I’ve noticed lately that not only do lots of people relate to me as though I have nothing better to do than look after children – mine, theirs,them (whatever age they are) but my life is common property. What else could explain the sudden appearance of extra children, requests for unpaid taxi-drives to airports, shopping etc and the unsolicited running commentary on how I do everything from cleaning the skirting boards to running my finances?
Yes, I’m having a whinge, I do feel very much like a mummy-machine right now (why can’t I have the blissful-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding hormones NOW, because I really need them since the novelty of helping out a new mother has worn of for most people)
November must have been ‘Tell Dan What She’s Doing Wrong Month’ and no one told me.
Of course no one told me. But what they did tell me was that I doubt myself too much, I don’t clean the house enough, I need to ‘do something’ with my life (and stop having babies), that every time I get close to success I ‘get myself pregnant’ (all by myself – imagine that!?) and that I’m not setting a very good example for my daughters with my disastrous relationship choices. Apparently I’m not strong enough (that’s from the baby’s father who tells me I need to get used to being alone), not driven enough, not flexible enough (oh that’s from the father of my other four, who changes his access weekends without telling me, let alone asking), not using my brain enough and have low self esteem (from my Dad, who also commented on my skirting boards) and from one friend – not selfish enough. Three people told me I should have my tubes tied.
Added to that, just when I announced to everyone ‘this is the month I’m finally writing that book’ and kindly requested that all my loving people give me support to do so – life became more hectic, less supportive and ‘opportunities’ (aka distractions) to do all sorts of things popped up out of nowhere.
For example, my lovely sister and her daughter moved to town with her daughter and needed somewhere to stay until her house and furniture situation settled. OK, a couple of extras in the house should be easy enough to accommodate, right? Er, wrong. Writing my 1600 pages each day got a bit lost in the big production dinners every night (I planned on cheese toasties and fruit salad, and variations on the theme for the entire month) and extra housework. Lots of deep breathing, mediating arguments between daughters who’d swapped beds and vigilance around the morning bathroom routine. Days I had set aside to pound out my dazzling best seller became comedies of error involving flying sofas on freeways (don’t ask). Exhausting.
I’m so glad they are here, but December would have been better for me.
Determined not to let life circumstances become excuses for failure, I pushed on with my novel, getting big chunks written and feeling exhilarated, working through the usual writerly challenges. That was a good week. My target of fifty thousand words started to look ambitious but I felt I could still turn a trickle into a steady stream and let the river flow.
Mid month the ‘business opportunities’ started, then my oldest daughters school teachers wanted to speak to me about problems she’d developedfor the first time ever (why now? why why why???), while the other daughters of mine suddenly had awards ceremonies, class productions and the like that demanded my attention. Play dates that were owed were suddenly called in.
Friends from Uni who ‘hadn’t heard from me’ for a while (duh – that would be because, guys, as I told you in October, I’m writing my book!) came over unannounced right when conditions seemed perfect for getting a chapter on the page, settling in for tea and sympathy and ignoring my subtle and often not-so-subtle hints that now really isn’t a good time.
Oh, that’s not all, but you get the gist.
So, here I am, on the last day of November – the month that should have been a triumph over my past crappy decisions and one in which all the good things Ihave accomplished acknowledged via cups of tea, supportive silence and the help of my family finally come home to roost.
Should have been, but wasn’t – and I realise something – that asking for help and support and telling people what I need just isn’t enough. People will assume that because I’m a mother I am also a martyr and will sacrifice my own needs for theirs.
And, I now realise, that if I have the nerve to try to break out of my little pumpkin shell and be something other than the victim-martyr-mother then I am open to criticism and I need to have a much thicker skin. In fact I need spikes, armour and a big fence around my house.
I really have had enough. Because its all true – all of the well-meaning advice, including some stern words about getting myself out of the deep hole I apparently have fallen into financially (all of the not-so-well-meaning advice too, but about whom, I ask you?).
I really have sacrificed my own needs for those of my children, for the needs of the fathers of those children. And I rescheduled my life-saving creative urges for the sake of relatives, friends and even strangers. Not to do so is to be called a witch, a bitch, a bully. Not to do so is to go against consensus and to cause stress, which is not conducive to creativity and success either. So my book is not written, my skirting boards are spotless, my children are all taken care of, I have no money, satisfied friends, and a whole lot of decisions to make.
So, for December I am declaring ‘Dan is No Martyr, Keep Your Darn Opinions to Your Self Month’.
Now, where’s that broom?