Guilt

I finally broke today. Again. There’s a lot of breaking at the moment, with a hormonal tween in the house and short days and a constant to-do list I’ll never get to the end of.

Mostly, though, what’s destroying me is guilt.

Guilt that I’m using plastic, guilt that I have enough to eat when so very many people don’t. Guilt that I get free healthcare, when people where my sister lives go bankrupt for having a baby. Guilt when I throw food away, guilt for not buying organic. Guilt for flying. Guilt for shopping in a supermarket and not buying local. Guilt for eating meat. Guilt for not making the kids eat vegetables. Guilt that the kids are always unhappy. Guilt that I have zero sex-drive. Guilt that the dogs haven’t been out because I can’t stand one more muddy bath. Guilt that the house is a shit-heap and I’m in bed playing Alphabetty.

Guilt that the kids don’t want anything for Christmas because they basically get whatever they want all the time. Guilt that I’m too tired to put them to bed and instead let them fall asleep watching YouTube. Guilt I don’t get outside more or take the kids to the park. Guilt that I haven’t put the lights up because I have zero Christmas spirit. Guilt that I’m sick of school and homework and yet dread them being home for the holidays. Guilt at the sheer waste of the gifts I’ve bought and the modern-day slaves in China that made it for peanuts and who live terrible lives. Guilt I didn’t buy the school photos, or get to the kids’ assembly. Guilt that I watch TV when I should be working and spend more than I earn.

Guilt that the planet is going to hell in a handcart and I’ve turned my heating up to 20C and loaded the tumble dryer. Guilt that I haven’t planted enough trees or joined Extinction Rebellion or been on a protest march. Guilt that I’m voting tactically in the next election because another day of the poverty caused by the current government makes my heart weep, but really I want to vote Green and save the world, not just the people in my country.

Mostly just guilt that I’m not doing enough, recycling enough, reusing enough, saving enough, being enough.

I’m working as a transcriber for a charity at the moment, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), focusing very heavily on the climate crisis and the importance of eating less and better meat. It’s very rewarding work, but listening to days and days of audio about the climate crisis is not helping. Then I hang out on Facebook, the only place I have friends, and am bombarded with food banks and politics and say no to plastic. So I turn off the gadgets and stare at my house, full of needless crap I’m too exhausted to sell and too guilty to chuck, and the only thing left is sleep. Until the dogs wake me up, wanting a walk, and it starts all over again.

I’d love to end this diatribe with something cheerful. The CEO of CIWF always ends his interviews with, ‘What gives you hope?’

Right now? Not a lot.

 

Let’s talk about things …

I’ve been absent for a long time, as parenting tweens slowly destroys my sanity and patience. This post from my lovely fellow writer MTN struck a chord today, so I wanted to share it with anyone still hanging around to see if I make it back to writermummy from the land of just ‘mum’.

M T McGuire Authorholic

Wow, I have a whole gamut of stuff washing around to talk about this week. I’m not sure if I’ll get through it all or do it justice but off we go.

First of all, last week, you’ll have noticed there was a break in transmission. Yep. No blog post. I meant to do one but then it was time for the Christmas Fayre I was getting all my shizz ready and … er hem … I forgot.

In my defence, my father’s memorial service took it out of me. It was wonderful but blimey I was knackered afterwards. Lots of emotional stamina required. Which reminds me, I should write and thank a lot of people. Yet more stuff to add to the gargantuan, War And Peace-length list of Shit MTM Hasn’t Done. Gulp.

The fayre was kind of a mix. It was the first time in a new venue…

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Checking In

It’s been a while since my last post. It feels like forty years. Given the nature of Invisible Illness, I thought I’d better check in and say I’m still here, just about.

You see, after my last post, a follower and friend messaged me to ask if I’d ever considered I might be autistic. Strangely enough, about a year ago another friend shared this image on Facebook on autism in girls, and I commented how that was me as a child. But I couldn’t go 42 years without knowing something like that about myself, surely?

Erm, yes. Turns out I could. I’m still awaiting an official diagnosis (not a priority for the NHS) but my GP concurs that I show all the traits of high-functioning autism, what once would have been called Aspergers.

