Wednesday 24 October 2012

Green Eyed Monster

Jealousy is a terrible thing.  Isn’t it one of the seven deadly sins?  And not deadly in a good way either.  More of a “you’ll go to hell,” deadly.  Well, I can’t help it.  I, on occasion, suffer from jealousy.  It’s really envy but when it ails me, it’s in a big enough dose to be called jealousy.

Sometimes I see other people, in particular, Other Mothers who seem to have it all.  When I say have it all I mean, they don’t look frazzled by their kids.  They take it all in their stride without collapsing after a shit fit.  Like I do sometimes.  My shit fit.  They remember to draw on both their eyebrows of a morning and even have on other make up to complete the look.  

 Their clothes are not Weetabix smeared and they don’t have to wear long tops to cover their arse. Not because of a big arse, coz they don’t have one of those either, but because they don’t have to hide a hard lump of something shiny and flat stuck to the seat of their pants.
Other Mothers’ kids come to heel when they are called.  Immediately.  They don’t run after them and haul them back by the scruff of the neck. I bet the Other Mothers don’t have to swap their kids’ shirts the morning the photographer is coming to school.  I bet the Other Mothers have two pristine white shirts at hand.  And one to spare just in case.  Not like in my house where the boy getting his photo taken gets to wear the dazzling bright white shirt and the other one gets, well, the almost grey one.  Until they come home and tell me both of them had their photos taken for one of those nice familial shots.  

The Other Mothers are all smiley, cheery and light and don’t seem burdened by what the day ahead holds.   My day never has anything insurmountable in it and certainly nothing a good roar at it won’t sort out, but nonetheless, I am envious of how relaxed they are.  And of their eyebrows.  I suffer from eyebrow envy.  I own shite eyebrows. Always did.  

I am envious and always will be, of people who just seem to do something.  You know, they make a decision and go with it.  I take ages to make up my mind.  A little seed is planted. I’ll mess around with it and examine it.  Put all the pros and cons on the table and then allow one con to override the 37 pros. Decide not to do it and put it out of my head.  Until I meet someone who has taken the bull by the horns and is talking about how great they feel having taken the plunge.  

I’m all, oh FFS!  I was going to do that!  Why didn’t I do that?  What’s wrong with me that I can’t make up my mind?  Why can’t I leave my comfort zone for once and take a risk?

For years I toyed with the idea of learning how to drive but the concept of actually getting into a car, behind the wheel and starting it with a key scared me absolutely shitless.  I mean, shitless.  It was too big a leap for me to take.  I was grand with the driving instructor beside me because on my planet, I wasn’t the one driving the car.  They were with their dual controls and all.  I wonder would they come out with me in the car every time I needed to get somewhere.  When that thought entered my head I knew I was going to be looking at every other driver on the road with envy for a very long time. 

It’s with good humour and bonhomie that I look upon a skinny bitch and call her a skinny bitch.  I was that skinny bitch in a previous life and I know the hours and hours of work, effort and hunger that go into looking like that.  Obviously, not all skinny bitches have to work so hard at it. There are naturally skinny bitches out there with their flat stomachs and I-can-eat-what-I-like-when-I-like lifestyles.  It’s ok to hate those skinny bitches and not feel guilty about it.  (No, it’s not ok.  That’s a lie.  See?  That’s what jealousy sounds like.  Don’t listen to me.  I’m in bad aul form.  Read on.)

This next bit is what really makes me green with jealousy.  Last evening I was listening to Ray D’Arcy on podcast. I like to catch up on the bits I miss out on due to all the arses I have to wipe in this house.  And all the dinners I have to make.  And all the dog poop I have to scoop.  I was listening to Roisin Ingle who is a columnist for The Irish Times and she was chatting to Ray about training for a marathon.  About how she wrote about it and her subsequent weight loss in her weekly column.  I sat up straighter.  I jayzus did that, I thought!  I wrote about training for my 5k on my blog. I’m still jayzus writing about trying to lose a half stone.  I get lovely messages from people too, Roisin.  People who read my blog and either say it to me personally or contact me privately.  How come I can’t get paid for it?

