I was in a car crash on Tuesday. Not a serious one; I haven’t broken anything and there’s barely any damage to my car, but it was enough to leave me shaken and sore.
As I waited patiently for a safe crossing on a busy roundabout I was hit from behind by a driver who failed to brake in time. He was apologetic and visibly shaken. I was in a daze. After we exchanged details, attempting to dodge the mounting traffic, I started to feel sick. I gulped back the tears threatening to fall and got back in my car, driving the 10 minutes back to work on autopilot. It wasn’t until I fell through the door of the office that I realised how much I was shaking.
At the time, my shoulders, neck and back ached, but that got worse throughout the day. My main concern 30 minutes after the crash was getting to nursery to collect my two year old on time. I wanted to jump back in my car and finish the journey I’d started, regardless of any potential damage to my vehicle or body.
I was superwoman, I didn’t get hurt. I didn’t have time to be in shock. I had to get on with my day.
I’m very thankful to my lovely neighbour for stepping in at that point and offering to do the pick-up, so I didn’t have to race down the motorway and get there in time. I’m also grateful to my husband for coming home from work at a decent hour on Tuesday, so I could go to the doctor and be scolded for doing too much, before finding out I have high blood pressure and whiplash.
Although the accident wasn’t my fault, it’s left me panicky. I have to cover 80 miles a day in my car, so anxiety around driving isn’t helpful. But I’m now more aware than ever of how easy it is for accidents to happen. The fact I lost a member of my family in a car crash just before Christmas is, once again, fresh in my mind.
With the shock and the aches has come a kind of acceptance that I have to stop. Although I’ve still been getting up at 4am to do the radio show I currently work on, I haven’t tried to cram too much into the rest of my day. All toddler afternoon activities have been cancelled in favour of snuggles in front of a film or with books. The strong painkillers me a bit fuzzy and whoozy anyway, so it seems to take ten minutes to do a two minute job.
The last two evenings have seen me in bed by 6pm, as my husband takes over bedtime duties. I’ve had to swallow the Mother Guilt and remind myself that if I keep going at 100 miles an hour when I’m not feeling my best, I’ll hit a wall.
There’s always so much to do, you see. There are always people who want to call meetings or have conversations about work projects over the phone, or who expect emails to be answered within 30 minutes – even if they know I’m recovering from an accident. You get the, “Oh poor you, I’m glad you’re OK” conversation, immediately followed by the, “Now, if you could just do this for me” line. It’s taken a car crash and a couple of days feeling very out of kilter for me to realise just how many people make (often unrealistic) demands on my time.
I love my work, but not at the expense of my health. I love my child, but I can only be the best mum I can be – marathon crafting sessions and toddler activity classes and playdates will have to wait this week.
It’s time to accept that even superwoman has off days. Even superwoman would struggle to work 80 hours, spend afternoons doing mum stuff and keep a clean house, if she’d been in a car accident.
And anyway, I’m not superwoman. No one is.
Superwoman doesn’t exist.
So, for now, I’m going to embrace my non-superwoman status and attempt to ignore the guilt. Everything will just have to wait.