It was like being given glasses for the first time, or maybe a tiny bit like finding out you’re adopted. Suddenly life made sense. Turns out 42 is the answer to life, if not the universe and everything.

I’ve spent the last six weeks reading everything I can and replaying my life through this new filter. Exhausting but incredibly enlightening. All the parts of me, of my life, that I thought were broken were actually a result of me being ‘neuro-divergent’. The phrase ‘normal, not normal’ springs to mind. Mostly, for the first time in forever I don’t feel alone. (Go on, who now has a Frozen song playing in their head)

There’s a whole post to write on female autism and why it goes unrecognised. A second on high-functioning autism and why that’s a misnomer. A third on realising other family members also show traits, and the stress that’s put on our family unit, while at the same time bringing hope. Another on having a (suspected) autistic child and helping the world understand them without making them a victim.

I don’t have the energy to write any of them right now. If you’ve ever had therapy, or even a soul-bearing heart-to-heart, you’ll know how draining that is. Re-playing my whole life, all the complicated lonely anxious mess of it, and picking out new patterns has left me with an exhaustion I haven’t felt since having two babies under 2. (And realising some of those horror years of acrimonious self-doubt might have been avoided if I’d realised two out of the three of us were not neuro-typical is heartbreaking).

Anyway, it’s all good. It can only get better. We can only get stronger. There might not be a lot of NHS support, but there is plenty from friends living the same life.

And it turns out that most of the girl protagonists in my children’s books could be considered on the spectrum, so I can thank them for helping me make sense of my differences, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

More than anything, I am grateful beyond words to the very good friend who messaged with her suspicions about my place on the spectrum. There is a strong chance she literally saved my life.

My Twelve Days of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas my family gave to me

Twelve minutes’ silence

Eleven days til Hamilton

Ten years of parenting

Nine filthy rooms

Eight more days of school

Seven unshipped presents

Six empty cupboards

Five hungry rodents

Four loads of laundry

Three annoying children (including hubby!)

Two stinky dogs

And an empty cup of tea for Mummy!

Happy Christmas! And may all your online parcels arrive on time (even the ones you accidentally ordered from China)

Dependence before Independence?

It’s 4am and the puppy just woke up. She’s crying and I know that a) she needs a wee and b) if I don’t go soon not only will I have extra laundry, but she will have woken up the kids.

That’s fine. Parenting is about getting up in the night. The problem is I also know I won’t make it back to bed. Because once she’s done her business, she won’t go back in her crate without protest. And by protest I mean yelping, crying and rattling at the gate until it sounds like armageddon.

We’re on dog two. We know the rules. Ignore them when they cry and they stop. And we did. A bit. She goes in her crate at bedtime without crying now. But the mornings are different.

Firstly, I’m not so great at 4am. I go from calm to banshee really quickly. When I threatened (in hyperbole I hasten to add) to drown or sell her, I knew it wasn’t working. That whine, man, it’s like a chainsaw to the nerves pre-dawn.

Secondly, I’m not the only one who becomes vile on too little sleep. A couple of weeks ago I left the puppy crying and took off to the outside room, where I couldn’t hear her. I slept beautifully for a couple more hours, but awoke to carnage. The whole house was up, poo everywhere, tempers frayed. It took days for husband and kids to recover.

It was the same when my youngest child was born. My eldest was a light sleeper then, and only 19 months old, so whenever the baby cried he was instantly hushed. I spent the next five years dealing with the consequences. Even now I wonder if I caused his separation anxiety by trying to protect the family’s sleep/sanity.

And there’s the rub. At 4am, when I’m taking one for the team, I’m also telling myself what a terrible parent/dog owner I am. Creating a needy, spoilt puppy whilst also creating a grumpy exhausted me.

My only salvation is something a therapist said to me once. I wasn’t there for parenting advice, but it was the only good thing about the whole experience, since they did more harm than good for the thing I was there for. Anyway, the advice was ‘Dependence before Independence’. A child has to learn to trust you before they can leave you. A child has to know you’ll be there no matter what.

