In 2005, shortly after J was born, I developed post-natal depression. I thought I was getting everything wrong, that I was a bad mum. I used to go to toddler groups and feel that the other mums were looking at me and sensing my incompetence. I would sometimes leave before the end, having not talked to anyone, feeling utterly certain I was never going to fit in and find my new identity as a ‘mum’.
In 2006 I left my job teaching A-Level English, unable to face a class full of expectant teenagers and teach them Othello or the features of rhetoric when I could barely remember to clean my teeth in a morning.
In 2009, I had Max, and wondered how I would have enough time, love and energy for two children. When J regressed and started wetting himself, I felt that I wasn’t giving him enough attention. Any time he had a tantrum, I thought I was giving him too much.
In 2010, I had Z…and then the madness really started. I couldn’t get through the washing fast enough and someone always seemed to wake during the night, waking up everyone else in the process. I sometimes forgot to send letters in to school, or missed dental or optician appointments. I’d never done that before, I’d always been so organised.
For the next three years, I went to toddler groups (with more friends and less insecurity this time, thank God) and did all the school runs. I was always on the last minute and I set up this blog to document the chaos of my life. I was constantly stepping in puddles of wee, being shat on, having food thrown at me, having stand-offs, dealing with melt-downs and generally muddling through. I didn’t feel I was particularly achieving anything. The only up-side was that I could see the humour in it.
Last year I went back to work full-time…and you can probably guess what I’m going to say next. I felt guilty. More fulfilled from a career point of view, but plagued with guilt at missing plays and sports days and special assemblies. Guilty for doing work in the evenings and at weekends. Guilty for wanting a break, even when I hadn’t seen my children all day, or being grumpy after a hard day at work.
On Friday, J was awarded ‘Head Boy’ of his school – and I realised, that despite all of the above, my husband and I must have been doing something right all these years. Not just because of the accolade, but because he had the confidence to go for it, because he was pragmatic about the thought of not winning and because he is secure enough to absolutely believe that we would have been proud of him either way.
And I came to the conclusion that we’re doing alright. Were not perfect, but our children know we love them. We make mistakes, but we care enough to try and fix them. We’ll never get the balance completely right, but our children are still thriving.
And that’s good enough for me.