Busy Is a Sickness

Busy is a Sickness Article

Busy is a Sickness Article

I read a brilliant article on HuffPost Parents this morning called Busy Is a Sickness.

The article discusses how everyone seems to be busy these days, but that – when we scratch beneath the surface – that business is often self-inflicted. That we seem to be afraid to be still and be ourselves, so we fill our lives with doing.

The article’s author, Scott Dannemiller, says, “I wear busyness like a badge of honor. Only there’s no honor to be had.”

He explains how he became resentful when someone listened to him describe a crazy day ahead and said, “Sounds like a full day, have fun!”

I laughed out loud when I read that part, because I recognised myself so fully in the statement.

I have a friend who has said something similar to me, and I felt equally resentful. Don’t you know how hard my life is? I wanted to say. Don’t you know how busy I am, how hard I find it remembering all the details and running round after my kids. Cooking meals, washing laundry, walking the dog, all while finding time to write and spend time with my children? Pity me.

Lately, though, I’ve come to see all those things as blessings in my life. I am blessed to have a family who need me, a dog who loves being walked and who makes me get outside every day, rain or shine. I am blessed to have time to write and to live in a beautiful (messy) house. I am blessed to be able to pick my children up from school every day and be home with them in the holidays. I am blessed to have a husband who doesn’t mind the mess and random meals.

It’s hard to remember those blessings all the time, though. Most of the time my internal dialogue reverts back to the ‘woe is me, I’m so busy’ script.

I’ve been learning about Transactional Analysis in the writing course I am doing at the moment, particularly about life scripts. The website Changingminds.org describes life scripts like this:

We create stories about our lives, what they have been and what they will be. This starts in childhood where we weave our perceptions of our selves and of the world around us into a narrative about what we can and will do.

These life scripts then continue to have a deep and unconscious effect on how we live our lives. They affect the decision we make. They control what we think we could easily do and could never do. They shape our self-image. And yet we seldom realize where they come from or even do not know that they exist at all.

Our life scripts are often encouraged and shaped by parents and other family members, whose life scripts were shaped by their parents and so on. In this way, we become a product of our family’s history. Likewise, our scripts are also woven by cultural and national forces.

Life scripts are not all the same as they may also be significantly affected by individual events, such as being criticized by a teacher or bullied by other children. They also are constrained by inherited characteristics. For example it would be unusual (but not impossible) for a shorter person to include being a basketball player in their life script.

There are often overall shapes to life scripts that can be expressed very simply, for example ‘I am a loser’ or ‘I must help save the world’. Life scripts can be very detailed and they can be very vague. They can be very empowering, yet they can also severely limit our lives.

I am starting to realise that my life script features phrases like, “woe is me,” or “I’m never good enough,” or “everyone expects me to help them,” or “pity me.”

I deliberately place myself into positions where I am put upon, unappreciated, stressed or busy, and that reinforces my script. Being busy is part of that. A busy person is a useful person. A person who isn’t busy is lazy. These are things I have inside me.

When I first met my husband he was really good at just sitting and being. I saw it as laziness and it drove me crazy. I thought he should be fixing something, cleaning something or doing something useful. I probably drove him to be more busy and less happy. I regret that. Especially now I appreciate the true benefits of stillness. We need to just be. We don’t need to be busy all the time.

This is the quote from the HuffPost article that really resonated with me (from Dr. Susan Koven, Massachusetts General Hospital.)

“In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness.”

One of the things that makes me most stressed/unhappy/irritable is when my brain is full. There are two dozen things that need doing right away and my brain is processing them all.

I am learning (slowly) to prioritise. To accept my house will never be fully clean. I practice Mindfulness and tell those thoughts to just clear off for a while. It’s very liberating. But to the outside world I probably look lazy and, being an HSP, I care what the world thinks.

When I chose to be a stay-at-home-mum/writer I felt I had to be busy all the time, or people would think less of me. That I was more important or a better person when I worked 12-hour days to meet crazy deadlines.

I felt I had to drive myself to fill every minute and rush rush rush. I had to rush the kids to school, even though I didn’t have to get to work on time. I made excuses, I never stopped.

Then I broke.

