I was talking about mental health the other day, but in particular; parents’ mental health. More specifically: mothers. I really feel like there isn’t enough transparency around this. I feel like we’ve been ‘excused’ for feeling overwhelmed postpartum and after that, we’re kind of expected to just get on with it.
Having a newborn is so wonderful, but so tough. The feeling of loneliness & exhaustion is extremely overwhelming. Most of my readers have been there. Some of you were there with me. During those days, other mothers would often reassure you that it gets better. It’s true when they say that it gets easier when the youngest turns 4. It got easier for me when my boys could pour their own cereal, their own juice and potty alone – etc. Don’t forget those magical moments when they learned to play alone or were finally entertained by the younger sibling. The best or easiest years might be between the ages of 4 and 6 when they’re just happy to play and watch cartoons and eat whatever you put on toast and have a few hours at daycare.
But then they turn 6 and 7 and start school. Then it gets hard again. You find yourself repeating your entire education all over again, but you have to pay much more attention this time.
I mean let’s just start at the process of actually getting them IN to a good school. Holy shit, I was not prepared. I couldn’t get Noah into the school I wanted for him for grade R. I kept him at his daycare / creche and would not give up. I called the school I wanted every single day. I sent flowers. We moved house. I called again. I had paperwork on standby. Eventually, a spot opened up and Noah got bumped to the top of his list. He had his interview that week and started school the following. Getting your first child in makes it so much easier to get the second in, so I knew that I could exhale for a good 7 years.
I was so wrong.
I had to follow all the class schedules, extra murals, homework, sports and the darn homework book closer than my own life. The amount of times I sent a child with the wrong book or without a swimming costume or relevant musical instrument is astonishing. Lunch boxes that were forgotten in my car. Breakfasts that were eaten on the way to school. Tuck shop days that I forgot or raffle sheets that I lost. All of the mothers in the room are nodding along with me. We’ve all been here and some of us still are.
I joke that my children need their own PA but I’m actually not joking. I AM their PA. I manage their diaries, book their appointments, pay their accounts, arrange their social activities, outings and all their special occasions. I’m in charge of catering & entertainment. Finance, sport & academics. And culture. I had a joint calendar for them but now it’s broken up into individuals. Honestly – Google Calendar will save your life.
Between my kids, they do tennis, cricket, chess, hockey, art club, swimming & piano. I have to select their activities so that they’re on the same day as this really helps for lifts, e.g Noah will have chess on the same day that Ben has cricket so they’re only doing 1 extra mural a day each. Then there are the matches. My friends, do NOT allow your children to enjoy cricket. Tell them that it is extremely terrible and boring and horrible. I say this because cricket matches are like 3 – 4 hours long so y’all better enjoy sitting on a field talking to random parents for that long!
It’s exam time now. So they’re busy with study and exam time tables on top of this. I mean, it’s so tough on the kids as it is, so I need to be hyper organised to make it all easier on them. I need to know who should be studying for what on which day and ensure that it’s happening instead of Minecraft, you know?
Don’t even talk about all the class parties and farewell activities and fun days where I have to know which kid is taking juice and which one is taking chips on which day to which school field and are they wearing civvies and do I need to pay for that on the Karri app or send money and do I even have change in my wallet what is going on.
Add to this that you’re trying to order next year’s stationery and uniforms, nevermind remembering the teacher’s gifts and returning the library books that you obviously can’t find.
Anyway. I keep my cool with them and they think I’m super mom but behind the scenes I am making lists and checking them 7 times and taking extremely wonderful medication for anxiety so that I don’t start drinking wine at 4pm. I mean, sometimes.
I work full time managing a team of writers and intense deadlines. I’m honestly lucky beyond measure that I have the support structure that I have to help with the afternoons. I also co-parent and share days with the boys’ dad, but we’re so intertwined and attend all their big matches, concerts, picnics, events etc together so that’s another big plus. I have incredible men in my life – the big ones and the little ones!
But this is what I’m saying: It’s still hard. When you have a newborn, you feel the loneliness of being the primary caregiver and the exhaustion on your body. When they’re in school, you’re still the primary caregiver when it comes to organising their activities and education. Graeme and Francois will often ask me “who has tennis again today” or “what time is the music concert” regardless of the amount of calendars, print-outs, whatsapp groups and reminders. I’m guessing that this is just how dads are? Or just men – in general? So the loneliness I feel is often the burden of it all. Knowing that if I don’t check that class whatsapp message, then my child might miss the bus to the cricket match because the pick-up gate has changed. You know? I know that you know.
I don’t mind taking the pressure. I love that my boys are oblivious to it all. In their lives, they’re just having fun and playing sport and looking forward to class parties and that’s how it should be.
It does get hectic when you’re running a full-time job, your kids’ schedules and a household. Getting home and realising there’s no bread for tomorrow’s lunch boxes or that the milk is off. Giving your kids hot dogs for the second night in a row because you really don’t have the energy for that spaghetti bolognese. Some nights I swear it’s cereal. And then we wake up tired the next day and do it all over again. Because we love them.
I wouldn’t change any of it for a second. Sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder what I would do if I was like, really super rich. Honestly, I wouldn’t change much. I’d still work my job, I’d still live in the same house. I would still manage their schedules like a hawk. I WOULD (however) get a chef! Imagine a world where you get home and a perfectly balanced, nutritious meal is waiting on the table? And the lunch boxes and work lunches are packed. I mean that would be so incredible, right? I think about that a lot. I lay awake wondering where I can take a little bit of pressure and stress away. I’ve been better at planning and bulk shopping, but those little things still creep in like a child who forgot that the has to dress up for “Egyptian Day” TOMORROW or a forgotten oral or classmate’s birthday. No matter how well you plan, there is always something. And that’s okay.
I just wanted to send a heartfelt shout-out to all the other moms and parents who are doing their very best at this time of year. Hang in there. Pretty soon, we’ll be sipping homemade cocktails in the garden or laying on the couch doing absolutely nothing. I can’t wait.
PS Have you seen that series on Netflix called “Maid”? It’s so damn good! Watch it.