Thursday, 26 January 2012

From the outside

A moment of realisation today.
As background, I seem to be spending a lot of time at the moment walking, walking, walking with the buggy. It cheers Isaac up when he's cranky, sends him into spasms of delight when he's happy already, and provides a nap-conducive atmosphere that lets him sleep as and when he's ready. It's great that this works so well, but if you start off this kind of walk in the wrong mood, then you can easily descend into a pity party, along the lines of "Look at all the other mummies. They're having wonderful times with their babies, and they look so groomed and healthy, and you can tell their whole days are straightforward and perfect and they've probably just taken a little trot out with the buggy so they can flaunt their smug perfection in my face, before going home to have hours and hours of lovely rewarding interactive time with their babies including meal times where their babies ACTUALLY ALLOW SOME FLAMIN FOOD INTO THEIR MOUTHS* and then perhaps play peacefully on their own for a bit while mummy gets some housework done instead of having to wait until evening, and then they have some more joyous time together, and no one ever cries, and then it's bedtime". That kind of thing.

So, today, after a lovely singing session, we had nothing on the calendar, and it was mid-afternoon, and I knew he'd need to sleep again before bedtime, but he wasn't yet ready to, we trotted back until we were nearly home, him chatting and chirping away in the buggy, then took a sharp diversion to a lovely local coffee shop I'd never been in before. I hoicked him out, fed him for a bit (I don't need to say that. Assume that every time I lift this baby I feed him for a bit) and then perched him on the other end of a lovely two seater sofa in the window, with my leg there to prevent tumbles. For the next while, maybe 15, 20 minutes, I drank my latte while he cooed at me, then put it down and played tickle games and singing games and clapping games, then drank some more till he was just too joyously expectant, then played cuddle games and some more tickle games, the kind where he flings himself at me giggling and I scoop him up and could just eat him.....VIEW FROM THE OUTSIDE ALERT! To any observer I was the happiest, most gleeful and fulfilled of mummies. At that moment, none of my clothes had puke on (I still don't quite know how that happened), my hair was (unusually) brushed, I was dressed in a way that probably showed I'm back to a little below pre baby-weight and (she says immodestly) looking pretty good for it, and I clearly had the leisure time, finances, and energy to be sitting in a coffee shop in the middle of the afternoon. And it was all true! For that half hour, everything was delightful but the point (which it might have seemed I wasn't going to reach) is that it only occurred to me slowly that things might be just like this for the other mummies too. Perhaps someone walked past who I didn't even notice, saw me going babababababababa in his face again and again just to get him to giggle some more, and thought miserably "why do me and my baby** never have fun like that?" - and perhaps yesterday she was one of the ones I saw and felt oppressed by.
It's not exactly a stunning observation, I know, but it does make me think about admitting weakness, and not doing. It's easier to do it on a blog, easier to say well, I love this, and I love him, but it's still half-killing me, than it is in real life - in real life people sympathise (which makes you cry) or they boast about their own children, or they suggest solutions, with a hint of "if you haven't tried this, you're an idiot; if you have, and it didn't work, you're a Bad Parent". But if everyone's feeling like this, or a lot are, then everyone makes it worse by saying it's all fine, by not acknowledging the dark bits too. It's my justification for being as direct as I can when people do ask - certainly I'm not going to lie about his sleep - but I'd love it if everyone else did too, so I could know everyone's life has an inside and an outside, like mine does.

*yes, I know that the point of baby led weaning is that you never even let thoughts like this cross your mind, but still...
** when you've been sleep deprived for months, and no one appreciates you, and you're in the morass of believing that even your baby hates you, you let your grammar slip a little.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The quest for meaningful activity continues

I swear I'm not going to write a boring post like this every day of my life. It's just, as I explained at some tedious length a couple of days back, this need to assert some discipline over myself and to demonstrate that I can do something, even if there's not much to it.
One of his naps was in the buggy (stationary in the hall) today so I got some time to do a bit of OU stuff, and a bit more this evening - I'm on track with where I should be for the next assignment, which is pretty good going. I've also managed to write a couple of emails, hacking through my list of must-writes. I wasted a chance to read while he was sleeping on the walk home this morning - couldn't manage anything demanding but I'm so near the end of Jamrach's Menagerie and enjoying it so much, so I really should have taken the chance, and all it requires is that I walk a little slower. Still, the baby had a lovely time at our group this afternoon, and some splendid mealtimes, and plenty of, but not too much, chance to try and move for himself, and so far as only woken twice since bedtime...

Sunday, 22 January 2012

All bets are off...

...on days where the only place he will nap is my arms, and where he repeatedly seems to settle for the night and then wakes howling. Trying even to think about anything else would ruin me: all I can do is throw my strength into the night ahead, pull him in more closely each time, and remember I wouldn't swap this position with anyone's. These bits just come with it.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Does keeping alive all day count as an achievement?

