. I refused to pick up the baby who was crying. I told my husband I just needed a break and seriously considered walking out of the house and checking into a hotel under an anonymous alias, to sleep for 24 hours straight. Then I wondered if I had post-natal depression.
I don’t have post-natal depression. I know that, in my non-tired, rational state. I just need a bit of help to cope with the growing demands of work and motherhood. It’s not realistic to think I can do it all, on my own. I can’t cram 30 hours of work a week into unreliable baby nap times. I can’t expect to get hours of work done every evening when I’m exhausted and the baby wakes up and needs plenty of cuddles. I can’t keep a clean house when the only time I get to clean is when the baby sleeps – which is when I need to be working.
This post is fast becoming a long tirade of moans, but there is a point to it all. I want to say that if you’re struggling to cope as a mum then don’t beat yourself up. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
For me, talking about the way I was feeling really helped yesterday. I sat down with my husband and poured it all out. I realised that a lot of the panic I feel is due to not being in control of things. I know I have lots of stuff to do but I don’t know when I’ll find the time to actually do it. That makes me feel anxious. I don’t feel organised and on top of things, which adds to the stress. If I wasn’t a planner this would be fine but, again, DNA.
So we made the decision to pay a cleaner to do a few hours for us a month. We discussed the possibility of finding a child-minder to look after Baby Girl for a few hours a week in the autumn. Then I sat down and wrote up a load of email templates, making the job of dealing with my bulging inbox that bit easier. The NLM compiled a two week meal plan. We agreed that we’d do an online weekly shop to make it easier to keep track of what we were spending. We looked at our finances and realised they’re in pretty good shape, we just need to get better at being organised (like we used to be).
And then I felt better. Sometimes you need a meltdown to get things back into focus, it seems. I could breathe again and the urge to leave my lovely life for a bare hotel room didn’t feel so appealing.
How about you? Can you relate to any of this at all?