I had suicidal thoughts. I came to believe the world would be better without me because I was so rubbish, so lazy, so incapable of being as good and busy and productive as all my doctor, nurse, teacher friends who were making a real difference in the world.

It was a dark time and it took medication and a good doctor and the support of a loving family to come through it. But, most of all, I had to learn to be kind to myself and forgive myself for not being everything I wanted to be or thought I should be.

I learned to nap when I need it, to leave early to pick up the kids so I’m not rushing. I learned it’s okay to read a book, knowing I made my choices.

Do I feel guilty that some people are the ‘have to be busy to make ends meet’ sort because they have bills to pay? Yes, I do. But sometimes I think even that is about choices for some (not all, most definitely). How often are we working for the next car, house, holiday when we wouldn’t need those things if we were happier in ourselves?

Do I still care what the world thinks and have to justify my actions? Of course; that’s why I’m writing this post after all. I still have ‘pity me’ moments. I still want the world’s sympathy. Want my life, my worries, to be more important than everyone else’s. But I see those thoughts for the intruders they are. They aren’t my thoughts, they’re learnt and inherited. I can choose to ignore them.

I share this prayer with Scott:

“So my prayer today is this. That I stop defining myself by my doing, and start defining myself by my being. That I stop measuring time by the clock on the wall, and start measuring it by the experiences I share with those around me. And that I stop seeing my life as “busy,” and instead, see it for what it truly is.

Full.”

In Response to Coffee and Conversation

Culture Monk Blog

Culture Monk Blog

One of my favourite blogs, Culture Monk now called Coffee and Conversation, is written by Kenneth Justice. He discusses many big themes, such as community, culture and religion, and I often find myself nodding in agreement (although as an agnostic I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes).

Today he published a post called Adulthood no longer exists…. I had to read it, because it has occurred to me many times since becoming a grownup that there aren’t really any grownups and we’re all winging it. In fact there’s a quote to that effect going around Facebook at the moment (I’ll link when I find it).

I think you become most aware of it when you have children and you realise you have to start being the adult. I often look at my parents and my father-in-law and think they seem so grown-up, but I know that they don’t feel any different inside than they did when they were in their teens or twenties, just the same as me.

I also read the article because recently I’ve felt that my husband and I need to grow up a bit more, take a bit more responsibility, spend a bit less time playing computer games and more time cleaning the house and taking the children swimming. But then I read Kenneth’s article and, instead of confirming my view, it made me reconsider. Mostly it made me reconsider what we mean by Adulthood. Does there have to be a demarcation between child and adult? I look at my children and they’re amazing. They see the world with such fresh eyes, they are open to endless possibilities, they live in the now and rarely dwell on the past or grievances or things they don’t have. Why would we want to be different to that?

Also, as I read more of the article, which focussed on people playing games on their phones instead of interacting in coffee shops, I realised that such behaviour might be that of a teenager but it certainly isn’t that of a child. A child would be in there, introducing themselves to everyone and discussing what they had for breakfast. We train that out of them when we tell them to grow up and behave, to be wary of strangers, to stay out of other people’s business.

This was my comment on Kenneth’s blog: It focusses mainly on the gaming aspect (and by gaming I mean computer games, not gambling. I have a whole different view on that!) I’d like to discuss this further but I have a dog to walk and children to collect, so I’ve just pasted the comment here. I would love to know what you think!

For once I’m not sure I agree with you. I have had many similar discussions with my husband recently because a) he and I would rather be gaming in the evening than reading (and I’m a writer of fiction, there’s nothing wrong with my intellect and I love to read, whether it’s YA or Hemingway) and b) our six year old daughter would rather play computer games and watch youtube videos than read. Again, she’s a very bright child and I don’t see the games as diminishing her intellect. If anything, they are stretching her far more than the drivel her school send her home to read. She is discussing strategy and learning about the world.

Obviously I monitor closely the games she plays, and make sure they aren’t sapping the life out of her. But I despair of getting her to read through choice. I did nothing but read at her age and I explained that to her the other day (in a mother-guild panic because not reading is equated with going to hell in the middle-class world I live in), and she said, “but, Mummy, do I have to grow up to be like you?”

