It has been a while, with some major changes and happenings, in our lives and in the political and financial world.
Concerning our lives…
We decided not to buy the house in the end, between Brexit and our other uncertainties it seemed better to postpone such a big 30-year-mortgage move. In Amsterdam we had bought our flat right after the 2008-crisis. Afterwards the price just kept going down and we couldn’t sell and move out without losing a lot – not doing that again.
I am over 4 months pregnant with our second child! And hurray! the anxiety and the fear to lose it are back full time. Thank you hormones and messed up sleep… Physically everything is going well so I’m trying to deal with it one day and one night at a time with the help of my husband. Diseases and accidents, time with my son, guilt, giving birth (can I really do that again?), first weeks, sibling discovery. Out of the top of my head. One day at a time and a bit of crochet.
This post is about an idea I had last night to combine my stay-at-home mum need for projects and get my couple back on the lovey-dovey track…
A – My mushy brains and the need for projects
Stay-at-home mum, I feel my brain going mushy. The only activity it would get, I’m afraid, if I didn’t do anything about it, would be through trivial everyday decisions such as:
Should little monkey wear his shoes or his boots? Depends on the weather and the destination.
Should we a) stay at home, b) go to a park, c) go to a softplay/toddler group? Depends on the weather, my motivation and/or my desperation to get out of the house.
If b), should I take the tricycle (a bit big, little monkey can’t get to the pedals, he has fun for 15 minutes then gets bored sitting on it and I have to push it), or the push chair (bulky, he never wants to sit in it, when he gets tired I have to carry him and push the chair, but I always have hopes that he might sit in it, and it can carry the nappy & food bag)?
Should I leave the park/softplay now or later, considering that he is having fun but that if I leave too late I run the risk that he will fall asleep in the car? If he does, should he stay in the car (it’s cold, it’s outside) or take the risk of getting him out to put him in his bed (if he wakes up, he might not fall asleep again that day and get really tired and cranky by diner time)?
I need more brain activity. I need projects. Even if not brainy projects. That’s the conclusion I came to the other day after realizing how much time I’d spent lately trying to find myself a job. I looked online on jobs’ websites. I thought of every possible thing I like doing, or that I’m good at, to see if one of those could be used for a job, or even turned into a company. I read self-development books. The thing is that I don’t really need the money – we could always do with more, of course, but it’s not the main reason behind my search. No, the main reason for finding a job would be to feel useful, find an occupation, use my brain. And because we don’t really need the money, I don’t want to just work in anything, I want to do something I like.
So I looked at volunteering, Red Cross, animal shelters, etc. There are people looking and some very good opportunities can be found online. Problem: I don’t have the free time because my 2 years old son is with me all the time, I’m a stay-at-home mum. Solution: he could go to daycare. For volunteering? No… We’re ok money-wise, but that’s still sounds stupid. Daycare is only interesting and can only be paid for if I work. Volunteering will have to wait until my little monkey goes to school.
Find a job then. That I really like. That I like enough to feel ok to put my son into daycare.
Yes, daycare could be good for him. He would spend more time with children and other adults, and could learn to rely a bit more on himself and become more self-confident. For all these reasons, we had a go recently in a playgroup for children aged 2 to 4 years old – 2 mornings a week for 3 weeks, on his own without mum. He was the smallest in there. Got super tired and cried a lot and couldn’t tell us what was wrong. Other kids being pushy or rough? Adult not nice? Afraid? And we couldn’t explain why we were doing this. I got scared that he might withdraw and learn the wrong things. So after three weeks, we decided that we would stop, for now. He will go and learn all these things but he is still young. School won’t start for another year and a half and we can try again in three months or six months or even a year, when he talks more and gets less tired.
So. No job. No volunteering. For at least another year and a half to two years. I need projects.
B – Running projects
Thinking about it, I realize that I already have a few projects running:
Being a good mum and providing a good atmosphere for my son to grow well: it entails finding activities for him for his education/entertainment/exercise while looking out for his safety and not forgetting to give him drinks and food made out of good products without sugar, salt or chemicals. Also generally spending time with him, loving him, and cleaning up the messes. I have good days and bad days 🙂
Knitting/crocheting: I have lots of big and small projects for ourselves and presents, plus I go to a knitting group.
Read books: not just novels but also self-empowerment/improvement ones. TV is ok but limited. This is not going extra well.
Blogging 😉 I have good months and bad months.
Follow free courses online (or MOOCs) for a few weeks: it can be about anything I like, astronomy, education, philosophy, programming…
Finish my PhD: bascially prepare and practice my presentation. The rest is done.
