Sunday, 12 April 2009

I'm torn, torn, torn...

I'm a torn, conflicted woman. We went to an Easter barbeque (Bar B Q?). Old friends of the children's grandparents - or my parents, rather - with a sprawling ranshackly manor house in the little village. Far reaching lawn, mature trees, nooks, crannies and vegetable patches. Sitting in the Spring sun south-facing and feeling good as the cherry wine seeps. Too much food and no cares. Bliss.

And friendly chatter. Hello to acquaintances from several years ago, who ask what I "do" now. I'm about to blurt: "Nothing, I mean, I look after the children", but check myself and say "Writer. I mean, I haven't published yet, but I write." ...I'm trying to use a form of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), or you can call it simply positive thinking. It started because I hated scribbling "housewife" on aeroplane landing cards, like a punch to my pride whenever I wrote it (I used to fly a lot, even after my son was born. With my daughter and the credit crunch and mortgage shackles, things changed). In a similar vein, I've always wanted to mark the space "entrepreneur" (at least denoting that I think like one, or would like to) but even NLP'ing myself can't bring myself to be that cheeky.

Anyway, I hate being asked what I do. I know I should be proud of "housewife", but I'm not. I hate the label. And that it could be attached to me. "But there's no more important job than bringing up my children" says Hubby. I agree - but one job's not enough. My problem. My issue. My guilt. I need more than my children's validation. Need to be more than "the best Mummy in the world".

Back at Grandparents' and after a delightful day, my husband leaves shortly after seven for the drive back to London. There are "things to be done back at home" (an overload of work, document sorting, and hopefully not watching the sport on TV). The children, insouciently, hug goodbye. "Goodbye, Daddy!" they chorus, and turn back to other tasks, immediately distracted. They are used to Daddy being "having to work". Then, just after teeth cleaning, an uncharacteristic whimper. My son (four and a half year old) is a bright, calm, rather rational chappie, doesn't cry often, doesn't do tantrums, doesn't shed needless tears. You can usually talk him round any upset when it starts to itch. But tonight he's not only tired, but hyped on adrenalin and - of course - today's astronomical chocolate intake. The tears suddenly intermingle with the toothpasty mouth: "I want to say Goodnight to Daddy!" "But, sweetie,you know Daddy left to go back home. You kissed him Goodbye!" "But why has he gone home? You said tommorow is Easter as well! Why can't he stay? I want him to stay!"
I hug, carry, get him tucked up, comfort cloth and best friend leppy the leopard at the ready. Small eyelashes swept with gooey wet. Puffed cheeks. Exhaustion. Little sister oblivious, already fast asleep. We'll call Daddy tommorow first thing! You eat one of your chocolate dinosaurs after breakfast - which one? - TRex? - tell you what, you can eat TRex before he eats you!

It seems to do the trick. But minutes later, whilst tapping quietly on the keyboard next door, I hear a small wail rising, ebbing. Rising again, higher. Run in. A lump bunched up under the covers. How to explain why Daddy has to miss Easter Monday? How to explain what's so much more important than a son, a daughter, a rare day off at Grandparents (with no distractions, no household tasks)? But my husband's job must take precedence. He's got to justify his position, his (meagre) bonus, as others crash and burn around him. The industry's precarious. Credit crunch means sacrifices.

So why am I a "reluctantly frustrated stay-at-home mum" then, I question myself? What if a career meant I weren't there to kiss away the damp perplexed ache from soft little eyes, to reassure, warm, consoling, a sanctuary. Always there. Mummy. My job. My most important one ever. But still, sadly maybe, not enough. Torn.


  1. My mother used to hand out business cards that had her name on it with "Domestic Engineer" underneath :-) I myself prefer "Human Resources Manager"! Thanks for posting about your struggle - so many people have the same struggle but won't admit it. You are brave!

  2. As a fellow mother of 2, trying to juggle, to justify and trying to love the limbo, I really love this post.

    In similar vein:

    I came across your blog from the link on Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist- I'll be checking back!

  3. Becprints - hang on in there and on in here! I need the moral support, too!... the more the merrier... (we hope!) pass me on to any dishevelled and distraught mums you might know (not that I'm dishevelled and distraught - at least only some of the time!)