That phrase has been our parenting mantra. For every 3am cuddle, for every event left early or extra five minutes spent saying goodbye. It helped me too, because nothing triggers my anxiety like having a screaming child dragged from my arms, no matter how well-intentioned. I’ve had stern words with teachers and left childcare institutions that insisted my child was crying ‘crocodile tears’. I believed in my mantra.

And it’s worked, with the kids. My timid frightened children are now pulling away, finding their wings, choosing to forge their own path, without being shoved. They go on camp and sleepovers and run happily into school without a backward glance. And my sanity has remained intact.

Time will tell if it holds true for puppies.

Clubs, Jobs and Therapigs

Phew, what a month! September is always crazy, with back to school and son’s birthday. But this year has been extra mental with the son now eligible for school clubs.

Between them they now do Zumba, Indoor Bowls, Bridge, Fitness, Basketball, Brownies, Beavers, Swimming, Karate, Flute and Cornet.

That’s a lot of cheques, emails, kits, and a whole heap of headspace.

They haven’t even started half of them yet, that begins Monday, but just processing the details, alongside birthdays and vet appointments and windy weather and packed lunches for the fussitarian has about finished me off.

And the money! Oh my days. My cheque book is weeping.

So this month I’ve been trying really hard to get proper paid work. Grrr.

I’ve re-signed up to Findaproofreader (that cost £36) and renewed my website (another £36). And I’ve applied for two typing jobs. Failed the first test process, distracted by a crying puppy that was meant to be sleeping.

Passed the second rather more rigorous process, and got through a whole heap of security checks and referees and other employment palaver, only to discover not only is it minimum wage, based on my current typing speed (which is a not-too-shabby 80wpm) but also I need liability insurance and updated virus software. Which all would be at least another £100, if not double.

I can’t do it. I know about ‘speculate to accumulate’, but this is ridiculous for a £5 an hour, no guaranteed work job.

I have degrees. I have skills. I have a damn migraine!

Seriously, what do I tell my daughter? If you want kids, don’t bother with uni, train as a plumber or a hairdresser or an Electrician, because degrees don’t mean shit if you ever take a career break to raise sprogs.

Okay, I’m whinging I know, but when unskilled labour would pay me more than knowing the difference between elicit and illicit (one of the many tests I passed) I wish I didn’t have a brain, or an education, because then I wouldn’t feel such a failure.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. There’s always checkout jobs at Waitrose, although most part time work involves people and it’s not my strong suit these days! 😂

Thank goodness for therapigs. In a world of chaos there is always a little bit of guinea pig calm.

Reviews, Glorious Reviews

DAB7B6EA-E27E-49D4-9260-B5B8C8F9A33CIt doesn’t happen very often, but it’s been a good week for reviews. Reviews are the lifeblood of the writer, especially the self-published author, but they’re not easy to come by.

I ran a free promo on The Family We Choose over the bank holiday weekend, hoping to drum up some interest. Unfortunately, the heady days of thousands of downloads during a promotion are long gone. I think I hit 31 copies over 3 days. But no matter, because I received two lovely reviews.

The one that touched me most ran under the headline “Will take you right back if you have ever been there.”

It’s always dangerous writing about difficult emotive subjects. When I wrote Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, I had plenty of first-hand experience of postnatal depression. And while I do also have some knowledge of what it means to have a turbulant childhood and an overbearing father, it’s nothing like it is for the characters in my book. A whole heap of research filled in the blanks.

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So, to know that the story resonates true for those with more experience is unbelievably rewarding, as well as being rather daunting. Should books come with a Trigger Warning?

On a completely different note, I received this lovely review from a nine-year-old who read and enjoyed Moon Pony.

B031E24D-250E-4818-9045-B212236F448EIt’s really special to get feedback from the people I write my children’s books for. What’s nicer is the depth of thought in the review. Not just “I enjoyed it” but an awareness of the book being about the idea that sometimes people need a bit of extra love.

Perfectly timed too, as I got printed copies of Hope Glimmers through this week. A tiny bit proud of how the illustrations came out, as only the second book I have illustrated. I’m itching to write another so I can illustrate that, too. Unfortunately the summer hols are more conducive to painting than writing. Still, only a week left. 😊