Those were her exact words and they floored me. No, of course she doesn’t. I hope she doesn’t, because she lives in a completely different world to the one I grew up in. I read to escape at her age. Enid Blyton and Sweet Valley High books, even Lord of the Rings and other weightier tomes (for an eight year old) were my friends and family. But do I look back and think that was healthy? Not really. I was escaping life. My daughter doesn’t read I believe because she doesn’t need to escape life. She loves life. She doesn’t need to be entertained – she is entertained, by her drawing, her brother, her toys, and by the ipad.

My children discuss their games together, they strategise and plan and compete and learn and help each other. Even on a ‘mindless’ game like Minion Rush I see them getting so much from it. And me, too. I’ve never felt so alive – since becoming a work from home mum – as when I started playing strategy games. I am using my brain like never before. I have something to discuss with my husband: we talk far more than we used to when I was buried in my books all the time. We have few points of contact in our choices of books and films but we found a common point in games.

I don’t disagree that culture is becoming fragmented, that people are spending more time in their virtual worlds and less time making human contact. I worry that empathy is disappearing (and then I read some posts on Humans of New York and my faith is restored.) I quite often only speak to people at the school gate, and not even then if I’m tired.

But I certainly wasn’t having deeply intellectual conversations before becoming a SAHM or before playing games on my ipad. My friends and I talked about clothes and handbags and restaurants and movies and a bunch of other things I couldn’t always relate to. Even my husband and I don’t talk politics because we don’t have the same beliefs. I’ve found my own tribe online. Facebook is my coffee shop where I hang out with friends and discuss the political views I subscribe to. My blog is where I chat and swap parenting stories and work things out.

Maybe culture isn’t failing, maybe it’s just shifting. Maybe we’re no longer restricted by trying to find common ground with the people we happen to exist alongside geographically, maybe we can reach out to a whole world and find people who are like us, wherever they exist (or even whether they are real, I guess).

Anyway, something for me to think on when I have my coffee! 🙂 Great and thought-provoking article.

Deliciously Ella: Or How I Accidentally Jumped on a Bandwagon

The new cookbook

The new cookbook

I don’t do healthy eating. I try, but I’m a lazy cook and a chocoholic, and I was brought up in an age when crispy pancakes and deep fried chips were a perfectly acceptable meal to give a child.

My sister is the foodie in the family. Her children eat humus through choice and would take veg over chocolate any day. She makes healthy muffins and stews and slow-cooked curries. She bakes her own bread. And she works all day in an office.

I want to be like that, I do. But I find it hard to lead by example. Even though I’ve started baking a bit more, I make white bread and scones, banana loaf and chocolate cake. Watching the half-a-bag of white sugar and half-a-slab of butter go into the bowl ready to make cookies doesn’t prevent me from eating them all, although I do try and limit how many I give to the children.

Since my first child was born (six years ago already – how did that happen?!) I’ve tried to move away from white bread and crisps to a healthier diet, but with limited success.

I do make my own bolognaise sauce from scratch (most of the time), especially as it’s the only thing both my fussy children will eat. I buy fruit and vegetables, and the children sometimes even eat them. I scour labels for sugar content, and try to make sure the children have a break from their sugary breakfast cereal at least one day a week by making them eat Weetabix. They mostly only drink water and milk (although fruit juice is allowed.)

Despite my half-hearted efforts I realise, some days, that my son has only eaten wheat: for breakfast, lunch and dinner (cereal, toast and pasta), with a bit of cheese and a bottle of milk thrown in for good measure. Thank goodness he isn’t dairy or gluten intolerant. My daughter does better, as she loves berries, but it’s tough keeping up with that habit in the winter without taking out a second mortgage.

Recently I realised, even by my poor standards, things have taken a nose-dive. The children are having chocolate biscuits and crisps for their snacks instead of rice cakes and muesli bars (the low sugar type, not the ones that claim to be healthy and yet have 40% sugar content). The problem is they’re getting more vocal, and fussier, and – with hubby out of work last year when I was watching the food budget more – I realised crap food is so much cheaper.

But it’s February and I’m still shattered. The doctors don’t know why I’m tired all the time. I know Christmas and then my daughter’s birthday month always take their toll, but I’m in the middle of a stinking cold, and my children are on their second each of 2015. Something has to give.

