I've written this in lieu of a much sadder, probably longer, post that does need to come out soon, but I've been off the blog so long it felt like I needed a bit of practice to get back in the swing. If you're in my family, then you don't have to read the next few posts, because they might get a bit personal in a weird kind of way, and somehow it's easier to put some things out in front of a virtual audience
I had something of an internal collapse this afternoon, self-pity crowding out most other things. It was so simple, all I wanted was to be able to take one fairly short phone call, one call, come on! We'd gone for a family wander to the park, bonzo was in the buggy, H pushing, all fine, then sure enough, once my call had got all technical, he kicked off: CUGGA MUMMY! CUGGA MUMMY! full on howling, tears spurting everywhere, abandoned by his mother, practically left in the desert to expire...I just had to end the call with no explanation and give him my full focus, there, then, immediately: his need won, it trumped mine, which of course is right and proper, but still. Still. We got him settled and carried on walking, but I sulked and fumed. All I'm trying to do is earn a living. All I am attempting with this is to do it without having to leave him, and I've sacrificed virtually all of my leisure time to do it. I work in his naps, I work in the evenings, I don't stop at the weekends. It's a push, and the people who employ me or throw freelance things my way are in general great about it - but I've helped them to be great, because I'm reliable, I get it done, even if it's a horrendous stretch, and late nights, and hugely interrupted sessions because he keeps waking, and whatever else - I do it. But, and this is the root of the sulk, every now and then I really do need to speak on the phone, and it has to be in office hours, and even, horror, sometimes at a broadly pre-agreed time. No-one, in this flight of woe today, understands my position. No-one has done it before, no-one's blazed a trail for me. Yes, plenty of women work and have families, so dealing with that kind of pull or conflict; plenty of women take time out of the workplace while their families are young, so dealing with all the loss-of-identity issues that I wrestle with, but no one else IN THE WHOLE WORLD is trying to earn a living with a highly attached two year old and no childcare. No-one!
Squealing brakes moment.
It's true that no-one I know is doing quite this. It's probably not true that no-one in the whole world is, though maybe there aren't many doing quite my kind of work (and certainly none with my kind of boy).
If I try to find myself a role model or a trailblazer doing exactly my thing, I'm doomed to failure, and it would be quite disconcerting if she did exist. So, I need to look across all my worlds and see what I can aspire to. It was an exercise I used to love doing in down time (say, hairdresser's chair, or a queue when I had no book) - think through everyone you know in some group (work colleagues, friendship groups) and for each one identify some quality that you really admire and respect and would like to take some of. It's particularly helpful when there are people you don't overall like in there, because it leaves you better disposed to them, but it also lets you see the enormous range of human qualities, which I love, because it makes me think I can always work on something, and probably there's always something I'm getting it right.
In my case, for work I know several great, motivated, bright, effective women (I'm on women here because it does feel that so many of my issues at the moment are meshed in with femaleness), several of whom I'm lucky to be working for in one form or another (I seem to work mainly for rather than with at the moment). I do know people who've had slightly indirect career paths - admittedly, not many in my field, but one or two spring to mind who are doing things in a way other than popping sprogs, getting straight back to work, and doing 70 hour weeks to climb as fast as possible up the ladder. Then, when I look at inspirations for my mothering, there are just so many. All my growing time with LLL keeps adding women to this list, women with patience and gentleness (I always notice these qualities, being so lacking in them), but also women with such a creative spark, such a fire, such individuality and self-ness shining out "despite" their identities as mothers (I don't mean despite, don't mean that at all, I could write forever on the subject of identity that is redefined rather than lost) . These people have so much that I want to harness, to emulate and make my own, and of course they're fitting in other things (including, in many cases, many more children than I have) so although it's not necessarily the same things, I should be able to look at what they do and see what I can bring in.
Of course there's also no point in self-pity about my situation. I've chosen it, and I'm proud of myself for (generally) managing it, and it's melodramatic to think I can never be a serious professional just because of the phone call problem (though realistically, there's plenty it's stopping me doing). Also I know, I know, I know, that this spell in Isaac's life, this season, is a short one, and will pass in a breath. I just want to call on all these spirits floating around me and summon in this one's strength, this one's bravery, this one's sense of humour, this one's resourcefulness, this one's organisation, this one's resilience, this one's stamina, this one's kindness, this one's generosity, this one's persistence...I think that might give me a pretty good composite role model.