Man, you bloggers out there, you’re so GOOD. Not only do you write well, you write often. Power cut, earthquake, Dont Tell The Bride marathon on BBC3 – I bet there’s not a household crisis, natural disaster or the distraction of an enraged woman in a white dress screaming “what the FUCK am I doing at Thorpe Park on my FUCKING wedding day?” that would stop you from writing your posts-of-glory on at least a weekly basis. Usually more.
I, on the other hand, seem to be starting more and more blogs with lame sorry I’m late-type apologies, despite not knowing if anyone could really give a flying shitbag anyway as to when my next rant was coming or how long it had been before I last bleated on about getting tanked up on boozy Vimto / Peter Stringfellow’s motorbike / KirstiefuckingAllsopp. But you know what, if it helps or matters or makes anyone feel even a little bit better, I have had a mega week from dilemma-hell with a lot to think about, fret over and use as an excuse to cry about. Here’s what happened…
Right. Tuesday, I went on a train. This might not sound like a big deal but let me explain three things about this train:
1) It did not have a smiley face on the front of it, nor was it plugged into the wall outside Tesco. This train did not involve me putting 20p in a slot for 3 minutes of underwhelming entertainment
2) It was a proper bloody train. More importantly, my children were not on this proper bloody train
3) It was taking me to London. To London to talk to someone about me going back to work
Pretty fricking exciting. And then terrifying. Because it’s me and for every good thing there has to be a good three or four or fifty bad things. But I’ll go into that in a bit. Wahoo! I just promised you some upcoming gloom and anxiety, don’t say I don’t treat you right, bitches.
Anyway. The good stuff
Two hours on a train. It was amazing. I had my coffee, I had my computer jacked up to the hilt with sitcoms (for research purposes, you understand), I had my book, I had clothes on that neither smelled of shit nor had any dubious is-it-yoghurt-is-it-spunk? stains on (NOTE: that question is always posed by the onlooker. I know it is ALWAYS going to be yoghurt). The only concern I had about these two hours would that they would not be enough to do all the exciting stuff like reading, eating and sleeping that I had planned. What I also dug about this trip was the distinct shift in my role and identity for the day. To the untrained eyes of the commuters sat around me, they didn’t know me for being a mum and that felt amazing. The incident the night before where, having dealt with an angry, constipated kid all day, I’d found myself involved in some kind of deranged, grotesque horror-movie waterbirth where, to a chant of ‘come on, come on, you can do it’ my daughter had crapped directly into my hands – my fellow passengers knew nothing about that. That I had sat sobbing in a car park the other week whilst frantically sucking the red pimento bit out of a tub of olives because it was the only way to placate a screaming toddler who loves olives but hates pimento? Yeah, they didn’t know about that either. Nor were they aware of my meltdown when, just moments later, I’d had to fill out the ‘occupation’ part of a form and written ‘Olive Sucker. Shouter. Dishwasher Bitch’. To them, I was part of their gang – just another person, on a train, on their way to work. To me, this train journey was a lovely little reminder of what I used to be (and maybe of what I still actually am, given half a chance) and I liked it. I felt free.
Well, free right up until the moment that the bitch who lives inside me and likes nothing more than punching my positivity square in the face pitched up. And promptly tried to shit me up.
First came the panic about the kids. I hadn’t left them in the car or anything – they were with their dad – but then I started thinking about exactly what that meant. For one, my husband had seemingly channelled ‘off-duty lapdancer’ as his inspiration for dressing our daughter that morning. Secondly, the last thing I’d seen as I left the house was him – and this is 100% actual truth – stood at one end of the kitchen, lobbing loose grapes and jelly babies into the kids’ lunch boxes at the other end of the kitchen. ‘My GOD’ I thought ‘nobody will ever look after my children as well as I do, what the hell am I thinking? I can’t go back to work’.
