You know it right? It’s winter. I find getting up in the dark a ridiculous concept. The cold is even worse (and we don’t even live somewhere that cold). Mornings have been struggle town for me for a while, and I was just putting it down to winter, the dark, the cold, and a sleep debt from the last 20 years of having children, a great bed, a nice guy to cuddle. Dragging my sorry ass out of bed has not been much of a thing of late, and then our whole morning is dragging its feet.
Turns out it’s not really any of those things. It’s just that I’ve been resisting the day. It’s a long story, so be prepped if you’re up for it. I haven’t been writing either because I’ve been resisting that too. A whole lot of stuff happened all at once and I could not find the words to explain what that was doing to me. But I woke up one too many mornings as the woman I can hardly recognise (my kids look at me with a “WHO THE F… are you?” look and I hear my voice and I hover above her trying to tell her to stop cleaning and stop yelling and stop standing up to the one guy who’s not even taking the piss). I don’t even know who she is. But I know her so well. You know that woman?
We moved house. Into possibly one of the most beautiful houses I have ever lived. It’s big. It’s so utterly functional and has space and heating (this is how I know my morning palaver about the cold is all bullshit) and kitchen drawers and enough toilets and showers. For the first time in my 42 years I have my own bathroom and walk in robe. It’s like a dishwasher, I tried to be all cool about not having one but once you have one you turn into one of those people who just can’t live without it. So middle class and suburban. That’s not even an insult; I’m down with it. It’s so utterly beautiful and has views to the ocean and light (I can walk through my own house and breath light through the windows) and timber and this delightful garden. And he’s here (and I’ve written about him before and this post is not about him, so I’ll leave it at that).
My 3 daughters live with me (now us) most of the time. They spend part of every second weekend with their Dad. 2 go for 2 nights, 1 goes for 1 night. The rest of the time and all of the school week is with me. I got my head around that. I accept that’s all he can manage right now, and although I am open to them spending more time with him, it’s not how it is, and I think this currently is the best arrangement for them. My guy has two children, and previous to us moving in he had them half the week every week. The same week we moved in, things changed significantly in their parenting arrangement and they came to live with us 6 nights each week, every week. And their mum moved away. I am not judging her (I’ll be totally frank and tell you I have judged and I have tried to fathom how all this came to be, and the timing and all of that, but it’s not my place to judge her or how this is. I don’t understand. I may never, but I also don’t understand my ex either, so I’m not about to try figure out someone I don’t know). The final outcome was that immediately after moving house we ended up with 5 kids under 13 pretty much in our full-time care, primarily for the school week (so the hustle and daily grind of getting them up and ready for school and to school and home from school and after school and baths and dinner and bed). I’m not even going to go on because I’m hoping you know what I mean. It just seemed kinda relentless. And we were all trying to settle in to a new home, and get to know each other, and there were two kids in that who no doubt were missing their mum and all the stuff that goes with that. And that was not what I expected. (even though I’m not sure what I did expect). And could not seem to find a way to accept that that’s how it was.
And just like that, that woman I thought I was started to disappear down the plughole. Mostly she just didn’t want to get out of bed because then the day would start and she terrified of that day. She tried to talk to him about it, and he (is a guy) and didn’t understand, and heard things she wasn’t saying (this was not his fault, mostly she was angry so it came out all wrong, or it sounded like she was saying ‘I can’t do this” which she wasn’t, but she could understand why it sounded like that to him). And she was berating herself about having such a beautiful home and all these healthy and spirited children and a really loving and caring boyfriend who would give her everything, and she couldn’t find any grace. So she resisted the day and tried to stay in bed as long as possible and the more she dragged her feet the worse it got. Do you know that woman?
When you start to disappear all kinds of things happen. Here’s what happens to me. First I start doing everything again. Taking on all the responsibilities of all the things – the small humans, the household, the schedule. We got a new au pair at the same time, who is very sweet and helpful with the house, but like me seemed more than overwhelmed at the children (the volume of them, their personalities, the way they interacted with each-other, the constancy). I also got a new studio office, big and beautiful with views to the ocean and light and windows and space, and great Wi-Fi. A new studio office attached (with French doors) to the kitchen of the beautiful house, where every day after school I could hear them interacting with each-other, testing the au pair, not doing the things I’d told them to do after school and suddenly my working window shrunk to school hours. And after a morning of feet dragging sometimes I would be so shattered by the negotiations over breakfast and shoes and not touching each-other’s stuff and competing for attention and trying to get them to choose a piece of fruit for the lunch box and tantrums from a kid I think is far to big for tantrums, and trying to save the cat from too much attention and arranging seating in the car so they didn’t touch each-other that I actually had to lie on the floor of the beautiful studio and cry and deep breathe for an hour before I could start.