The green eyed monster had woken, stretched, licked her lips and was only raring to go.  Who was going to be next?  Oh, I know.  Something that really got my goat when I heard it.  I follow a blog, a really funny blog called Parenting:  Illustrated with Crappy Pictures.  It’s only about 18 months old but it took off at a phenomenal rate after only something like 5 months. Amber Dusick has a massive, massive readership and I write about the same kind of stuff she does!  I write about all the funny, shite kid things that happen to me, I just don’t draw pictures. Now if you lot all fuck off to go and follow her instead I shall be very, very cross indeed.  I do, sometimes, check my stats you know.  So I will know if you abandon me!!  (I would like to take this opportunity to say to my lovely, lovely, American readers, I value your support immensely.  And wouldn’t mind at all at all if you were to tell all your friends about me. Thanks so much. Thank you.  Thanks.)

Another lady brought the second of the seven deadly sins to my fore at the weekend.   Cecilia Ahern was on the radio chatting about how she was the youngest, the first person ever to have been offered one million euros before her jayzus book was even written. How come I can’t get a shaggin’ break like that?  I listened to her interview, badly, sorely wanting to hate her.  But she came across as being nice so I couldn’t even do that.  

Sometimes I go mad and buy loads of parenting magazines (Irish of course) and read other weekly columns, and I check out various blogs.  Sometimes I laugh at them and really enjoy them and other times I go, “I can write miles better than that shite!” Sometimes I feel like packing it all in because no-one wants to know.   They all have complimentary things to say and I get great feedback, but that’s it.   Thanks and the very best of luck to you.

Well, I’ve got luck, thanks.  I’ve got luck.  They are under seven years of age and there are four of them.  My other luck is the same gender as his sons and a little bit older.  My biggest luck is my health which is fine, thank you for asking.  As is the health of the whole family.

But what I would really, really like is to secure a little job somewhere.  A little writing job.  Something that really puts a shine onto a pass time I love anyway. If anyone out there is reading this and has a column free on the back page under the apologies section, I can whip up something that would fit in there.  No bother.  And I promise I won’t swear.  

P.S.  So sorry, really am for all the bad language above.  I couldn’t help myself.  I’m in bad aul form.  It’s called jealousy.  I’m going to have a go at sloth tomorrow.  Sit around and do nothing.  I feel better already.    