And that brings me to childcare. When I’ve had a bad day and I’m calling my husband at work, weeping ‘she just brushed her teeth with my FUCKING Beauty Flash Balm. I can’t do this anymore’ down the phone at him, I tell myself I couldn’t give a hoot who looks after the kids. My husband; an unqualified, slaggy au pair with a sex addiction; an affable chimp with a basic grasp of communicative grunts – a lot of the time, I’d happily hand them over to any one of these. However, this day, on the train, with the guilt of momentarily enjoying some time on my own weighing heavy on my selfish shoulders, I started to brick it. What would I do about childcare? Like sure, there are nannies and childminders and pre-schools but, after three years as a stay at home mum, would any outside influence just make my children hate me? You know, like, even more than normal?
These disproportionate feelings of guilt and fear of doing the wrong thing by my kids and my role as a mother probably aren’t helped so much by the fact I live in a village where 97% of families are run by stay at home mums (I totally made that statistic up but you get my point). Women who wouldn’t dream of working and who rank me with my vague career aspirations somewhere between King Herod and that woman who bought her daughter a boob job for her 7th birthday on the ‘who’s the shittest parent?’ scale. I made the mistake of mentioning the whole job/London thing to a local mum at a toddler group before voicing my worries and fears in a misjudged search for some reassurance. Tilting her head to one side and scrunching up her nose, she reacted with ‘ooh, I know, it can be frustrating sometimes but they’re only really teeny-tiny and you do have to think of the kids first’. Think of the kids? Think of the fucking kids? That is all I have done for the past 3 years and all I still do now. I think of them every waking moment. I lie wide-eyed at 2am, crapping myself about stuff I do and how it affects them and yes, I know a kid is for life, not just for a year or three but sweet Jesus, I’m not suggesting I sell them to someone on Gumtree, I just want more from life. I WANT MORE.
Anywaaaaay. Anyway. There was that. And then there was the job itself. A really, really brilliant job with an amazing company, doing something I would love. Like actually, properly L-O-V-E. But whether I could do it was another issue. Three years out off work can do a lot to your confidence and while I’ve been doing little bits and pieces of writing and stuff on a freelance basis for the last few months, this has all been done remotely from a hidden corner in my local Caffe Nero. It didn’t involve an office, colleagues or the daily pressure of earning money by creating work that a lot of other people then have to like. It felt like I was kidding these potential employers. And kind of like I was kidding myself. Despite having a really lovely meeting, I left their offices feeling like a big, fat fraud. Who did I think I was? I wasn’t the woman I used to be. Time had changed. I had responsibilities and priorities that top-trumped anything I wanted to do. Returning to work was never going to happen and I was a massive prick for even thinking for a second or two that I could somehow pull it off.
So, with all of the above and a whole lot more running rampage in my head, I turned the job, with the brilliant company, working with brilliant people, down.
And they came back to me and told me to think about it.
So I thought about it and went back with another polite, somewhat apologetic no thank you.
And they suggested I have one last think about it.
And that is exactly what I did. And by ‘think’ what I could easily have said is that, between the hours of 8pm and 10pm last Wednesday night, I turned my life into a big, ridiculous, all-wailing, all-hating drama. A bit like Eastenders but with added doom. Eastenders at Christmas, say. Honestly, it was full-on. I cried, I got snotty, I told my husband it was all very well him saying to go for it, he was ’emotionally devoid’ when it came to our kids (sorry John). And then, after two hours of me being a bit of a wanker with no perspective as to what constitutes a real problem, things went quiet and a new thought fought its way into my head.
What if I did take the job?
What if I just stopped cocking about and gave it a go? What if, I figured out the childcare, sucked up my issues, tucked them away into a little corner in my brain and let them fight amongst themselves for a bit. And then all the other good stuff came flooding back. That this could be an amazing chance to prove myself, to myself. That yes, it would be tricky on so many levels, but maybe a chance to reaffirm the shit I am good at, rather than spend all day berating myself for the things I am bad at could really kick what has been, and kind of still is, a really stubborn bout of depression into touch. And you know, as much as the idea of doing this is scary, there was one overwhelming thing that terrified me far, far more – the thought of not doing it.
Holy crapbags Batman, I think I’m going back to work.