Wednesday 25 April 2012

In Praise of our Menfolk

No matter which way we look at it and whether we like it or not, we have evolved from a hunter gatherer society.  Since time immemorial, our roles as men and women are very different, very specialised and pertinent to the capabilities of our gender.  There is no getting away from the fact that we are very different.  Both mentally and physically.  We don’t think the same way, we don’t approach situations the same way and we don’t act the same way.   Men are simply physically stronger than women, and the argument could be made that some women are mentally stronger than men.  It’s widely known that men can’t multi task whereas women seem to do this with ease.  Think feeding the baby, talking on the phone and drinking coffee.  All at once.  When men take a phone call, they stand up to do it.  They stop peering at the computer screen to sign for a DHL document.  Genetics can be held to account for a lot of things; for example, eyebrows from Great Granddad Joe, or height from Great Aunt Maud, but it gets much more specific than that when it comes to the doing of everyday things. Let’s go back to the days of the caveman men, where they allegedly dragged their mate around by the hair.  Remember that Britvic ad- the original of the species?  Basically, men are the hunters, the providers.  Back then, light was natural and came from the sky; the only manmade light was due to a roaring great caveman fire and not a little switch on the wall.  Mr. Cave Man left at 9am carrying not a briefcase and a set of car keys but a club for bashing his prey.  According to Steve Biddulph in Raising Boys hunting was very much a team activity, requiring ruthlessness, a certain amount of recklessness and a lot of muscle work.  “Once the chase was on, there was no time for discussion.  Someone was in charge, and you did what you were told or else.”  So in other words, if he loses his concentration, he dies.  Multi-tasking had no safe place for men back in pre-historic times; the hunter could lose his concentration and die.  Back in the home place (some things never change) the work of the woman was equally important.  Who can argue that raising a family is one of the biggest and challenging jobs, and back then Mrs. Cave Woman did not have the luxury of television to keep the bairns occupied whilst she skinned a tiger for dinner.  The women folk had very different jobs to do; jobs that required dexterity which was handy for berry picking.  Women were sensitive which is necessary for childcare.  A bit like that movie “How to make an American Quilt” women had the opportunity for group discussions, similar to today’s stich and bitch sessions.  So in a nutshell, Mrs. Cave Woman’s work called for consistency, lots of caution and attention to detail.  Think feeding kids at regular intervals, making sure they are wearing suitable clothing and keeping little socks on little feet.  Mr. Cave Man’s job came with a certain amount of risk and danger to their lives. They needed to be ruthless and never take their eye off the ball or they could pay with their life and the family would perish as a result.  Because of the way cave women worked, evolution saw to it that our bodies became smaller.  But we are better able to continue and put up with things.  Men’s bodies were and still are superior when it comes to strength but small things like flu hits them harder than women.  Nice get out of jail clause there; don’t blame the men when they complain about man flu, blame the ancestors.  So back to today now that we’ve looked at where we came from and how we think.  When a woman discovers she is pregnant, especially with her first baby, she immediately starts nesting.  The house must be just so, the baby’s room has to be perfect and that nappy bucket which is on offer in Lidl at the weekend, is suddenly the most vital piece of baby equipment, why doesn’t he understand? And him, the poor feker, what he’s really thinking is, “shit!  How am I going to provide for this baby?  I might be unemployed next week!”  even when faced with The Big Stuff, our priorities are just different.  We’ve all got our own individual idiosyncrasies, our little quirks that drive each other mad.  But I reckon it’s easy to put up with half a dozen silly little things, like mucky boots trekked in over the floor, rolled up socks in the wash, changing the mirror in the car when he drives it (grrr!), not refilling the kettle, putting empty cartons back in the fridge and using the last of the shampoo. But who’s counting?    Years ago, it wasn’t the done thing for the man to be seen helping around the house.  Through no fault of their own, probably because they were never made do it, they didn’t know what a nappy looked like, let alone put one on a child.  But today it is expected of them.  And that is a good thing.    Most of our menfolk do it without argument.  So a lot of the time they may not do it the way we would like them to, but mismatching socks and the four year old wearing the two year olds clothes are not the end of the world.  Just comical.  In the same way that we as mothers are never going to change in our approach to raising our babies, the menfolk and their laid back attitude are pretty much set in stone too.  We have to accept them in pretty much the same fashion we expect them to accept us.       

