1 February 2018

And a month of 2018 has gone already. Last night was better:

22:30 F screamed
01:30 I woke for the bathroom (stupid bedtime herbal tea)
04:19 F cried (rather than screamed)

A better night, made worse by my own stupidity in drinking peppermint and lemongrass tea before bed. Lesson learnt.

I just felt so worn out picking the children up today. It’s an hours drive from 4pm to 5pm to get all three. I cannot remember if I felt this way before I became a mother. I can’t really remember how I felt at all before I became a mother most days. When I got the children home my brother called. He’s been quiet recently due to lack of credit on his phone. He’s awaiting a hospital appointment to check on an erratic heartbeat. He keeps getting these spells where he feels like he’s blacking out when he’s walking along the street. A friend of his said he nods in a scary way when it’s happening. He’s already on a host of medication and diabetic. He’s 36. I got off the phone and cried some silent tears. One day he’s not going to be around any more. My mother’s health is also bad. One day she won’t be around either. I know that their deaths are probably on the medium term horizon unless something changes drastically in their lives. How am I going to cope with that loss when they go? I don’t have any coping left.

Is it me, or when you reach your forties, does life just seem like it’s all a lot more serious than it used to be? I am probably never going to be rich or famous. I’m probably never going to do much more than I’ve already done. Relatives and friends will grow older and get sicker. None of them are getting younger and healthier. People will die.

One thing I never knew before I became a parent was how much motherhood depletes you. The lost sleep, the physical endurance of pregnancy and birth, and then the emotional toil – the guilt, the worry, the frustration and the numbness at the end of long days that only offer long, difficult nights as consolation. And even getting to the point of having a family can be so tough. After what we went through I was the equivalent of lame and half blind before I even started the journey. There’s no recovery, or time to build up your strength and resources. Some women go through years of hell to get pregnant, a hellish pregnancy, a three-day labour that rips their bodies apart, and then bang! Welcome to 18 years of being a mother – oh didn’t we tell you it doesn’t get any easier?

Maybe I am depressed. I certainly feel like I am dragging my heels through every day, just waiting to get to a point in some distant future fantasy where I can sleep, laugh, relax, and enjoy life.

Today when I collected the children L was upset as soon as I picked him up that there was no snack, and he was starving, and he has a mouth ulcer that hurts. Then I collected C, who had a biscuit from after school club, so L cried and C said he wouldn’t share because L never shares. They tried to hit each other in the car. Then I collected F. While I went in to get her the boys let themselves out of the car and ran around the car park. The manager came to tell me my children were loose. I rounded them all up and got them all home and made a 5 minute dinner of pasta parcels. F cried all the way through dinner. I tried to find out why but I couldn’t understand her because she was crying too much and that just made her more angry. She lashed out at me, kicking and pushing me away.

I left the devastation in the kitchen for later because they all wanted to play upstairs, so up we went. F cried and complained of a sore bottom, but as soon as I mentioned a bath she got hysterical, so we scrapped that idea. I managed to get her into bed and for once the boys weren’t trying to kill each other. I read C stories and tucked him in, heading downstairs to clean up, but as soon as I’m down he got out of bed, was in my room, dropping stuff on the floor and doing god knows what. I went back up and put him back in bed. I came down and we have a repeat. I went back up and told him off – the last thing I want to do at the end of the day. I came back down and resumed the kitchen.

L was looking for an envelope and wanted to start doing craft activities now the other two are in bed, but all I could think about was how I didn’t want to clean up any more mess. Normally I would put him in my room to read before bed, but I can’t do that now as F is in there, so he has to stay downstairs until C is asleep. I finally get him up and teeth brushed, but it’ll be an hour before he goes to sleep, during which I will no doubt have to make several trips up the stairs. Everything just seems so hard all the time. The constant tidying, the constant mess. The same things I put away day after day after day. The way the kids will get things out of cupboards and drawers while I am still putting away the last thing or clearing up the last mess. The endless complaining and crying and bickering and the relentless asking for things I have to say no to on a daily basis (chocolate for breakfast/legoland/instant playdates/digging up the lawn for treasure/buying new toys/bike rides when it’s raining/going to Australia/new shoes/etc). I sometimes feel like my children must be the most miserable and unhappy children ever with the amount that they ask for that I can’t give them.

