I never know what to say when people tell me they don’t know how I combine working full time with three children. The waspish me wants to say, this is the 21st century, can we please get over this? If men ask, I want to respond by asking them have they ever stopped to think why no one ever asks them the same question. Perhaps if they spent more time at home and got off their backsides to help, their wives might do it too. when non working mothers say it, I often point out that this is not some capricious self indulgence, but as a sole wage earner, I have never had a stay at home choice. Unmarried, married and separated, I have always paid the bills, done the DIY as well as the ‘mum’ stuff. J once wept as a toddler because he thought only mummies had toolboxes and drills. But much of the time, if I answered honestly, I would say I have no idea either, that it is a constant struggle and I am exhausted much of the time and berate myself for not being better. And I am lucky to have job that I love, many women work in several low paid jobs with appalling conditions.
It was a struggle before L was ill. Now, it seems completely impossible. I am not coping. I sleep a few hours each night due to anxiety and worry, about L, about work and about the increasing list of things to do. When I get up, ironically, then I could sleep for hours. But I can’t. I get up, take the antidepressant that seem to have no impact whatsoever. I need to see my GP for a review, but I forget every day to make an appointment. I know she will also ask about the support group to which I was referred and couldnt attend due to work. She will ask about counselling and I will tell her I have no time. This is not an excuse. I genuinely have no time.
I go to work. Today I drove 80 miles to where I was working. I try to get on with work, but I seem to end each day with more to do than done. It doesn’t help that I have to leave early to visit L. I see the looks of the office staff as I head home at 4pm. I can imagine the sniping and sarcasm after I have gone. This isn’t paranoia. They really do this. I could tell them – but it would probably result in more sarcasm. I arrive home at half past five. We leave again immediately. I have been working with K to clear out her room and put up new bookshelves. I don’t really have time to do this, but K deserves some time for her too. She is sick of anorexia and she spends most of her life in her bedroom which was barely habitable. I promised her I would do this.
We arrive at IKEA and K chooses her bookshelves. I tell her and C to go and eat in the restaurant, saving any time spent cooking later. I go to get the things we need from the store. I will eat later, but I am glad L isn’t here to see this disordered eating. I run through the shop, constantly looking at the time and wishing people around me would move more quickly. I find the bookshelves. They are heavy and awkward and I tumble and fall, carrying one of them. I have a shoulder and neck injury and the pain is incredible and I swear loudly. I apologise to the passers by, but no one notices, no one stops. I try again, but this time I am crying. I can’t stop. I cry silently and keep my head down and get the shelves in the trolley. I want to find a corner of the warehouse and howl, but I don’t have time. I keep moving. I pay and meet K and C by the car. C asks if I am ok. There is no point saying anything. If I tell him exactly how I feel, he just gets frustrated and shouts. He thinks I am much stronger than I am.
We go see L. It is so good to see her. She has been knitting and shows me. I knit a couple of rows for her and praise her for how good she has become. We can stay for snack time and I hate myself for thinking that I am really hungry and won’t eat until we are home. But L brings me tea when she brings her snack. I miss her so much. I had forgotten how much of a rock she is at home, especially before she was ill. We get home. I check my diary for next week and see 2 12- 14 hour days coming up. Two evenings when I will not see L. I write a long email about a work issue. It is lost when the internet connection goes. I cry. It seems I cry at anything these days.
There is a constant chorus in my head, telling me I can’t cope, that I can’t do this. But I don’t have a choice. It is not harder than the struggle L is facing and we both have to keep going, to keep swimming. I could stop writing this blog, to save some time. But it is fast becoming the only place where I am truly honest with myself