It’s immeasurably cheering to be starting a blog post.
Hold that thought…
Ah, at last. I wrote that one and only line back on the 8th of August, and it’s taken until now to get back to it. But finally, here I am. There you are. Blimey, sorry, it’s been nearly a month since I last posted, a fact that makes me feel very queer and not a little emotional. Writing has always been so wonderfully therapeutic for me that I fear I’m cracking up now I’m having trouble doing any. Well, writing that isn’t freelance writing. Writing like blog writing, diary writing, letter writing and creative writing. Unpaid writing, the writing that is writing for the sheer love of writing. That’s the sort of writing that’s been squeezed out of the picture since I became a mother nearly 9 months ago.
I am just managing to keep up the monthly feature for Varuna, and it is that piece of work that’s singlehandedly keeping me from the brink, so I mean to continue as long as they’ll have me. It’s the regular freelance deadline that manages to straddle both spheres, being both professional writing and something that I love to do. This month’s is on e-publishing and for anyone who’s interested, you can read it here.
I’m writing this post courtesy of my newly negotiated arrangement with Llew. I am officially clawing back some set ‘Me Time’ every Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately the inaugural ‘Me Time’ this past Wednesday was a total non-event, since Master J was having some major settling issues and frankly he needed his mother. It wouldn’t have been fair to leave Llew to deal with it, nor fair to Master J while he was in so much anguish, and I wouldn’t have been able to do anything but worry myself sick even if I had managed to get out the door. Not that leaving is even necessarily part of the plan. I’d be quite happy to sit in bed reading a book or writing a letter on my night off, it’s just that when Master J is hysterical in the next room, it’s not possible to do anything other than gnaw at my bottom lip and time to the second how long it’s been since the last time I ran in to comfort him.
It’s taken me a good long while to insist on this arrangement – longer than it should have given I’ve always known I need time alone. I guess I kept thinking it would happen of its own accord, or that Llew would magically intuit my needs (someone just knocked at the door and my heart PLUNGED – and this from a girl who has always loved the impromptu visit… what’s happened to me?! Thankfully it was just a lady collecting Census forms – happy day!) and cater to them. I didn’t want to have to ask, much less demand regulatory changes to our household, but that’s exactly what it’s come down to because there was no naturally evolving ‘Me Time’ in the offing. Once I lost A, the lady from the corner store, well, that was pretty much it. Llew’s parents are great with helping out when I get a freelance job, and offering occasional date nights, but they have their own lives to lead, and time out for me to do nothing – or at least nothing official or income generating – is a much harder sell. So I finally said to Llew, “Me Time is going to have to come from Us Time, otherwise there’s No Time.”
He and Master J left about a half hour ago, and if you exclude the 30-minute run I had this morning (Llew takes an hour – an imbalance that neatly highlights my overall mismanagement of self-interest and my acute failure to claim anything like equal time for myself), I am blissfully alone for the first time in over a fortnight.
Part of me just wants to go to sleep.
I hate that so much of this experience is flashing past me and I can’t snatch back at will a few amusing memories to share with you now I’ve finally got the chance. Because it is so full of mishap and madness, and Master J is a miniature laugh riot, but the truth is I mostly just feel tired and blank. When I think of Christopher Hitchens’s now notorious piece for Vanity Fair, Why Women Aren’t Funny, I imagine he really meant mothers, because there is something about motherhood that – despite the deeply comedic set-up – threatens to overwhelm even the sturdiest good humour. Exhaustion is a real party pooper, for a start, but it’s more than that.
Motherhood compromises a woman’s autonomy. This phenomenon of the split self simply doesn’t happen to men, so some mothers inevitably begin to nurse a cold nugget of resentment at their divided core. Worrying at this little stone ritualises the loss of selfhood while constantly implicating the other parent, who – ignorant of the potential malignancy of this pulsing ember – continues dancing off to golf (or wherever) encased in a warm glow of well-being. And sometimes it is precisely this happy ignorance that is so enraging.
How could you not know? Can’t you see? Can’t you hear what I’m saying to you? Are you deaf, dumb and blind? How can you fail to realise what’s happening to me, what this is like for me? Why hasn’t it happened to you too? Fuck you!
Conflict is a great ingredient in humour, a frequent onstage guest during any decent comedy hour – and motherhood is nothing if not a study in the conflicted self – but sometimes it’s hard to be hilarious when you’re angry, sad, frustrated, anxious, scared, hungry, tired and bored out of your fucking skull. I love my beautiful boys, my husband and my child, and I am not complaining about what I know is a privileged life – I’m so, so, so lucky, and I count my blessings each and every day – but even so there are days when I struggle. I find myself thinking about other women a lot these days – specifically women in less fortunate circumstances than my own. I have support, I have a roof over my head, I have love and friendship, and I enjoy enormous freedoms that are routinely denied to many mothers around the world… so how are they doing? And in infuriatingly typical ‘mother’ fashion, I tend to hang my head in shame and conclude, “No doubt so much better than me.”
Oh, a small postscript: I’m now officially a Twit: DianaMJenkins. Although I haven’t managed to come to grips with how it all works, learning to use Twitter is my latest tech challenge. Let me know if you’re out there somewhere too.