Then I heard an interview, by accident, on Radio 2 a couple of weeks ago, with a woman called Ella who suffered from an illness that left her sleeping sixteen hours a day and unable to walk. She cured herself by switching to a whole-food, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free diet.

Ella's Blog

Ella’s Blog

Normally I try and ignore such interviews.

When it came out a few years ago that sugar was the new smoking, the new thing we all have to quit, I hid under the covers. I can’t vaguely imagine giving up sugar. I might just be able to give up refined sugar, although breakfast would be hard as I’m a cornflakes girl, but giving up fruit? Bananas and fruit smoothies are the only healthy things I enjoy. I might as well give up breathing. Giving up smoking when I found out I was pregnant was a doddle in comparison. (Besides, I did that for someone else, not for me.)

But the more I listened to Ella talk, the more I liked what I was hearing. Still being able to eat pizza and chocolate brownies? Surely too good to be true? Was there a way I could feel better and still stuff my face with chocolate cake on that fourth week of the month when my hormones demand their human sacrifice? Better still, was there a way I could sneak vegetables into my now-much-too-savvy children’s diet?

After the interview was over, I ordered the cook book. Me and thousands of others apparently. That was when I realised I had inadvertently jumped on a bandwagon. Apparently Ella is the daughter of Mrs Sainsbury and a former Cabinet Minister and her blog has had 17 million hits. Ho hum. I never have been that much up on the zeitgeist.

When the book finally arrived last week it was more like a study book than a cook book. Not that I would know – I only have a couple of cook books and I don’t think either of them have ever been used. My few recipes come from the Co-op free magazine or online. But when I opened random pages in Ella’s book, I didn’t find easy-to-make healthy recipes, I discovered essays on the wonders of quinoa and chickpeas. So I stuck it on the shelf next to Jamie Oliver and the Woman’s Own tome and ignored it.

Fast forward a week, past my daughter’s craft party (which went really well, thankfully), past three days of feeling so awful it took all my energy to take the children to school, and I had a change of heart. I needed something to make me feel better and coffee and chocolate just weren’t doing it.

Baby steps towards a healthier diet...

Baby steps towards a healthier diet…

I started out searching for smoothie deals online. I keep seeing them in Groupon emails – you know, for the bargain price of £59.99 (reduced from £249.99) you can have a dozen tiny bottles of fruit juice, guaranteed to make you feel better.

I didn’t have sixty quid for three days’ worth of juice. So I went to the supermarket and bought some instead, including lettuce and beetroot juice.

And then I started having porridge for lunch. And that reminded me of where I came in to Ella’s interview on Radio 2. How she was such a sugar-monster that she had to hide fruit in her porridge when she first started out on her quest for healthy eating. It sounded familiar.

And it made me pick up the book. And read the first chapter. And write a shopping list of things I’ve never heard of, like buckwheat flour and tahini. That’s as far as I’ve got, well apart from making my porridge today with coconut oil and honey instead of sugar and treacle. I won’t be going dairy or gluten free any time soon, but if I can manage one meal a week (a month!) from Ella’s book, it will be a good start.

I think that’s what is different with Deliciously Ella. She was a self-confessed sugar-monster student, and she managed to make the change. If she can then so can I. Maybe not all at once, but bit by bit. She isn’t preaching, she isn’t being holier-than-thou (or she certainly doesn’t come across that way in the book’s introduction) and that’s very encouraging.

When I started out self-publishing, there were those who said ‘you can do it’ and those who said, ‘you must have an editor and a proofreader and spend thousands or you’re ruining it for all of us.’ Thankfully I listened more to the former (although the latter left scars) and I followed my own path.

Hopefully I can apply the same logic to eating. It doesn’t matter if it’s one thing, one meal, one ingredient. It’s better than nothing. And if it allows me to get through the school holidays without being asleep all the time, then it will be worth the effort.

I’ll keep you posted!

Life (Before and After Kids)

This is the first time I’ve tried to do a cartoon to describe my life. Actually it was a lot of fun!