Despite all this, I realized that there is one project missing. Or at least one topic: my husband. I wouldn’t label a husband-project something like “being a good wife” because it sounds awful. So I’m going to call it The Game 😉
C – The Game
I had a dream last night in which I was on holidays with a friend. There I met a guy, really nice, great to talk to. We spent lots of time together, getting closer and playing with that knowledge. I needed that guy close. I was falling in love. Then I woke up, married, and I had the horrible thought that if we weren’t more careful, this dream could actually become reality for one of us one day, and would mean the end of our family.
The objective of The Game is therefore to get closer to my husband, spend time with him, become more of the lovey couple we were before having our son – because lets face it, love expands after the birth (meaning that you include more people), but not time, and the less time you spend with your partner, the less love you ultimately feel.
Laying in bed after that realization, I came to list the obstacles that exist to get closer to my husband. I’ll call them The Obstacles.
D – The Obstacles
Trust: trusting that The Game will work, that we are still compatible in other ways than just caring for our son, that my husband wants the same thing (getting closer) and that he is not already looking elsewhere… I find that talking helps with this, at least for me.
Image: I feel crap, ugly, unkept. I haven’t been to the hairdresser in at least a year, I haven’t bought new clothes in months or years, and I’ve started putting a bit of weight (that I’d lost before the pregnancy and also just after, when our son was little) back on… I need a hair-cut, new clothes, and to lose weight, or at least to be more careful with how I eat.
Fatigue and patience: I’m a stay-at-home mum, in the evening I’m tired and I want time for myself, and if I can’t, I lose patience. Honestly, I know that I already do get some time for myself thanks to the crochet I do and the knitting group. Still, some more time out could be a good idea. Maybe I could go to the cinema, start yoga, get massages, or start a sport? Sport could also help with the weight. Then again, more time for myself might be useful but it’s maybe not the answer to The Game…
Time and hormones: I still breastfeed, it has hormonal effects including the reduction of libido, and we co-sleep with our little monkey, meaning that the bed is generally not available during the day (little monkey naps there, and when he isn’t napping we need to look after him) or at night… I’m not going to stop breastfeeding now, and a separate bed is not in plan yet, we’d need to get a bedroom ready. Could be for another project. But right now, what I could do is create time when little monkey naps, and maybe also hire a babysitter for afternoon or nights out?
With all this in mind, here is the plan, for now:
1) To get my looks up;
2) To be more patient, more hugs and more listening to my husband;
3) To create (and propose) time with him, for boardgames, diner, museum, cinema, or else. Hopefully, trust should also build from this.
Finally, keeping it as a game project for myself, I am not going to tell my husband about this. I won’t tell him why I’m doing what I’m doing and I’ll try to organize things as surprises. This way I can have some fun watching his reactions and hope that he’ll get interested 🙂
I know no-one wants to be reading about this, but I went for a cervical screening today. Nice! A gynaecologist nurse or doctor put a speculum inside me, to hold the walls of my vagina while she scraped some cells from my cervix, a procedure which was previously called a smear test. That done she is supposed to send these cells for testing, to make sure I don’t have cervical cancer… Even better! Seriously, the only reason I went is because they sent this awful fact-sheet with the paper reminding me to take an appointment… It made me think of my baby boy, he needs his mama – scare people, people, and you get better public health results!
Anyway, I went this morning and I’m still feeling uncomfortable in the belly, like if my periods were about to show up… Sorry for the gory details, I had to put it somewhere.
And maybe take the opportunity to put a small word out there – do it ladies! We’re supposed to start from age 21 (I certainly didn’t) and go every 3 years between 25 and 49, the period we’re most at risk. It’s uncomfortable and not nice but it saves lives…
I’m supposed to finish my PhD, after years of not working on it. Get the last parts of the thesis together and defend it, in public. The last time I properly worked on it, I was pregnant. Then I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, right after I had a series of panic attacks at 5 months, when my baby boy has just started to move in my belly… If that is not scary, I don’t know what is.
I managed to avoid anti-depressant, just, by working on some of my issues with several professionals. I gave birth and didn’t suffer from post-natal depression (despite that doctor who told me that I had a 50/50 chance of having one, very helpful) or had panic attacks since then. It’s been just over two years (my baby boy is two!!).
Now I need to finish that PhD, so everyone who helped me can see it achieved and get their share of it, and so I can move on for good.
