… Or so the song didn’t go.
You might have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet recently. No shares of interesting articles. No posts of my own.
Reader, I confess: I had lost motivation and any pleasure or desire to engage in the online world. Blog? Pah. Facebook? Bleurgh. Laptop stayed shut for months. Smartphone avoided as much as possible as though it harboured a vague strain of plague.
I’ve buried my head in fiction.
I’ve been playing the piano for hours on end. Mostly sad songs. And a little bit of blues, poorly executed.
I have spent hours – hours – with my children, doing stuff. End of term joys at school. End of pre-school picnic. Fun times. School holidays! Going places. Going nowhere. Smelling the kids’ heads. Touching my son’s dimples. Stroking my daughter’s curls. Fearing I’m going to turn into the woman who goes up to mothers in the street and presses 50p coins into the palms of newborns lying innocently in their prams.
Online though, I confess that I have frozen, like a 2005 Windows server on a 2GB personal computer with box screen and tower (remember those?). It’s like I’m yearning for 1997 when it had taken me days to find out that a popular singer had died: I had no newspaper, no telly, no radio and (obv) no internet or smartphone. I spent days in the law library surrounded by books or in a union coffee shop drinking builders’ tea at 10p a cup and listening to Pearl Jam on the jukebox. I spent nights in clubs. I spent mornings in bed. Looking back, it was bliss. Being off-grid.
Anyway. Turns out I have been in real need of my mini sabbatical from social media and campaigning, politics and feminism, videos with cats doing cute stuff and quizzes to find out if you are a genius because you know the name of 500 books from just one sentence from each on page 122.
But I also suspect it was the start of a need to scale back to my preferred mode: sleep. Or at least, minimal interfacing. Reading: predominantly objects made from paper. Socialising: principally in person. Communicating: verbally. Mainly: spending time with the children, family and friends, and doing the real life stuff I love.
First I thought it was activist-burn out/authorial post-publication fatigue.
Then I remembered the General Election (let’s not go there for the moment) and wondered whether it was a political malaise. Real Tory-Blues. Cure? Don’t even know if a red pill will work, to be frank.
On the motherhood thing, I couldn’t face reading another article or engaging in another debate. The same one. Different day. This week’s breastfeeding merry-go-round and glut of articles about the miserableness of motherhood and school holidays when (banging head on desk) they are missing the point! The devaluation of care work! The failure to recognise mothers as individuals with our own needs and communities and support! The need for skilled breastfeeding support and maternity care! The need for realism about how hard it is! The injustice of mother blame! The economic and political blindspot that is family-based care! We shouldn’t do motherhood alone, unsupported and undervauled – but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it! We must support mothers! We must remove discrimination against mothers in all its forms – in public, private, the workplace, pensions, and all the rest! Liberate Motherhood! Put on the Purplestockings! Honestly, I fear I become a parody of myself. “Step away from the internet” I hear, daily, loudly, in my head.
Feminism, too, has many battles on its hands. On certain issues, I feel despair at the way things are, and helplessness to do anything about it. I struggle with the atmosphere online sometimes.
All that was part of it, for sure, this paralysis.
But it was when I was crying in the shower recently that I got it.
Here goes: This summer I am preparing for my youngest child to go to school.
No. That’s not quite it.
How about: For the past few months I’ve been wallowing in a tiny, woman-made pit of despair and sadness that my baby is no longer a baby and that the pre-school years are over. That I’m about to walk through another door that will shape me into another form, just as I had walked into motherhood from a room that said ‘career’. Only this time, I’ve no idea what form the new phase is going to take. I’m shedding a skin, and worried there’s something scaly and miserable and lonely and lost underneath it. I signed up for caring for my children until school age. I have always wanted to be there before and after school and in the holidays. But I’m facing the raw and gooey fact that I am going to miss my children terribly during school hours.
We talk about baby blues. The challenges of the first year and adjusting to motherhood.
But I’ve been blindsided by this ‘last-child is soon going into Reception’ low.
But it’s right there: the end of an era. The early years in this household are almost over. And it’s come too quickly. I want it back. I want to start again and do it all over – with some changes here and there. Perhaps that’s behind the nagging itch for a third child: this time you wont hemorrhage after labour; this time you won’t struggle with breastfeeding; this time you will hire a mother’s help for those witching hours where everyone seemed to cry in unison (if only that shriveled shrub in the garden became that money-type of tree). This time you will know with certainty that it is the last birth, the last newborn phase, the last first-smile, the last first-step, the last first-word. You can relish it and treasure it and make no apology.
I’m never going to get that time back. I know I’ve got to let go.
I know, too, that the school days are short; that the holidays are long.
But it’s hard letting go.
It’s very hard.
Thank you for being patient. I’ll be back in September when I no longer have the metaphorical pram in the hall, and will have the time and freedom to write during the day without stopping to wipe a bottom other than my own. To continue to do my work with mothers locally. I suspect I will continue to try to impose boundaries with online stuff but I’d love to check in and catch up on a quiet, low-key, basis. Softly softly.
Let’s see how it goes, shall we?
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ianrichardson68/3483774962/in/photolist-6iRfVy-asKjp7-6DGtjX-9YTchZ-hTXxVd-7vi4BD-fnYxWq-5KJZ6H-4ofE-diUjSC-5dnCZY-6QyuPL-2Q5jew-6W1ZBp-a5LdRr-jicut9-PgvJW-a1zBDz-swmigi-EsBhjo-QCqnwH-oE32tL-o6zuSo-6Y9KKy-9QwmQv-RhLiob-6DCxEj-sw9h4y-tqQDYW-swmhgT-tbAuDQ-ttawVg-jQ64wS-ad3Ud7-ogLQj7-bgVkjX-7osuXm-6Ajrxj-5dCktx-9iqZcS-8MDQUm-8djfVX-4uJgZj-4apWzz-ausR3L-9hyZtW-2arcVr-6Y9Kid-tbH1s4-86xqvT