With a broken tooth, a broken dish and a burnt arm all within ten minutes last night (mostly all tiredness-related) and the doctor telling me it isn’t the drugs making me tired, it’s just being a parent (and by the way, was it affecting my bond with my kids and my ability to be a good mum?) life felt a tad hard yesterday. I couldn’t understand why a broken dish had me sobbing, when a decade or so ago I travelled round New Zealand by myself, literally conquering mountains single handed.

Then I thought this:

cartoonb4CartoonAfter

Grow Up and Get Back to Work

Back to work (crochet away!)

Back to work (crochet away!)

I’ve really struggled to get back into writing this January. After six weeks of Christmas planning and the children being home for the holidays, my brain is foggier than the dull winter skies outside.

I have started several blog posts in my head in the last week or two, but none have made it further than that. They’ve had titles like “Christmas Chaos and Crochet Stole My Voice” and “Farmville Is Evil”. But that’s same ol same ol.

I’ve written before about how my addiction to knitting and Farmville has derailed my writing, how having the children home from school causes me to sleep non-stop (I was asleep at 4pm on Christmas Day) and how hard it is to get the balance between Writer and Mummy. It’s time to stop making excuses and get back to work.

Another post that floated in the unwritten ether of my mind at 3am, as is often the case, was a review of 2014, and how I found inner peace.

Happy children

Happy children

It’s a bit late for end-of-year reviews and, anyway, my new year starts in September, not January. But it is true nonetheless. I might still struggle with depression and the more negative aspects of being HSP. I might have struggled with having hubbie home for four months while he found a new job (he did, hurrah). I might have realised that being self published, self employed, is harder than even my pessimistic view of the world could have predicted. But still, peace was found.

Somewhere between Sertraline, Mindfulness and Good Enough Parenting, somewhere between my children telling me they love me All The Time and being able to be at home with my husband for four months and still look forward to retirement, somewhere between five-star reviews and knitted toys, I found me.

I’m reading a children’s book called Winterling by Sarah Prineas at the moment, and the main protagonist finally finds a place where she fits, where she feels she belongs. This year, especially this Christmas holiday, between making bread from scratch, hosting Christmas play dates for nine and five children, learning to crochet, and being there for my children, I realised I have found where I belong.

Parenting doesn’t come naturally to me. My family and I thought I’d be a terrible parent. Turns out we were all wrong. For all my doubt and shoutiness and crying and constant need to hide, I am a great parent. My children are kind and happy, healthy and full of love.

Writing didn’t come naturally to me. My parents and my tutors at university said my writing was dull. But hard work beats genius every time, and six years in to my writing journey some people (not all!) love my stories. I began to doubt my writing after Class Act and Alfie and the Magic Arch but I need to realise I’m still learning, and not give up.

Huggable creativity

Huggable creativity

My writer’s blues, my lost voice, came from doubt and impatience. Knitting and Farmville are far more instant. I can make a toy in a few days, I can make cakes on my farm in minutes.

Writing is invisible and definitely the long climb to creativity. It’s intangible. At the end of each day I can’t measure my progress with a ruler, or gets oohs of delight from my friends. Just like parenting (my children thank me for working on their Farms, they never thank me for clean clothes or floors), you have to accept the results are a long way off and keep slogging anyway.

I reread a post from this time last year, and discovered I felt exactly the same. Lost, melancholy, restless. It’s January, dark, rainy, and exhaustion is rife after Christmas. Time to take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other.

So today my laptop is charged, my crochet bagged (except for the photo!), the farms switched off. Today I will return to Lucy and Edan, Andrew and Graham, and I will find their story. I will write until they find their happy ending and, in doing do, I will find mine.

Why being an Introvert is toughest in the Summer Holidays

My house, my head, my life...

My house, my head, my life…

I finally got to the bottom of my exhaustion today, after a friend on twitter suggested it might be due to my diet. I spent a lot of time musing on what is actually causing it, and whether sugar and caffeine are to blame.

It’s certainly true that there has been more coffee and cake this holiday, as survival against being home with the kids. But, if anything, my diet has been better, as I’ve had the children to feed too. Lunch is more likely to be pasta and veg than marmite toast, and there is much more fruit. I’m also drinking less tea, because I never get a chance to make and finish a cup while it’s hot.

