I have a cleaner now.
It is easily the best money I've ever spent! She comes in once a week and takes my house back to zero. I can cope from there. I can stay on top of things when it's easier from the get-go. The day she comes is the best day of my week. I feel alive, I feel I can cope with anything because my house is spotless. I can work, I can parent, without having to stress about tidying up. One little aspect is made easier. For one whole day I am free from the anxiety of having to have several roles at the same time.
I know you know how that feels.
Because this is the motherhood trap. This is what it means now to be a mum - feeling like you have to be and do everything, all the time. It's a world of contrasts. It's being pulled in a thousand different directions, having to choose between being a mum or a cook, a mum or a cleaner, a mum or a career woman, a mum or a wife ALL DAY LONG. We are literally trapped between several worlds, holding all the puppet strings, holding it all together and there is no way of pleasing everyone.
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As a business owner and mother I struggle with finding the balance on a daily basis. Some days it feels like I have to be good at one thing or the other - never both at the same time. Some days it feels as though I am only those 2 things. As though that is the be-all and end-all of my identity; as though the "real" me is someone I made up in another life. My preschooler laughs when he is told my name is actually Nicky, he laughs and he says "no silly, your name is Mummy". Identity erased. Sacrifice made on the alter of motherhood.
If you've read my blog In the Aftermath of the Village you'll have a sense of how I mourn the loss of the "village" when it comes to parenting and raising children. In our new modern way of life, we are relatively isolated as tiny family units and we do the work of a whole village on our own. This means we are regularly, daily, sacrificing one thing for another when it comes to our children, ourselves and our households. For example, how often do new mums hear "sleep when the baby sleeps"? Man, IF ONLY we could do that! If only it was that simple. If only we just had that one thing to do in the whole day. I know for me, when the baby slept is when I tidied up or cooked a meal or did some laundry or spent time with the older children. Choices had to be made. Choices and sacrifices. And with each choice came, unbidden, a sense of guilt or regret or anxiety: Maybe I should have played with the kids instead of cooking dinner? Maybe I should have tidied the house instead of having a lie-down?
This is the motherhood trap.
And we close it on ourselves.
This morning my 6 year old was fussing about which shoes to wear to school. We were all waiting in the car and she was delaying and fluffing and the clock was ticking. Something about this gets me so wild. Eventually after some arguing and my reminding her that I had actually asked her to put her shoes on a good half hour ago, I told her she was now going to go to school with no shoes on (not that big a deal seeing as they all take them off the second they're at school anyway) and I hurried her to the car. Barefoot I watched her walk into school over the wet leaves and I felt instantly guilty. I had chosen, rightly or wrongly, to prove a point and teach a lesson and with that choice came a sacrifice - my guilt and possibly my regret.
We can't win. It's the trap. It's motherhood. It's fear and sacrifice and selection and alternatives. It's a world of "what ifs" and instant decision making. Regrets and second guessing. A world of being one thing at the detriment of being another; of making a choice and feeling guilty about the fact that you made it.
It's what no one warns you about. It's the biggest irony of all; that you can feel this intense love and in the same breath, intense... something else. Uncertainty? Anxiety?
I've never heard anyone say parenting is easy. These days we are parenting in a pressure cooker and it sure does get sweaty under the collar. We are no longer simply "mothers" as mothers have been in previous generations; today we wear a dozen different hats and the trap is in thinking that there is no repercussion. Of course there is. We are the repercussion. Our health, our sanity (definitely my sanity), our ability to cope, sometimes our relationships, sometimes our happiness.
In the early morning my 4 year old snuggles against me smelling like childhood and honey. At all hours of the day my toddler sings the Wheels on the Bus and applauds herself after every chorus. Regularly, my eldest writes me magical unicorn rainbow stories and you know, yes motherhood is conflicting and confusing, yes it's a flood of contrasting emotions, of suffocating sticky fog, of jam fingers, giggles and playdough... but it's the trap I realise, in those moments, I want to be caught in. This exhausting all-consuming job of perpetual hovering between one thing or another, between roles, between worlds is, at the end of the day, MY job. It's your job. As the song goes, "all day long". The tears, the sacrifice, the worry, the pain, the guilt, the exhaustion is all worth it. All of it. Worth it a million times over and I wouldn't change a darn thing, I really don't think I would.
This is the motherhood trap.
But I would still definitely recommend a cleaner.