But it’s been a while since I worked on it and I forgot a lot of things. Just the thought of having to go back to the text and the work, and having to defend it in front of my old colleagues is freezing me. It would be just one of these PhDs that took too long – I’ve been to these defences and nobody feels like it’s a successful end to the work, most actually pity the defendor, it took too long, it has less value, and he/she is not even working in the field anymore. Most don’t see the effort it took to finally get there. To add to this, the defence will have to be in Amsterdam – meaning plane, hotel, etc. with a 2 year old boy – and without much time and help to prepare in advance.
So that’s it. I’m trying to deal with it one thing at a time. I will try to finish it and defend it, without losing it. I’m scared. I tried to tell my supervisor, and he understands, to an extent: you are scared, a lot of people are, it’s fine, you’ll manage and we’ll do our best to help you and get it done as fast as we can. It’s really nice of him and some of his ideas might actually help. But I know something that he doesn’t. That I may not manage. That it could get me over the edge with the stress and the tiredness and the depressing topic! Which would mean having to let go again, of everything, and then months or years of feeling crap, maybe having to take treatments, while waiting to get better. Is it really worth the risk?
After two years, I’m finally able to do things I couldn’t for a long time. I’m also taking care of my son and he is a lovely little person I adore. But I haven’t worked since I was pregnant. I keep having ideas of what I could do but stop even before I try. It is so ingrained, the feeling of failure, the lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. Maybe I am a bit stuck, and maybe if I finished that PhD, I’d get rid of that. Because, maybe, what I am suffering from is some kind of stage-fright which can be managed with some help. Maybe I could do it and be good at it and not fall over the edge. Maybe I am stronger than I think. Maybe it could free me and help me find another path for myself, and even make me a better mother for my son. If I don’t try I might always wonder. I might regret it. Or maybe I wouldn’t care, moving on!
Anyway, for now, I’m trying to finish that PhD, knowing that I still need to listen to myself and be responsible. My supervisor cannot really understand the reality of my situation – that the next time I fall I might not come back out for another 2, 3 or 5 years – which means that he could unknowingly push too far, and I cannot let this happen. My son is two and my health has to come first!
I thought I would make a not-so-very important point here. Nobody I know has been really nasty about it but there is a kind of assumption that if you don’t work, then you have time to, and should, clean the house… It is almost a shame to not do it yourself, even for mums who work full time! Hum. Well, we can afford it and so we have a cleaning lady, even though I do not work…
But really, who says that because you are at home taking care of your child you should also do the cleaning and cooking and washing and shopping? Properly taking care of a child takes time, and I don’t have much more time than my husband for all these other things, and I don’t like to do them anymore than he does.
So we’re paying someone to do the cleaning for us. This way I have time to play legos and read books. I can take my son to toddler groups, music classes, soft-plays, and go for nice walks to playgrounds and big puddles to jump in with our boots. All the while taking care that he doesn’t hurt himself in imaginative ways. Every morning is different and afternoons are dedicated to his naps and a little rest for me, not to cleaning the kitchen or hoovering. On week ends we try to go out all together.
My husband cooks and I take care of the dish-washing (with the dishwasher) and the clothes-washing and shopping. Happy that way 🙂
Of course, I hear people say, we don’t go near children – or elderly, or recovering people for that matter – when we’re contagious. They might catch stuff easily, or have health issues, and what we have might be more serious for them than for us.
As soon as they think of it the course of action seems easy and clear: stay away, phone call/email and calendar check. And yet.
We keep having to ask and remind friends and family. Please tell us if you’re sick (including from herpes sore, especially dangerous to newborns), please postpone your visit, please keep your distance and wash your hands…
After explaining again (or was it just an angry monologue in my head?) to friends why I would rather they postpone their visit then be in the vicinity of our first-born when sick – stuffed-nose-and-sore-throat kind of sick, we’re not talking ebola here – I decided to try and see if I could write it down and spread the word.
I know stuffed nose and sore throat are not dangerous, and nasopharyngitis may not be much of a disease for most of us, but I’ve got good reasons for not wanting you to cross our threshold while cohabiting with it. The first and foremost being that you could transmit this to my boy, and as much as I do not wish to catch your germs (though if I do he might get them too; and when he does I have good chances of getting them), I really really do not want my son to get them. Why, in heavens, is that?
Well, because when he is sick…
1) He cannot fall asleep and stay asleep well, and as a consequence is very tired. He wakes up, unable to breathe through his nose and not used to breathing through his mouth, panics a little, cry tired and heart-breaking sobs, coughs and coughs, until… see point 2 below.
