As beautiful as this time of year is, as mellow as the weather has been and as exciting as it has been to finally get some time to myself after ten – yup, count ‘em –weeks of summer holidays, September has been incredibly hard work.
My oldest boy, Bear, started school two weeks ago. His first week was fine but his second was terrible. Every morning my usually happy, independent little boy would cling to my legs, tight fingered and red-eyed, trying to brave, telling me he loved me, before bursting into uncontrollable tears. The fact that all the disruption has caused him to get up two or three times every night, does not make this situation any easier.
My youngest boy, Raffy, is one, and can’t be left unsupervised for more than 90 seconds. After he recently climbed underneath our five-bar gate and got into the recycling to swig from an old, empty wine-bottle, I have started to lock him inside the house with me. Which doesn’t work either because he’s worked out how to drag the kitchen chair over to the sink, turn the taps on, whilst carefully ensuring the plug is left in. Or otherwise he’s in the bathroom, trying to drink from the toilet bowl.
My husband is a teacher and because we live in a boarding school, he works outside usual school hours, including weekends, evenings and early mornings. He is currently a staff member down so is having to work even more than usual.
Yes, this is a list of painfully inconsequential first world problems. I am incredibly lucky that these are the main issues in my life right now. And yet the unimportance of them doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. Nor does it for my other mum friends, as we all adjust to children starting or going back to school, routine, returning to work.
It’s time to cut ourselves some slack. Because actually, just getting this far, families/marriages/jobs intact can, and should, feel like a major achievement. We place ourselves under so much pressure to be the perfect mum/partner/employee whilst feeding our kids home-cooked meals and looking fabulous* ourselves, that it’s very easy to run ourselves ragged, forget that actually, we’re doing ok, and focus instead on how we’re failing. So, in the spirit of keeping calm and carrying on, these are a few of the less-than-perfect things that have got me through the last few weeks:
Anti-social behaviour. I have not spoken to anyone on the phone. Alright I haven’t done much of this for the last four and a half years, but right now I’m especially anti-social. One of my best friends, who I haven’t spoken to in months, called just before bedtime last night and I let it go straight to voicemail. I’ll ring him again, it’ll only take another five months or so. Bribery. I am a totally crap parent in many, many ways, but so far I’ve been quite good at not doing the bribery thing. This week even that’s gone out the window. In an attempt to get my boy to school I have promised him all sorts of things. Which is why he’s eaten his dinner in front of the telly, by himself, every night this week. And why he is the proud owner of both a brand new toy tractor (£25 sodding quid’s worth) and slurry tanker.
Shoddy gifts. A very dear friend invited me to dinner. Usually I would have got her a bottle of wine at the very least, alas I just couldn’t be bothered to get in the car to go to the shop. Instead five minutes before I left for her house I melted down some chocolate and covered some biscuits with it. Then I added a dusting of icing sugar too, because I was feeling fancy.
Ice lollies. My boys have had one every night this week. Just because. Whilst someone else in this house has also demolished the last of the Ben & Jerry’s. I have no idea who.
Grubbiness. The boys’ bedtime bath ritual is usually set in stone. Not this week.
Lie-ins. Yes, until 7am. Who do I think I am, the Queen? Usually I’m up at 6am to get an hour’s worth of writing in before the kids wake up, this week, not so much.
High-brow literature. Yes, I’m talking Jilly Cooper. When life has got a bit much of late, I’ve dived into the comforting pages of JC’s latest book, Mount! And felt about 200 times happier because of it.
* ‘Fabulous’ is, of course, a matter of relativity. Whereas once it meant backless mini-dresses and spindly heels, now it means not scaring small children.
Guest Post by Helen, writer, wife and mum to two young boys who she is raising on a school farm. She writes the wonderful blog Mamas a Dirty Feminist which is well worth a read and can also be found on Twitter @dirtfeministmam.