Master J is six months old today – half a year! I can’t quite believe it. Right now he’s obliging me by taking a morning nap in his swinger – they’ve reunited, though who knows how long the romance will last. At a certain point he’ll start trying to climb out of it, and that’s when the relationship will really sour. But for now, the house is quiet and I can try to write.
So where are we, how are we, six months in? Well, the past couple of days have been a bit of a low point for me, I must confess. Master J’s babysitter A came back for two hours yesterday, during which my editor called in two short profiles (which was very exciting, because I only emailed her last week to say I was available again), and I even managed to write a couple of hundred words of that short story I’ve had my eye on, so in many ways it was a new day for the old me. A is coming back Thursday, and during those two hours I’ll interview my profile subjects, with a view to transcribing and writing the stories over the weekend as well as during whatever nap time Master J manages Friday when the interviews are in the can. And therein lies part of the problem: I’m in a situation where I feel I cannot stop, and that I must make full use of every single sacred second I win to myself. It’s not like Llew being home or A being here equals actual down-time, it’s that I can simply do other work then instead. It’s a bit manic, and to be brutally honest it’s frying my spirit.
I am someone who needs to read and write and spend time alone. These aren’t just hobbies or preferences, as those of you who are similarly constructed already know – no, these are some of the constituent parts of my identity. And they are suffering. I need to claw back some time for tending to these core character traits, because I feel hollowed out and pretty shaky without them. Last night, poor Llew made the mistake of innocently relating the forthcoming freelance job to the cost of bringing in A, which I took to mean that her coming at all (and I’ve managed to get her for those 4 hours precisely once so far) is only justified if I am earning money in that time. Llew couldn’t understand why, of all the interpretations available to me, this was the one I immediately assumed, but… well, that’s exactly how it sounded to me. So I said, “I thought we were getting A in 4 hours a week so that I could have a whole 4 hours a week to myself like some sick, starved version of a normal person. Oh and thank you for watching Master J so I can interrupt making dinner to hang the washing.”
“Look at me,” I seethed, shaking underwear at the clothesline while Master J and Llew played on the bed. “Would you take a fucking look at me? I feel like my identity is in tatters.”
Understandably, Llew didn’t know how to respond and Master J thought it was hilarious.
So it’s not without its challenges. No surprises there – I just better understand now what Litlove and Charlotte and Lilian and everyone else have been saying all these years. Take Mother’s Day, for instance. I had a lovely family day, a long lunch with my in-laws, my son and my husband – and that’s absolutely precious to me, so don’t take what I am about to say the wrong way. But the truth is, I could’ve used a couple of hours to myself. I’m sure this will change as time goes on, because the intensity will change, and one day I’ll be begging Master J to come see his poor abandoned mother, but this year? TAKE HIM AWAY, I wanted to scream. Both of you, everyone, please, go, go – I love you, I couldn’t love you more, but please god leave me alone.
But you aren’t really supposed to say that, are you? I felt bad even thinking it, and now here I am writing it in public – for all intents and purposes, saying it out loud. And I feel a bit sick admitting it, a foul guilt rising like bile, but you know what? I can’t believe I am the only first-time mother who craved nothing so much as solitude on her first Mother’s Day, so I am just going to take a punt on that, and put up my hand and say, ‘I did.’
I did. I do. I want to be able to read a book and write a letter and contemplate the view outside my window and not feel like I have to cash a fucking chip to do it. If I underestimated anything, it’s the extent of the bargaining that comes with motherhood. Endless bargaining – with myself, with Llew, with A, with family, with friends, with other mothers – and eventually with Master J himself. It’s like a slave auction, and I am just trying to keep myself in the bid. There I am, ME – if I look closely enough, I see I’m still here, even though the hammer came down a full six months ago now, when I was pulled apart and sold to the highest bidder, who right this second, my beautiful boy, is slowly rousing from sleep.