Oh, dear. Today hasn't been a good start to the plan to achieve great things. The beautiful darling delightful baby  began his delightfulness for the day at FOUR so really all I have managed is to stagger through, lots of housework and cleaning and washing, and a sneaky quick co-nap with him this afternoon, but these things were in the category of "to be done before any achievements for the day" and in fact are all I've managed. Tonight I expect to make the tea, maybe clear up the tea, read a bit of the paper, and collapse into an early night.
FAIL! But hey, at least I managed to blog about the fail, that counts for something, right?

Friday, 20 January 2012

If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write

I've got to say I'm not a big Stephen King fan. I'll admit he makes you turn the page, but I don't really seek out horror and gore so his novels are never going to appeal to me (I couldn't put down Cell, the only one I've actually read, but I still have nightmares just from the film of Misery (watched as a teenager, stupid mistake) and I can only imagine the book is even more horrendous). But, his On Writing is a classic, a work of genius, a book everyone who has ever considered writing anything should read. (I could write a list of such books: it would also include Francine Prose's Reading like a writer and Dorothea Brand's Becoming a writer, oh, there's a whole post worth of material here).
What was my point, before all those brackets?
It was that I'm standing at a crossroads, to use a terrible cliche. I'm trying to decide what to do with myself for the future, probably the next few years. I'd convinced myself that I needed to go back to work at least part time, for financial reasons, but actually I think we could, with a squash and a squeeze, manage if I didn't.
[brief interruption there as the milk siren went off]
The more I think about it, the clearer it becomes to me that I want to be the one looking after him while he's still small. I don't want him in daycare, not in any kind: I'm scared that no one but me can be tender enough to him. I know, I know, he will be older then, and tougher, and an altogether different baby, but I feel fairly sure that I want to avoid it at least until he can tell me (in words and sentences) how his day was. Plus, I want to wean him slowly and gently, and, and, and. But, and this has onlybecome clear to me by my pretending to myself that I'd made the decision not to go back, I'm also terrified of what I can only think of as the loss of self that would come with "officially" being a SAHM. I need to believe that I would be able to make time to do something else, not big or important or showy, not even necessarily lucrative, but something.
So, as part of the thought experiment, I want to start using all my pockets of time better. Taking as given that I will do the babywrangling, shopping, cooking, housework, life admin, and general erranding, my challenge to myself is to make sure that after all this gets done, and with my baby as contented, stimulated and generally joyful as it is possible to have him, I will do things, things that are in some sense important to me, every day. To make it conscious, I need to start by writing about it on here (yes, in my slightly pathetic idea of "doing things" writing my blog does count). Catching up on emails to those who are dear to me counts. Investigating (as long as it's not just idle web browsing) ways to make money through freelance writing or accounting stuff (any mumpreneurs reading this: would you be tempted to use an accountant who was a mother like yourself and would look after the bookkeeping/tax bit of your business in a way that suited both your and her other time commitments and need to get off the phone in a hurry sometimes? Would the thought that all that aspect of the admin was in safe hands be something that would encourage you to get going with a business idea?) counts. Even reading a book, pretty much any book, counts. What doesn't count? Blank wallying around on the internet; following blogs I'm not interested in (there are only one or two I plan to purge. Most of the blogs I follow have become very dear to me, each in their own way, despite never having met any of the writers); sitting blankly next to the baby while he's perfectly busy and entirely ignoring me; worrying about what people think about me.
If I can do this, if I can get into consciously using the bits of time that aren't occupied with my darling boy, then it gives me some faith that a longer hiatus from work wouldn't break me.
(It would help if he'd sleep, dammit)
(I've overused my bracket allowance for the year already. I could edit them out, only I actually think it illustrates pretty nicely the whirl of thinking that I'm in at the moment).
(So, today's items in this category: writing this post, some time reading fiction (because I am still going to manage to progress my novel); at least a couple of emails (about to be written)).
Did I mention that any positive thought waves would, as usual, be appreciated?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Self improvement

Bit of a placeholder post here, really. I'd hoped to write something proper for the end of 2011/start of 2012 , and I really wanted to get my book list updated so that I could start afresh this year, but Isaac's been having a particularly challenging time with his sleep so most things have fallen by the wayside. I'd perhaps be letting myself off the hook over this but have been deeply struck by a series of blog posts I read on  Claire Bidwell Smith's 'Good enough project' - I can't possibly write a summary that does them justice (honestly, go over there and read them) but it resonated so strongly with me - she's worrying about how all her efforts are around being a great mother and with all other areas of her life she'd lapsed into being just "good enough".
I feel so sure that I'm doing a good job with Isaac - I'm certainly giving him all I have. But with everything else there's a nagging sense of being a bit of a flop. I'm not being the person I want to be with my family and friends; I'm not doing some of the things that used to make me human. I need to work out what these things are and cautiously investigate a bit of balance. Let's be clear, this isn't about spending less time with the baby or giving him less of myself: it's about making more of the rest of myself, of using the times when he's asleep or busy to, I don't know, just get *better* at stuff. Watch this space...