Wednesday 10 October 2012

That's Fighting Talk

I am a married stay at home mother to four boys under the age of seven.  My husband is self-employed.  Self-employed in the construction industry.  A few years ago, it seems like an alternate universe now, times were good.  The economy was booming and there was always disposable income for things like a social life, a holiday during the summer, a nice Christmas, a couple of home improvements, a meal out on a regular basis.  As a married couple with no children, we didn’t go mental.  Anything my husband made went straight back into the business.  We bought a very modest three bed, end of terrace house in a housing estate.   I was working (outside the home) back then so I was able to contribute to the costs of daily living.  Then our family expanded and things shifted slightly.  Ok, a lot.  Immediately, on having our first son I knew I would not, could not possibly go back to work and leave him.  I also knew we were going to have more children.  And we are lucky because we did.  I have no time for that old chestnut about not having kids if you can’t afford them.  It is usually the ones who don’t want children who say this.  And that is fair enough, that is your decision.  But it is also like saying don’t get sick if you can’t afford to go to the doctor.  It’s old and it’s tired but that is a separate argument.   During the good times, each and every month, without fail, the Children’s Allowance went into the boys’ Credit Union accounts. I also put their birthday and Christmas money in there. Due to his position in the family, our firstborn, holding the honour of being on this earth a little longer than his brothers, had the largest sum in his account.  These accounts held their nest egg for the future.  It was the start of their college fund, or a way to help them towards buying their first car.  By the time our fourth son was born, the arse had fallen out of the construction industry and his monthly portion of the Children’s Allowance didn’t get anywhere near his Credit Union account.  He has one in name only.  There is nothing in it.  He is 18 months old.  By the time our fourth son was born, and throughout that pregnancy, we were depending on our Children’s Allowance to put food on the table and the monthly standing orders into the Credit Union had long since been cancelled.  The boy’s nest egg was slowly but surely eaten into.  The Tax Man got a large chunk out of it.  I was doing a school run one day and smoke started to billow from the floor of the passenger side of the car.  It stopped on the side of the road and slowly died there.  We had to dip into the boys’ Credit Union accounts once more.  The “new” ten year old car all but depleted what was left.  Then we had to withdraw the last one thousand euros to move house.  We have four boys.  Four healthy, robust boys that are in rude health.  But boys will be children who fall ill on occasion and considering our new circumstances we applied for a GP card.  We received it after 6 months and lots of jumping through lots of hoops.  This card helps.  It helps a lot.  It is the only other assistance we receive from the government.    Our grocery shop is dependent on our Children’s Allowance.  We are not alone.  In fact we are the same as everyone else at the moment.  Our Children’s Allowance is what allows our children to eat.  There is nothing left over for anything else.  And now they are talking about cutting it back.  Again. For the second time.  There were reports in the media that it was going to be cut by 100 euro per child.  The government said there was no such plan.  There never had been.  Then they pulled back a bit and another figure was floated, as a taster, to get everyone up in arms.  In the end we will think we are doing ok to have our Children’s Allowance cut by “only” 40 euro.  Per child.  Sure, it could be worse, couldn’t it?  We’re lucky it’s not more.  What really irritates and annoys me is the complete total and utter lack of regard the government have for what we do.  You know the way our kids don’t really care how tired we are or how hard we work?  You know the way we make sacrifices to stay at home and mind them?  Nurture them, care for them, educate them, protect them, love them and provide for them?  The way you lose, bit by bit, day by day, another piece of your identity by being a stay at home parent.  It happens very slowly, very gradually but very definitely.  Like the wind blowing pieces of grit and debris against the rock face, that too slowly starts to erode.  It’s inevitable.  All of that stuff.  As annoying and irritating and frustrating as losing my identity is, I’ve gained another one.  I am a mother first and foremost to our kids.  A person in my own right?  Not even a close second.  Our boys just don’t see me like that.  They are allowed to get away with it because they are our kids and they are young.  But I’ll tell you this.  The government sure as hell aren’t!!  What we, mothers, fathers, parents, alike are doing is bringing up the next generation.  And in a few years time, they will be the ones keeping this country going.  To have the current government bit by little bit, take our kids’ money away, is akin to them saying they don’t give a shit about them.  Didn’t one of them, not too far back, say he didn’t care, that he’d be long gone from politics by then?  Remember that?  A couple of years ago now the government tried to take the medical card away from our senior citizens. It didn’t happen because they went out in force and expressed how pissed off they were about that.  Nobody was expecting their revolt.  Least of all the government.  By the same token, they are also thinking that mothers, the ones who are so busy doing worthless, unimportant work, won’t protest against these cuts.  We simply don’t have the time to get out there and kick up a stink.  But it doesn’t necessarily mean taking to the streets.  Everyone has a voice and this can be expressed in different ways.  Come on!  Stand up and be heard!    Don’t let them take our Children’s Allowance.  I love my kids.  I want them to have little extras like swimming lessons, gym class on Saturday afternoon, the odd frivolous treat, new bloody clothes for crying out loud. It’s getting harder and harder to do this.   A lady I knew chastised me once for deciding against buying something because I thought the money would be better spent on some bill or other.  Her thoughts on my actions were that I wasn’t thinking highly enough of myself, I was sending out the message I didn’t think I was worthy of the impulse buy.  And what’s more, she said, I was also sending the same message that I am not worth it to my family.  She should know what she is talking about; she’s a psychiatrist.  Not mine I might add.  I can't afford one.   Don’t let’s send a similar message to our government. 

