Wednesday, 14 July 2010
I find myself dissolving in to tears in front of the TV a lot these days. Last night it was the drama 'Lennon Naked', a few days a go it was upon viewing the excellent autobiographical love letter-cum-lament to Liverpool that is Terence Davies' 'Of Time and the City'. I've always been a bit of a soggy sentimentalist but it seems to happen a lot more these days. I examine this: is it because I am drinking more, because I am pushed to to the very limits of my energy stores? No, it's because I am a parent. Much of the matter that sees my stiff upper lip dampen is to do with kids. More precisely, to do with kids having all that they know, or as a consequence, all that they love, be it healthy or ailing, taken from them.
Being a Mum is hard. Maybe more so when you weren't set upon this path by choice. It is impossible not to observe the lifestyles of those close to you that do not have children; observe them popping to see a film on a Sunday afternoon; having a pint after work, lying in their beds until they are fully replenished as opposed to burning on their very last vapour, and not feel envy, or enchantment of the memory when this was your life. But it is when I see the subject of childhood depicted in such a powerful way that it gives me the timely reminder of what it is that I have; of what I can hope to shape, and of the simple joys that I can affect, of the magic that I can create.
Walking the dogs at the land at the back of my current home I am suddenly reminded of my own childhood. As I pass through the fields, mercifully left to grow wild and untamed, I notice all the different grasses left to grow to seed. I remember walking freely round the roads and lanes in the Eden Valley where I spent many of my young years. I remember the simple pleasure of dragging my fingertips through the soft grass, detaching the seed heads that bore the colour of a blush, and then gathering them in small handfuls and watching them fall to the ground as I unclenched my fists. Nature's confetti. I remember this, a quiet, gentle memory amongst the fractures of pain. Amongst the memories of fear, embarrassment, amongst the memories of feeling cut adrift.
I never really intended to become a parent, but there were certain vows that I made to myself should that ever happen. I remember these now, vows that I suppose are so much a part of me I need not recite them or revisit them but yet there they are. Walking through these fields, reminiscent of my own childhood's, it washes over me. In being a mother to my own children, this is what I have. I can shape the bank of memory that we all carry around with us, this thing that dictates who we are, this thing that feeds us, brands us. It is not the only influence, of course, but it is huge, unwieldy, and inescapable. This is a responsibility that now runs through me like a seam, and one for which I am so very grateful.
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
I'm on month eleven of my twelve month maternity leave. It's natural to look back and evaluate what I have done during this halcyon work-free period. By work, I of course mean employment for which I have to attend a place of work and perform a function for which I am paid. Not of course, work-free in the sense of having kicked back and relaxed. As anyone who has been on maternity leave will know, specifically the leave spent with the second, third, fourth, whatever child will know it involves working like the proverbial dog. Although I have to go off on a tangent again here and point out that my two dogs, my pug dogs, Mickey and Arthur, are so far removed from the concept of 'working' or doing anything other than sitting on their portly fawn furry behinds and snoozing or engaging in an activity that will result in filling their flat faces with food of some description (kibble, rabbit droppings, chicken food, plastic dinosaurs et al) that, well, no words exist to describe this distance.
So, yes there's work and work. When I sat at my desk in the final few months, weeks and days prior to my departure I dreamt of sleep. Dreamy, luxurious, moments lying on the couch with said pugs, bathed in sunlight drifting off and being engulfed in soporiferous activity. (So much of my last days at work were spent snoozing in a toilet cubicle so savaged was I with crushing fatigue). I dreamt of idling away my time in coffee bars with a vat of cappuccino and a good book while my new bundle of joy dozed and my eldest ran off his madness at pre-school. I dreamt of happy times at play areas, playgrounds, friends houses being all mumsy and worthy and doing what one does on maternity leave and what one feels guilty for being unable to do when at work. It's not quite worked out like that.
I have slept at any and every possible available opportunity, but sadly the accumulation of human sleep doesn't work in the same way that a camel can stock up on water in its humps; as soon as I'm back at work I'm quite sure the toilet cubicle scenario will be revisited. Sounds sordid and exciting doesn't it? Sadly not. So what have I spent my maternity leave doing? Most days I haven't left the house save for a short, chaotic dog walk or collecting the eldest from pre-school. In short: housework. Hoovering, often twice a day. Taking the hoover to pieces to unwind the lost hair from my post pregnancy moult from its innards to ensure its efficiency. Ironing, dear god have I ironed. And I've baked a bit; cupcakes and gingerbread men mainly. I've run. Latterly I have been able to employ my Mother's time to look after the baby while I have forced myself out in sub zero temperatures to run in order to shed nasty baby weight gain. And, well that's about it. Somehow, a twelve month period has hoovered, ironed, run and baked itself in to non existence. I could pontificate on how time just flows away from you faster and faster the older you get, like a fast flowing stream with the years giving way to scum, and froth and debris collecting on the surface; but I won't. We all know that. Actually, I don't mind at all, because this is what it is like to be a Mum, and just to be afforded the chance to do that, and nothing else, even for just one year, away from the trappings of 'real work', tastes very sweet indeed. A bit like my latest batch of cupcakes.
Thursday, 4 March 2010
I awoke this morning to the usual lilting refrain of my four year old son Teddy's plaintive wail, "is it morning time yet Mama?". It's 7:20 so yes, it is morning time, more's the pity and I yell my response of permission for him to enter the room with Jellycat, Mama Jellycat and a hot wheels car of choice which will proceed to blaze it's way across the bridge of my nose until I open my eyes and herald the day.
It's one of those days where Teddy's father collects him before 9am giving me the luxury of an extra cup of Earl Grey and a gesture of crossed fingers and a silent plea that I may, just may, have half an hour or so before the peculiar guttural growls of my nine month old daughter Kitty emanate from the nursery. Well, the badly decorated box room in which she sleeps.
It's Thursday, the day that my Mother kindly takes care of my youngest while I spend the only 'me' time (I hate that phrase) of the week putting myself through a cruel core stability class and an hour's run. It has to be done to avoid the mental rounds of self flagellation that take place if the requisite amount of calories aren't blasted away before any calories are consumed. Most of the time this works well: calories burnt, endorphins delivered. Sometimes it does not. Two weeks ago last Thursday saw me stuffing plain chocolate coated marzipan eggs down my throat at breakneck speed in Lidl car park; a dark day. Sadly today was another of those days where I just didn't quite manage it.
It was a spectacularly sunny day, so rare, that I opted to sit in the garden to consume my only partially deserved bagel while I observed the antics of my newly acquired ex battery hens pottering round the garden. It was all rather idyllic until I had to try and get them back in the run prior to collecting Kitty. A Benny Hill style chase ensued seeing me hairing around just nearly catching their tail feathers before retreat was sought under the nearest shrub. I got there in the end.
The day wore on with me managing, as usual, not to achieve any of the carefully compiled mental list of necessary chores: two baskets of ironing, outraged letter of complaint to the hospital, dusting, planting bulbs for next spring.
The undoubted low point of the day came, however, when the children were safely in bed and I was about to sample some simple cuisine of scrambled eggs, smoked bacon and delicious wholemeal bread. The bacon sizzled enticingly on the griddle, generous slabs of thick buttered bread lay waiting on the plate. I cracked three eggs gifted so kindly by our girls, touch of butter, ground black pepper, splash of milk and oops! There we have it. A glaze of uncooked egg decorates the floor, along with an upturned pan and a wooden spoon. I sit down, ironically in front of Masterchef feeling somewhat defeated and sore. Oh, and and my wine glass would remain empty tonight as I force myself to follow through with a very rare dry night. Hoping for a better day tomorrow.