by MIA FREEDMAN
My wheels fell off this week. Nothing serious and yet still, I lost it. The wobbles began when I noticed I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed and guilty guilty guilty. Such a helpful emotion, guilt. You try to shake off its oppressive stench but it dulls your senses and makes it hard to plot your way towards the exit. Guilt is always the ﬁrst sign I’m not coping. The second is when I start having conversations like this:
Me: “I don’t think I’m coping.”
Husband: [nodding while quickly arranging his face into an expression of neutral empathy]
Me: “You’re nodding! What? Don’t you think I’m coping?”
Him: “You said you’re not coping.”
Me: “But is it that obvious? Am I a hopeless mother? How long have you thought that I’m hopeless and not coping?”
There are no winners in this kind of conversation. Just recriminations I ﬂing about with gay abandon, mostly at myself but heck, get out of the way or you might become collateral damage.
The trigger for my lost wheels was the realisation that I work full-time but have part-time childcare. Well, duh. Work has increased dramatically this past year and yet I haven’t made changes at home. So suddenly I’m drowning not waving and absolutely not coping. I’m in the fortunate position of being able to afford more help so I should stop my indulgent whining and just dial-an-angel or something, right? Wrong. Because this:
Me: “My wheels are falling off.”
Girlfriend: “Babe, you need more help.”
Me: “But I want to be at home one day a week and pick up the kids from school. Except I can’t do everything.”
Her: “Of course you can’t, you goose! Get help!”
Me: “But I want to be the person who can cope.”
Her: “Do you realise how bonkers that sounds? Shut up.”
Bonkers, yes. If a girlfriend told me she felt guilty about getting help, I’d smack her upside her head. I think help is awesome – as much as you can, whether it’s physical, mental or emotional. EVERYONE, GET ALL OF THE HELP.
So why this block when it comes to my own life? Possibly, it’s The Good Mother Belief, the ingrained idea that a ‘good’ mother is always with her child. Obviously, because I work, I can’t be. And I wrestle with that sometimes. Especially when I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know whose needs to prioritise. The kids? Which one? Husband? Friends? Parents? Employees? This column? My website?
The question I’m most often asked is “how do you do it all?” and I’m always quick to reply: “I don’t”. I don’t do it all and I certainly don’t do it all well. Corners are always cut – sometimes brutally. People are always disappointed.