I panicked slightly today about the six week summer holiday. Amusing toddlers is a hard enough job, but young boys need space, and exercise. Their energy for play burns up everything around them. What on earth will I do with them every day? I have no idea. I have no energy of my own. My fading light is letting my kids down. I cannot be the mother I want to be. I feel guilty about living apart from my husband. That was not the vision I had of family life. It’s not what I wanted for my children. It’s not what I wanted for me. I could write oceans of words on my emotions but it wouldn’t be right. I can tell the world about my miscarriages, but not the problems in our marriage.

The house looms with all it’s chores. My freelance work is becoming something I am starting to resent. Even just getting through the day requires so much work, and that’s before I’ve tackled the school emails, newsletters, work emails, post, household admin, budgeting and food planning. There is only so much that one person can do. I fantasise about getting rid of almost everything, and having time to play with the children, and to sleep. Always sleep.

I should pay more attention to Buddhist thought. Unburden myself of so many attachments, both emotional and physical. I cling in fear to so much in my life, terrified of losing those I love and pondering who will be next to go. Having been through three family deaths (aside from all the miscarriages), in the last few years that were all so traumatic in their own way I find that thoughts of funerals and loneliness haunt me. Mum is the same. She has told me she is saving for hers. She wants me to place a star on the tree in the big church on the Christmas after she leaves us, just like we did with her brother a few weeks back.

In short, I have lost the joy of the day and I want it back so very, very much.

31 January 2018

I asked F if she wanted her cot in Mummy’s room last night and got a respounding “Yes.” So I moved it.

Last night’s sleep:

19:00 C complains and whines and cries because he wants to sleep in Mummy’s room too. I feel like banging my head against the wall.

20:15 All kids in bed, and I’m in bed. L actually drops off without getting back out of bed. So far, so good.

22:00 I finally fall asleep after fretting for 90 minutes that I am not falling asleep.

22:30 F screams. I stroke her hair and she goes back to sleep.

23:15 F screams. She says she wants to hold my hand. The cot isn’t close enough to the bed for this. I wonder if she’d be happier if she was still in the womb. I tell her to go to sleep.

00:00 F cries. She then cries every 10-15 minutes for a minute or so until…

01:15 F asks for milk. I get her a drink of water. She finally goes to sleep.

7:00 My alarm goes off.

As you can imagine she has been about as much fun as a hangover since about 11am today because she is so tired. It’s REALLY hard to have sympathy for her irrational, overtired behaviour when she was the one faffing around and not sleeping for three hours in the middle of the night.

Bathtime

Toddler F’s latest fear is the bath. It’s been increasing over the months, but has finally gotten so bad she now gets hysterical when I start running the water. She’s not having a tantrum – she seems genuinely terrified. She watches the boys get in and have fun, but she won’t have any of it. So I’ve given up trying to get her in – it’s too upsetting seeing how upset she gets. We have resorted to a warm washcloth in the interim. And ponytails for her mad hair.

Dinner

The lentil spag bol I made yesterday was lovely. It was a mix up of a few recipes I’ve read, and I used some home made tomato sauce I already had in the freezer. The kids wouldn’t touch it for two reasons: you could see the green lentils and you could feel the green lentils. I should have boiled them five minutes longer and maybe whizzed them into a sauce. Next time.

Tonight was chips and black bean burgers. Again the recipe was a non-specific mix up of a few I’ve read, using what I had in the cupboard. These things were brilliant. I am not kidding – I loved them. Even the kids ate some. When I make them again I’ll write up the recipe.