Wednesday 3 October 2012

My Bubble

I have a comfort zone and I like it very much.  If I travel too far away or out of it, I tend to get antsy.  I’m not so bad now that I am older and wiser, (it is probably really cynicism), but when I was a lot younger, I had my routine and if it changed in any shape or form I got the jitters.  A new environment with strange faces filled me with unease.  I can still vaguely remember my first day at school.  I had no idea where I was or indeed, what the place was about.  And as for the millions, because it certainly seemed that way, of other kids also gathered there, my mind just boggled.  I was a bit of a sheep.  It’s what I do best when I am unsure.  I just follow the crowd.  Where are we all going now?  The bathroom?  Grand job.  What’s this yard and why have we got these plastic boxes?  It’s the playground and this is my lunch?  Oh, ok.  What’s happening now? So on and so forth until some sort of recognition arrived and I settled in.  Recently my nephew started secondary school.  He has gone from being a big fish in a little pond to being a tiny fish in a massive ocean.  It brought back distant and uneasy memories for me.  Secondary school was a shock to my system.  It was all one big huge adventure until I discovered that I had the wrong school bag, I was supposed to wear my socks down, not up to my knees and as for timetables?  What the hell were they?? Then shock piled straight onto horror as we were separated up into three classes.  I was aghast and mildly panicked to discover that there were only three, three faces that I knew from primary school in amongst 30 other alien people.  I hadn’t been expecting that at all.  When I moved on and out into the working world it took me the best part of six months to settle into a new job.  I stayed in my first going nowhere fast job for five years because I was afeared of the wide blue yonder.  But I struck out and took the bull by the horns plus every other awful cliché you can think of and got myself another job.  I well and truly not only left my comfort zone behind, but discovered what life without a safety net, cushions and hot chocolate is really like.    I like my bubble; my nice, familiar, safe and warm environment where I am surrounded by like-minded people with the same or similar thoughts and beliefs.  I don’t like confrontation. But when it lifted its ugly head I stood up for myself and with a heart that ran the very real risk of bursting from stress and anxiety, I stood my ground and had my say.  Then I took shelter in the nearest bathroom and shook for twenty minutes whilst ordering myself not to break down and cry.   Tribe.  Family. Clan. Kin. We’ve all got one yet sometimes it can be hard to feel connected.  I think we all need to move out of our comfort zone to really discover who we are and what we are capable of.  It is stress making in the extreme and you’d better be prepared for a lot of second guessing.  Second guessing yourself, that is, but it is worth it.  Your bubble is always there.  It is a lot stronger than its filmy appearance and you might return to it a little bit different but it is nice to take something from a new experience.  I have a lot of bubbles. I have a lot of places I go to for shelter, advice, inspiration and solace.  I know I am in good company in all of them and that I can speak my mind in a way I know I couldn’t elsewhere.  We, all of us, are multi-faceted and these are just my other dimensions.   The really good thing about bubbles is that we can pick and choose.  One bubble does not fit all.  But there is one bubble that always makes me feel safe, secure and right at home.  It is in the most unlikely of places; under the stairs.  It’s a new development.  I call it my club house for the simple reason my two older boys have one on the half landing.  Underneath our stairs are two not too soft, not too hard, but just right armchairs and mama bear likes to seek refuge under there.  There is a large window overlooking the back garden so there is a view as well.  Mama bear has been known to creep under the stair and set up camp on one of the chairs.  Sometimes I will take my large brown hard backed notebook and a pen, sometimes a magazine, other times a coffee but the best times, I go in there by myself.  I have gotten ten minutes of solitude, just me and my nothing thoughts, before I have been discovered.  I couldn’t honestly tell you what I was thinking about.  But I can reveal there was stillness, peace and calm.  Both mentally and physically.  Then the cubs, woken by their sixth sense, came in search. The first time I sat under there, and they came looking, I didn’t move. But their radars found me.  “Mammy!  What are you doing under there?”  Sixth senses are strong and so are the sat nav’s on their bubbles.  I am their bubble.  Their shelter, their refuge and solace.  And, it appears, they are mine.