But today I broke. We were meant to go and pick the car up from the garage and then go to the farm. Somewhere between trying to make a picnic as the kids hurled demands at me, and fighting to get two children dressed who declared they didn’t want to go out, I lost it. I walked away, climbed the stairs and crawled into bed. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Followers of this blog will know I am both an introvert and an HSP or Highly Sensitive Person. The latter is a term I hate, because it sounds like something kids would taunt in the playground, but it’s a diagnosis that applies too closely to me to be ignored. Let’s look at the two terms:

Introvert: I found this brilliant definition on the gifted kids website (not because I think I’m gifted, but because I googled it!).

Definition: Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert! Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety, and while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness. Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.

Introverts are more concerned with the inner world of the mind. They enjoy thinking, exploring their thoughts and feelings. They often avoid social situations because being around people drains their energy. This is true even if they have good social skills. After being with people for any length of time, such as at a party, they need time alone to “recharge.”

When introverts want to be alone, it is not, by itself, a sign of depression. It means that they either need to regain their energy from being around people or that they simply want the time to be with their own thoughts. Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.

Being introspective, though, does not mean that an introvert never has conversations. However, those conversations are generally about ideas and concepts, not about what they consider the trivial matters of social small talk.

[Emphasis mine]

Even the garden is a mess

Even the garden is a mess

Remind you of anyone? This is me. My life became a different place when I realised I was an introvert and that was okay. I am married to someone who recognises that I need plenty of alone time, and that even having him home in the garage can stop me from fully recharging. I am liberated by the knowledge, but it’s tough to handle at times, especially when most people I know are extroverts and think I’m antisocial or just plain weird.

The parents who tell me they love being home with their kids, love the constant chatter and the laughing and silliness are not introverts. And, possibly, they will never understand why, even though I love my children, it physically pains me to be around them all the time.

Highly Sensitive Person: On the HSP Website, it says this:

Is this you?

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?

I read this list and ticked every single one. I tick them in relief, because so many things I thought were just me being difficult or a freak turned out to be things that other people could relate to.  The two bits I’ve emphasised are the ones that have been hardest this holiday. As above with the introvert definition, I “need time alone to ‘recharge'”. This holiday that has been “bed or a darkened room”. A lot. Not very healthy. When the children are at school I recharge by writing and walking the dog, sitting alone in cafes and getting the weekly food shop. None of those options are available to me, so I sleep.

More Playroom Mayhem

More Playroom Mayhem

Another thing that has exhausted me this holiday is the constant conflict. I hate arguments. I grew up in an argumentative household and any sort of disagreement, even without raised voices, ties my stomach in knots and makes me shake. Recently I’ve been having heart palpitations and there is a permanent knot of angst in my tummy. When I went to get my contraceptive pills this week they wouldn’t give them to me because my blood pressure was high.

Today I realised why.

My children are three and five. They argue all the time. When they’re not arguing, with each other or with me, or having screaming heebie jeebies because their socks are the wrong colour, they’re shrieking with glee, which usually ends in someone crying because they get too hyper. And, try as I might to block it out, I can’t. I’ve been living amidst constant noise and angst and conflict for fourteen hours a day for over four weeks. I have had two hours by myself to recharge. Two hours in four weeks. It’s been five years since I had a child at home full time, and back then they couldn’t talk.

I don’t know if being an introvert and being HSP are the same thing. I don’t think so. But I know that being both, and being a stay at home mum, are definitely mutually exclusive things if you want to stay happy.

My exhaustion is because I’m ‘switched on’ all day. It’s like wearing a heavy rucksack that I can’t put down. It starts off manageable but gets heavier and heavier as the journey continues. So my body copes by shutting down. If it can’t make the noise go away, it will go to sleep and escape that way. That’s my thought anyway. And it makes me sad. I had such great plans for the holiday and, in small doses, I genuinely love spending time with the children, taking them to the park, listening to their shows and reading them stories. But this summer I reached my limit.

'Painting' hmmm

‘Painting’ hmmm

I suspect it is all exacerbated by the fact that my children are likely also introverts (with two parents that are, it’s pretty inevitable), so they’re also suffering from being with each other day after day. It’s noticeable that my son, who has had no time by himself, being either at home with his sister or at nursery, has reverted to a tantrummy two-year-old. Normally he has a day or two with me just watching TV and cuddling. Time to switch off. Then he becomes my sweet little boy. At the moment he’s angry and stroppy and teary much of the time. Needless to say that isn’t helping any of our stress levels!

