Garfield (my childhood hero) calls February the Monday of months. I used to agree: it’s past the excitement of winter and January sales, but a long way from the warmth and hope of April.
But now I have a new Monday month: September. It truly stinks.
I thought that back to school would be something to celebrate – that seems to be what other mums do. You survive the summer holidays, pack the darlings off in their uniform and brand new shoes, and get back to work.
Not so much in the Martin household.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a ‘job’ to go back to. Writing waits until I find breathing space, because parenting comes first. So far this month I’ve finished a print proof of Will on the Water and started two submission packs for agents.
And I haven’t managed any cleaning, ironing, decorating, swimming, dog walking, or anything else I planned to do with all the ‘free time’ everyone thinks I have.
Of course this year is extra hard: My son has only done two short sessions so far, and won’t be full time for weeks. He’s tired and emotional and missing his dummies. His sister is grumpy and sensitive because school is ‘her thing’ and she doesn’t really want her brother muscling in on her territory.
But it’s more than that. Adjusting to new routines and people doesn’t come easily to any of us. My daughter finds breaking in a new teacher very hard: she cries every day at drop off and wants to be at home with me. I leave her clinging to a teaching assistant, saying, “I’m going to miss you so much Mummy.” But then when she gets home she’s horrid. Shouty, confrontational, bolshy. Me, basically.
And so the guilt starts. What am I doing wrong, that every other child sits down nicely and gets on with their work while mine sobs? What did I do wrong, that my daughter shouts and screams and picks fights with her brother, when in the summer they (mostly) play beautifully together. What am I doing wrong that I’m and exhausted to the point of falling asleep over dinner, when I’m not juggling all this AND a job, like all the other mums and dads?
I settled my guilt in the holidays. I felt like a great parent. We had fun and learned stuff and got along.
Now I feel like I’m living in a conflict zone (I hesitate to say war zone, conscious as I am of what that truly means, and how my problems pale into insignificance compared with refugees from real wars.)
I’m sure it will get better, easier. The sun is shining today, it feels less like November and more like the month I used to love: the month of pulling my jeans back on and walking in the long stretching golden rays of evening.
That was before school, before a child’s birthday fell three weeks into term (and said child refused to have an easy ‘soft play centre’ party this year!), before the endless ‘stay at home mummy’ guilt.
Until then, as hubbie said this morning, just keep swimming…