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Couldn't be Arsed-itis

I wrote this last week when I was going through a bit of a bad patch.  It seemed like the end of the world at the time, but reading back over it now, before posting, it seems to have lost its air of hopelessness.
I have a severe case of couldn’t be arsed-it is.  One of those ones that just sneaks up on you.  One day I was grand, running for Ireland and not feeling too deprived at being on a Lenten fast.  Then from out of nowhere, bam! I feel like a deflated balloon, I have no energy and just couldn’t be bothered.  I feel guilty because I didn’t go for a run this evening and now, as I type, I am stuffing my face with toast and Nutella Chocolate Spread. Fuck off Davina (McCaul) and Ruth (Field, author of Run Fat B!tch Run), I have a new best friend.  It’s called chocolate.   I feel like shite because today I roared at Screecher Creature No. 3 who is only a little over two and a half.  And in typical I-need-lots-of-reassurance fashion, he has spent the afternoon hugging the shit out of me.  I feel like a bad mother because I let the baby sleep for over two hours in his rock-a-tot this morning.  He is too big for the seat but we don’t have anything else at the moment and as he has the cold from hell, sleeping upright is the only way he can breathe without being suffocated in his own snot.  He has been waking up every couple of hours each night this week and nursing like a newborn which is why I am so bastard tired.   Things have come full circle for the fourth time and I recognise that he has reached that awareness of “shite! She’s not a part of me and must not be let out of my sight, even for a second,” stage.  Touched out?  Jesus that’s only the beginning.  I’m pissed off because, for the moment, I’ve had to give up my breakfast coffee and scone in the coffee shop.  And I miss my simple, daily interaction with the other patrons.  Some days, most days, it is the only adult conversation I get.  I can literally feel my brain cells, on these self-pitying days, keel over and die from lack of stimulation.   I am hugely dis-agreeable because last Friday I was unable to give five euros towards the schools voluntary contribution.  The next day, Saturday, Mister Husband and I, raided money boxes and scrabbled about on the floor of the car to scrape together four euros for a gym fee.  I’m pissed off because I didn’t bring Screecher Creature Numbers three and four to the doctor over the last fortnight because I didn’t have the money for it.  Although, small consolation this morning; the GP cards which we applied for almost a year ago, arrived in the post.  A week too late for Screecher Creature No. 4 who broke out in a frightening head to toe rash last Thursday.  I’m stressed out and pissed off at myself mainly.  Six years ago I jumped in at the deep end with this parenthood lark and I stayed there.  I never did find the delicate balance between being a mother and a person in my own right.  And now I fear it’s too late.  I’ve been “capable” and in charge for so long, I don’t think I know how to let go myself.    Noise levels are hurting my too sensitive brain.  The kids and their never-ending demands make me want to run for the hills.  Patience levels are at an all-time low.  Feelings of claustrophobia, anger, resentment, frustration, boredom, hopelessness and that all-encompassing bastard, tiredness, jangle my already tattered nerves and threaten to detonate an already simmering person.  There is no respite.  I hate myself because lately every day I wish the next five years would just go by in a flash.  I have no time for those who tell me not to wish it away.  They have come out the other side and find it easy to talk.  I do wish it away.  I think we all do at some stage.   I had a little moment this morning and cried at breakfast.  Part of me panicked and worried that it wasn’t my heart beating like mad but depression thumping to get back in.  This afternoon when I found myself running to the bedroom to grab a pillow, stuff my face into it and scream as loudly as I could, it wasn’t depression I feared, but madness.  I thought of the people who have approached me about my blog and used the word admire when speaking of the Serious Stuff and I thought how’s that for honesty.  Screaming your head off into a pillow at 4pm of an afternoon.  A glorious, sunny, March afternoon at that.  And in the midst of it all how can I explain what is wrong without sounding like a total and utter, drama queen, bitch diva?  Mister Husband has the world and his wife sitting on his shoulders with work at the moment and an illness in the family.  How can I tell him what I am feeling in the face of that?  How can I tell him that I wanted to run for the hills and never stop when it would be a slap in the face to him and all that he has worked for, to give us?  But you know what; I think it’s ok to feel like this.   Tomorrow will be another day and I will either still feel like shit or I’ll have gotten over myself.  The baby will peer at me through the bars of the cot, fuzzy red hair sticking up all over the place, dried snot all over his little face and perfect teeth flashing at me, a little hand reaching out through the bars, fingers wiggling hello.  Maybe he will make everything ok again and I’ll get up and get on with things the way I always do.  The way I have to because we all have our crap moments.  Children’s allowance is in on Tuesday and we’ll be grand for another couple of weeks until something else turns up.  Easter holidays are next week too.  Part of me is dreading them but if the weather is anything like it has been this week so far, we can do anything we want to.  Maybe even go swimming.  The Screecher Creatures would love that!  It’s ok to feel like crap.  And it’s ok to admit to it.  I suppose it’s what we do about it that’s the main thing.  For me, a banshee scream into a pillow helps (slightly).  I touched, very broadly on this at Group on Tuesday.  I mentioned that I am finding it all a bit much at the moment and am struggling to enjoy it when one of the other lovely mothers said “thank God.  I thought I was the only one who felt like that!”  Looks like I’m in good company!  On Thursday, in an effort to outrun the blues, I went to Carlow.  The Screecher Creatures were playing in a ride on bus when a little girl approached.  There was plenty of room so I invited her on to be the bus driver and I got talking to her mother. Aoife is a four year old twin with a nine year old big brother.  The gap, her mother confided, was a nice one especially when the girls arrived.  And then I heard a loud and distinct echo.  “There were days,” Aoife’s mammy said, “when I cried more than they did.” Words I have spoken out loud myself.  It was weird and strangely comforting to hear someone else say them.  There was a moment of companionable silent agreement.  It all passes though, Aoife’s mammy told me.  “It’s hard when you’re in the thick of it and you think it will never end, but it does.”  Thank you, Aoife’s mammy.  And thank you to all the wonderful mothers I have had the massive fortune to meet on “off” days such as the ones I have been feeling this week.