2) He coughs, and because he is so small, continues coughing until… he throws up, everything, on the surface at hand. Which is often me, mama bear, trying to calm him down with hugs or a glass of water, nicely protecting the underneath surfaces such as the couch, the bed, or the carpet. Once is not great, more is tiring (and the washing up…).
3) He has a hard time eating and drinking, cries and refuses food. Swallowing is difficult with a stuffed nose and sore throat, and I expect the food tastes gross. But combined with number 2 above, he runs a (very dangerous for babies) risk of dehydration if it lasts for too long or is too severe.
4) Try giving him medication… Suppositories, why not; drops in water, hum; nose spray…? To his credit, after the first 5 or 6 days of him fighting us off crying and kicking, he somehow understands that it is meant to help him breathe, and waits calmly while we spray his nostrils. And shows us that it isn’t nice and he is being a good boy by cutely crumpling his face with his hands between the spraying of the left and the right nostril, spreading what comes out of his nose on his hands and clothes.
5) Not wanting to make it worse for him and/or spread the germs to other kids, we do not go to our usual weekly outings. Meaning that we (includingI) stay in, not meeting with other parents and children, and with a grumpy, clingy, coughing and not-napping-well little man. Last time, four weeks. Poor little him and poor big me…
So please, please, please, think! Think of yourself – wouldn’t you be better at home? – and think of us before going to a house with kids/kissing/hugging little ones when you have a running nose, a sore throat and a fever. And, of course, even more if it is an actually potential dangerous-to-baby disease 🙂
I’ve just finished making a crochet stuffed toy for my son and he points and smiles at it 😀 Watching him play with it, my brains got away with themselves and I imagined him grown up, keeping that toy somewhere, maybe treasuring it because I made it; or myself treasuring it because it is a reminder of when I made it. Like my mum treasures my favourite stuffed toy that I took everywhere with me after I got it as a present when I was 6…
Except that she had not made that stuffed toy. This is something that I do, I stopped working and I crochet during naptime. That’s me, not her. My maternal grandmother wouldn’t make a crochet toy either, she was too busy running the house with four kids. Neither would my paternal grandmother who loved working and had a good and busy career.
Does that mean that the stuffed toy I made will have more value for me, or for him, one day? Will it end up forgotten in a box, or prized on a shelf? I have no idea and there is no way of knowing, because we are in uncharted territory.
There are many things that I love about my childhood, and try to reproduce, and other things that I have tried to do differently. But my only point of reference when it comes to being a parent is my parents. So I keep comparing myself and our life to them, to what they lived and what they decided. I guess it is because I am scared, I need a point of reference to know that it’s going to be all right. What we do now is not new so it’s going to be all right.
But I am not my mum or my parents, I have already lived a different life than the one they had at my age. Everything is new, from myself as a parent to our move to the UK.
It’s scary, so I try to recreate parts of the childhood I had, the environment, the Christmases, some birthdays maybe, some time spent with my parents (where I now play the parent 🙂 ). To create memories like the ones I have in the hope that he will grow up healthy and happy, and remember some of these memories fondly. There is nothing wrong with that. I want him to be happy and safe.
But taking some of what was good in my own and my husband’s upbringing (we have to learn to be a parent somewhere…) and basing some decisions on our parents’ experience shouldn’t stop us from making something new.
Because we both grew up in the countryside doesn’t mean that growing up in a city is totally wrong for a child. It is different. Because I lived in a house or a friend had a dog, does it mean that we should make the some choices? Because my mum worked when I was little, does it mean I should too? Or that I shouldn’t? Because a friend didn’t get along with a sibling, does it mean we shouldn’t have a second child? Because my dad was an only child wanting siblings, does it mean that our child will feel the same way, even if we, as parents, are different from my grandparents? Because my husband and I had siblings, does it mean we should have a second child soon? And make ourselves miserable if we can’t?
Have two children. Have at least three (I actually heard that one). Don’t wait too long to have another, but don’t have them too close or they’ll never get along. Move to a house. Get a pet. Stay close to the family, but not too close or you’ll go crazy. Don’t move to a small village/a big city/another country… So many rules we make for ourselves based on our fears and our own, our families’ and our friends’ experiences!
One of the first things we learned as parents is to (try to) not listen to other people’s opinions. You never see the end of it and everyone thinks differently! But I find it more difficult to not listen to my own deeply ingrained certainties of what we should do and be as a family: that it should be that way because that’s the way we will be safe and happy. There is no certainty in that; we are not our parents.
Happily, it also means that some of the things that they went through may not happen to us…
Uncharted doesn’t necessarily mean dangerous, it is just new. Uncertain. Free.