So I just have to hang on. In a week and a half I’ll have a few hours by myself. I think it might take more than one day to regrow the layers of skin that have been stripped away, but just knowing it’s coming is helping me cling on to sanity. It doesn’t help that hubbie is between contracts and at home, but hopefully that at least will be a short-lived situation.

And next year? Like it or not, tears and tantrums or not, even if it’s only for a day a week, they’re going to camp!

A Public Apology and a Heap of Perspective

My lovely mum

My lovely mum

I upset my mum with my last post on parenting. I didn’t even think. The post was written as a rant against a British Nanny’s take on the ills of modern parenting. But I confess I was possibly also influenced by having spent a few hours at my mum’s house, feeling like she was criticising me because my kids backchat a lot.

I can’t blame her, they do.

But I shouldn’t get cross and I certainly wouldn’t want to upset her just because we have different views on parenting. Just because we don’t see eye to eye on one little thing doesn’t mean I don’t love her and would certainly never say something to hurt her. I owe her too much for that.

Yes there were elements of my childhood that weren’t great. My dad had about as much patience for parenting as I have, but without my self-awareness and support network. He raged, he occasionally hit, he hated mess and lateness and noise, and I grew up terrified of him. But I still loved him. And I wish he’d lived long enough for me to tell him that I yell just as loud at my kids.

Holidays in Dorset

Holidays in Dorset

And yes my parents went down the pub and my sister and I sat with our coke and crisps, but I can’t recall ever minding. In fact I am certain we got up to all sorts of high jinx while our parents were otherwise occupied. We were very good at entertaining ourselves writing notes to strangers through the window on long car journeys or finding things to climb on.

In many ways I had a great childhood, full of freedom and adventure. I spent my formative years in a housing estate in Sussex, with a garden that backed onto fields. I ran in a pack of kids, climbed trees and played in the tree houses Dad built behind our back fence. I practiced gymnastics on the beam he built and played on the stilts he made.

Fabulous fancy dress

Fabulous fancy dress

I went to fancy dress competitions in the incredible costumes my mother made with hours of endless patience and much tissue paper. I remember my mum was always baking – mostly raisin fairy cakes with icing on top. We got to lick out the food processor, even the super sharp blade, and we never cut our tongue. I remember putting on endless shows in the back garden for our parents and the German students who came to stay in the summer.

I remember going to the sweet shop and buying halfpenny sweets, and going for cycle rides all together at the weekends. I remember ‘spotting’ for dad when he was welding, watching for flames with a washing up liquid bottle full of water, ready to put out the fire. I remember helping him bleed brakes and accompanying him when he went to visit houses to collect cars.

I remember buying cream soda in a shop in a nearby village and my parents playing darts and whist and winning loads of prizes at the Christmas whist drives. I remember picnics on the beach and learning to swim in the icy cold sea. I remember the amusement arcades and holidays to Weymouth.

The camper vans (ours is the white one)

The camper vans (ours is the white one)

I remember going to France in our Comma camper van and learning to say, “un litre du lait, s’il vous plais” to the woman in the campsite shop, when offering an empty bottle, without having any idea what it meant.

Mum made the most amazing birthday cakes: pink princess castles and gymnastic medals. We had birthday parties at home, with sandwiches and cheese and pineapple on sticks. We went to fetes at the school and the summer fair at Wisborough Green and Mum would run in the Mummies race.

My memories of my parents fighting and my Dad’s rages are what motivate me to be a gentle, patient parent (even though, genetically, I’m fighting a losing battle.) My fears of speaking out to Dad are why I let my children talk back to me (up to a point) because I never want them to be afraid to speak. But my childhood wasn’t ‘inadequate’ and, on the whole, it wasn’t unhappy. I remember the stuff I don’t want to emulate, without focussing on the bits that were great.

So this is to set the record straight. And to say sorry.

Me, Sis, Mum, Grandma and Great Grandma

Me, Sis, Mum, Grandma and Great Grandma