This is an actual photo of an actual beanburger I made this evening:

Amazing!! I had mine with no bun, loads of ketchup and fried onions. The two plant-based/vegan dinners I’ve tried so far I have really loved.

Aiming for another early night tonight, wish me luck.

30 January 2018

I’m blogging loads at the moment – it’s keeping me sane. I can’t be bothered with titles any more. I’m just going to use the date. Hello online diary!

Sleep report

Here’s last night’s shenanigans:

21:00 – L finally gives up getting out of bed and pestering me for things and falls asleep
21:30 – I go to bed
22:30 – F screams. I go in and stroke her hair, she falls asleep
03:15 – F screams. I go in and stroke her hair, she falls asleep
06:19 – L comes in and wakes me up because he had a bad dream

Sigh. Not the worst night, but far from ideal.

I spent the morning with Mum, as I do most Tuesdays, and I need to go to the supermarket before getting the boys from school. The washing needs doing and I didn’t finish cleaning up the kitchen last night, so that’s also a mess. It’s also a late night from school as I get C, but then come home and an hour later we go out and get L who has an after school club. Then I also drop his friend off at his childminders before we all come home.

All I want to do is go to bed. I shouted at the kids again this morning – not because I’m tired, I think. It’s because I’m frustrated and angry at not being able to sleep without someone screaming at me, and then when there is any screaming or bickering or whining at breakfast I just cannot deal with it.

It’s not who I am – it’s turning me into a horrible mother. I wish F could somehow understand how difficult it is to deal with constant screaming. I am thinking of moving her cot back into my room – it seems to stem from needing to know I am there – she never opens her eyes when I go in. I just stroke her hair once and all is quiet. All that screaming for 3 seconds of touch! I might ask her tonight if she wants to move into my room. She’s old enough to understand – maybe it’s what she wants to do.

Experimental dinners

I’m trying out some plant-based meals this week. First up is lentil spag bol tonight. Tomorrow I’m trying black bean burgers and maybe falafels on Thursday. I’ve got some great breakfasts going on this week, which I’ll write up separately. I’m hoping to get the children on board with at least one meal so that I can share dinners with them that I actually like 🙂

Use It Up Update

I have to start by saying that last night, for the first time in SO long, toddler F slept through the whole night. I sat with her last night for ages while she fell asleep, which is something I always try to avoid doing. However, I’m wondering if that was the key to her having a restful night?

I felt so much happier when I woke up, not so much from the sleep I think, but more from the respite from being startled out of sleep over and over by end-of-the-world screaming. It is so unpleasant and stressful. This morning, in comparison, felt like a sunny dawn on still waters.

I sat with her again this evening. We shall see what happens.

Food

That aside, here’s where we’re at with the groceries. We’re one chicken breast away from being a vegetarian house again, which I am really pleased about (UPDATE: apart from the tuna. I forgot about the three cans of tuna!). That was my first goal and it is something I’ve thought about often in the last few years. I might eat it for dinner tomorrow and then it’s a fresh start, yay! I’m going to get used to cooking veggie again for a while before doing anything else. Although I do have plans to overhaul my own breakfasts this week, which I’ll write about separately.

FRIDGE

Continue buying for now (mainly for the children)
Organic butter
Organic cheddar
Organic yoghurts (kids)
Organic milk

Undecided yet
Pesto
Organic eggs

To finish
Whole, organic chicken
Mini Baby Bels

Plain yoghurt
Dairy-lea dunkers
Mayonnaise

Salad cream (1.5 bottles left)
Salad dressing (1 full bottle left)

FREEZER

2 packs of leftovers from the roast chicken
2 wild caught salmon steaks
Fishfingers
5 hot dogs
1/2 pack organic minced beef

1 organic chicken breast

 

CUPBOARD

Organic instant hot chocolate
Beef gravy instant pot

Wine (usually prosecco)
Nature valley granola bars
Honey
Tuna (3/4 tins left)

VITS & MINS

To be done

HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS

To be done

Lives of Quiet Desperation

It was Henry David Thoreau who said in Walden: 

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

I think he must have meant not just men, but women also. Sometimes I feel a huge discord between the life I talk about and the life I experience internally. Quiet desperation (and at times not so quiet) has been the theme of the last two weeks for me. I tend not to blog much about difficulties at home, and I suppose that’s why I don’t talk about them in real life either. It seems ungrateful and like I am craving attention when I begin to talk about the things that I am finding hard.