Before I could start.
My beautiful, most favourite part of everything.
And I’m sorry that’s not the kid stuff. I’m gutted at times that it’s not that. I think they are beautiful, incredible little humans, but if I’m not writing and coaching and creating I forgot who I am. And I become this woman who I hardly recognise, but know so well. Do you know that woman?
We got through the school term. Somehow. We made it through a whole term of school. The kids all went to school most days with the right lunch boxes and no nits. I did all the work, the necessary and important work for the people who were already my clients – the 1:1 sessions, the Q&A’s, the retreat, answering their questions and supporting them, and for that I am so grateful for the beautiful space and the school hours where I was functional. I didn’t do enough of the other stuff though; the stuff that brings new people to my work, the stuff that is me writing my way out of the hole. The hole that’s nobody’s fault. It’s just resisting the day. The day unfolding that could be full of anything you want (even if you have to kid-wrangle for the first few hours) if you let it.
School holidays hit. I’m the worst at holidays. I realised that I’m just not that relaxed about holidays like I should be. We had a horrible overnight stay in my favourite beach town. I’m sorry that I couldn’t find any joy in it. I cried when we get home because I was terrified about how we would ever do this. I always screw myself over in the school holidays because although as far as work went, the term was almost a non-event, I decide that my commitment to my kids is to take time off in the holidays. So I stop even more. Stop writing. Stop coaching. And get on sorting the house and cooking multiple meals multiple times a day for lots of children who rarely say thank-you or appreciate the effort. I’m shit-hot at housework. I’m a pretty good cook too when I make the time. I like to create order and have the house looking nice. The kinetic sand thrown all over the balcony carpet felt like a justifiable rage-inducing event. The kinetic sand, a DS and a TV & Netflix remote are now confiscated and living in the walk-in robe. With the Grinch and the spoiler of all fun.
I did relax a bit in the first week, although I got the flu and felt crappy for a few days. I found a book to read. We were two kids down, so it didn’t seem so hectic. We went on holidays to a beautiful place up north. I got a couple of days in and then got sick. So sick I didn’t leave the apartment again for two days and then spend 9 hours driving home (in the passenger seat) mostly comatose. So sick the only bit of caring about anything much I did was a vague remembering that my Will is not up to date. I’m serious. I was so sick when we got home and I couldn’t work (although I had planned a bit), and I didn’t come good properly until the last day of school holidays. A Monday. School was still not back and all 5 children were home, plus my oldest daughter and her boyfriend (which has been the best, and we love having them, but has meant a final head count of 10 people in the house). I had work booked in and I managed to get all the children of the house and to their Nan’s houses for the day. And I coached. And I wrote. And I ran a Q&A. And I interviewed our potential next au pairs (YES, TWO PEOPLE) and suddenly the fog lifted.
I’m OK. My work is important and precious. I’m good at it and my crew are amazing. The kids are happy. We are going to get some more support soon. The house is clean. My guy gets home from work and looks so worn out and can’t seem to fathom the extreme mood lift. But I can.
I believe my purpose is the centre of everything. And when I’m back in the centre of everything – in the centre of me – I have more energy, and patience and more good humour and I’m a better mother and a nicer girlfriend and I’m still a shit-hot housewife and I can multi-task like a mofo – but it’s between shoes and magic, and arguments and building webinars, and lunch-boxes and coaching magnificence, and a conversation about parent teacher interviews and a conversations about digital marketing. It’s reading Shrek 2 (the really fricking long, super boring retelling the movie version) out load to the kids before bed and then a novel about climate change and butterflies and a book about being a TED speaker. It’s getting kids ready for their first day back at school and doing hair and taking the blame for the 3 week old mouldy orange is Miss 8’s bag, and kissing them goodbye and heading our for coffee coaching (because the studio is too full of people and beds for coaching) and meetings about running training programs and doing a sales call in the sunshine at the foreshore and wearing active wear all day and not making an exercise class, and going for a quick walk after work with the guy and then damage control when we get home between a couple of kids, and washing all the conditioner out of the bath they used in the Barbie’s hair, and making sausage rolls and vegetarian, gluten free sausage rolls, and monitoring dessert and stories and bedtime for kids, and answering some stuff in the Facebook groups and watching Rake with my guy while he sleeps (even though it was his idea). And sleeping. And getting up at 6.30am because the only way to have the day is embrace it. Shower first. Be dressed before them and ready for whatever the morning brings.
So far this week, it’s been delightful. By the time it’s all done, there are 20 minutes left before they leave for school, and they are playing together in 2 lots of 2 and Miss 12 has headed off and I have time to make all their rooms a bit clean and feed all the animals and breathe light. And it’s only 8.40am when I sit at my desk to write. I know this woman. I know her well.