It has always been fashionable in my family to make fun of me for not being the outdoorsy type. This has never bothered me a great deal in the past. I'm not outdoorsy; I'm a bookish writer who would much rather be in the warm than out discovering a world that is perfectly accessible via words, thank you very much. However, since having children, this good-natured ribbing has taken on a bit of an edge. Suddenly it isn't just a big joke, suddenly it's kind of a guilt trip. Those close to me have apparently begun to believe that, if not with them, then my children and I are sat, huddled in a darkened room around a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD. We're not. As a family, we may be more like to ramble on than ramble walk, but we do go out.
The problem with having a two year- and a two month-old is that leaving the house can sometimes be quite an ordeal. If you suggest a spontaneous outing to me that gives me less than two hours to prepare, I will probably have to respectfully decline. Not because I 'don't do fresh air', but because I'm still getting used to all of this; I'm still finding a routine. Piling on guilt by vocally assuming that my children have cabin fever is less than helpful.
This morning, my sister asked me if I wanted to take the children out for a walk. The baby was covered in thick grease to treat her sudden onslaught of eczema and needed a bath, I wasn't dressed and was trying to iron my husband's work clothes because he'd been waiting for them since Christmas Eve, and staying on top of four people's washing in the piss-wet weather without a functional tumble dryer is a bitch. Plus, I knew that Mr Meaney wanted to spend some time with the children this morning but he was on a lie-in and I didn't want to disturb him. But also Blake really loves to spend time with his cousin and had been asking for her for two days solid. Who did I deal with first? Why was I so upset by my sister wanting to spend time with me? That I suddenly had David Bowie and Queen stuck in my head came as no real surprise. I am under immense pressure and am torturing myself by trying to please everyone. Even though I'm still trying to negotiate a new, very steep learning curve, I'm letting other people's expectations of me weigh me down, not to mention the fact that I'm projecting my own fears about my inadequacies into their comments.
I know I'm not the only person to deal with pressure like this. All mums experience this, and yes, I know that my husband has to work all day while I stay at home and moan, but everyone copes with pressure differently. I've always 'coped' by shutting down completely and not addressing any of the issues at hand. The fact that I no longer have that tenuous option actually makes dealing with the mountain of problems that need my attention a lot harder. I have to push through when I really want to hide under my duvet, all the time knowing that the day will end with someone being disappointed in me anyway, no matter how hard I've tried.
So, before you smirk and ask me how the novel is going*, tell me in a panicked voice that you're on your last pair or boxers**, or ask me when I last left the house*** just back off slightly and take a moment to consider what sort of morning I've had. Chances are, it began with me crying in the shower, and the fact that other families are probably coping better in the same circumstances only makes me feel worse.
And if this all sounds a bit 'woe is me' that's because it is. What can I say? I don't get out much. And, as for today, we stayed in and it hailed, so maybe that decision was ok after all.
* The first draft is almost finished, thank you very much.
** Time to turn them inside out, I'm afraid, because washing and drying takes at least three days in this house.
*** Yesterday. So there.