But the last two weeks have been hard. Hell, the last two years have been hard. Hard in a different way to the years before them. When baby F arrived I thought I could never have a sad day ever again. But of course it is impossible (I think?) to spend every day of your life in joyous rapture – unless you are Buddha. And baby F was sent to test my parenting skills to the absolute limit. After my husband moved out, we had a week of calm at home. The children were all sleeping. I was sleeping. No one was arguing. I was planning a long period of early nights and restoration of my poor weary soul.

But toddler F got sick. It started with a cold, and then a cough. That developed into days of extreme fever (105 degrees), which gave way to more coughing and then a severe sinus infection and still the coughing. The result of all that is that she has woken around 4 times every night for two weeks without a break (up from the usual one or two wakings that have never settled). She goes from silent sleep to blood-curdling screaming in an instant. It never fails to shock my system into panic as I hurtle into consciousness. It’s a distressing and depressing thing to deal with every night. It starts around 22:30, which is usually not long after I’ve fallen asleep. She will then wake at midnight, 2am and 4am. Every. Single. Night.

And the screaming never seems to stop. In the daytime she is as demanding as ever, freaking out if I misunderstand what she is saying, or don’t give her exactly what she wants. She often screams on the entire school run, and then clings to me red eyed and silent while I wait in the playground, refusing to walk or stand on her own two feet. She is afraid of seemingly everything (refusing to get out of the car at the beach today, for example, and crying to go home). She screams blue murder when I try to get her in the bath. She cries if I walk too close to someone’s dog.

She can’t sleep unless I am in the same room at bedtime, which is not easy when it comes to doing bedtime for the boys. She sleeps around the same number of hours as my 6 year old and I am sure she is constantly exhausted.

On top of that, my 8 year old is rarely asleep before 9:15pm, and cannot seem to stay in bed before that, so there is no evening time for me to unwind. By the time I’ve settled him and crawled into bed myself, it’s not long before toddler F starts up the first screaming session of the night.

As you can imagine, my state of mind is not at its best. I’m irritable with the boys, impatient with everyone and everything. All I want to do is sleep and yet I never can. I’m a crappy, miserable mother and my empathy for my children’s problems has been much reduced of late. So then I add guilt and self-abhorrence into the mix. My children are crying and I don’t care, but then I do care and I regret feeling so detached and then I cry because it all just hurts and feels so bloody hard and they deserve better than I can give.

My husband took all three children out for the day yesterday and I crept back into bed at 9:30am after saying goodbye and didn’t wake up until 2pm. Today he was here and I had to creep upstairs and sleep for 90 minutes in the afternoon because I couldn’t think straight and was losing my patience with the kids yet again.

My exhaustion feels bottomless and I have no idea how to stop the night screaming that is disturbing all of us.

Add to that my period (nice timing), and the fact that I have started having regular nightmares again for the first time in years (I think caused by the general unease of my husband not being here at night), and I am an all round basket case. I’m in tears one minute and laughing the next. Then I’m shouting at everyone for some stupid misdemeanour that wouldn’t normally bother me. It’s a horrible, unpredictable, exhausting way to live.

So I am leading a life of quiet desperation at the moment. I am praying for easier days (and nights). I am hoping that the haggard, lined and faintly surprised face I see staring back at me in the mirror starts to look a little less sallow and a little less aged at some point soon. I will take my quiet desperation out into next week, on the school run, and to all the activities that I do. And hope that someday soon I get enough rest to feel a sense of quiet happiness instead.