Tag Archives: guilt

Wishing for space

I spend a lot of time every day wishing for space. I’m not being greedy here – I’m not pleading with the universe to grant me solitary mountaintops, or vast plains, or a deep, crystal clear lake.

Just two minutes to pee in private would be nice. Or maybe silence while I’m changing the baby’s nappy, instead of a three-year-old shouting loudly, “Look at me, look at me, Mummy! MUMMY, LOOK AT ME MUMMEEEE! LOOK! LOOK!”

I would say that on average eight times a day, I long for actual, physical space – space away from little people who are intent on pulling my hair, climbing onto my back, attempting to jam fingers up my nose and generally clambering all over me, clinging to my limbs as if hanging off branches of a tree.

But then something happened, and I got struck with the realisation that, one day, I will have all the space I have craved. One day, when my skin is the texture of autumn leaves, I will long for their touch.

Two weeks ago, my Nan died.

She had a lot of space.

I often blame the physical distance between us, because we lived 300 miles apart. But I could have picked up the phone more often than I did. And now, I am caught in a kind of limbo, wishing I had spoken to her more and knowing there is no longer time.

I have not always been a good granddaughter.

I didn’t cry for weeks. I felt so removed from her passing.

And then, the morning we were due to visit her house, I sat on the toilet seat in a Premier Inn on the outskirts of her hometown in South Wales, and I sobbed so hard I retched into a paper sanitary disposal bag.

Because even if you haven’t been physically close to someone for a long while, if they are woven into the fabric of your childhood, your memories, your DNA, it will hit you, even if it doesn’t hit you right away.

Grandparents

And then, when you are feeling sad and regretful and guilty, it can take someone else you love to bring you back. My son, in his unique little way, brought me back.

To persuade him to wear a smart shirt to the funeral, I told him he could wear whatever he wanted at the ‘little party’ afterwards.

I am such a tit.

And so it was my three-year-old rocked up to my Nan’s wake dressed as Buzz Lightyear. At one point he even declared rather loudly, “To infinity and beyond!” Which, I suppose, summed the whole event up quite nicely. Good job my family have a sense of humour.

BuzzLightyear

Despite having said my goodbyes, the remorse lingered. It trailed me home along the M4.

I knew what I needed. I needed to run.

So I did. And it worked. The guilt fell away – for then, anyway. I ran further than I have for a long time. I ran through deep mud and puddles and up a killer hill. With my legs burning and my lungs screaming, I ran into nothingness; into the space I needed in my head.

And while I ran, things became a little clearer: my Nan had been unhappy for a long time, ever since she lost my grandfather, 17 years ago.

Now somewhere, somehow, she is back with the love of her life.

Grandparents2

Perhaps, after all, this is what I need. Not more space (although I will always long to pee in private). But more time with the people I love. Even if that does mean little feet jabbing me in the ribs as they clamber all over me.

Because right now, I have all the time in the world.

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Not perfect? That’s perfectly fine…

The other evening, I sat down for dinner with my children. It looked like this: the two-year-old was eating a waffle and fish fingers. With lots of ketchup. The baby was being spoon fed straight from a jar of puree. We were sitting on the sofa in front of the telly. We weren’t even watching some sort of educational CBeebies offering… we were glued to Dragons: Riders Of Berk.

I’ll be honest – this wasn’t quite how I’d pictured mealtimes, back in the days when I was enthusiastically whizzing up a homemade puree out of an organic butternut squash.

A few years ago, I would have been mortified at the current scene (which admittedly is not every mealtime, but is regular enough that I couldn’t legitimately call it a ‘rare occurrence’). But you know what? Something has changed.

I’ve dropped the guilt.

This wasn’t even a conscious decision. It happened when my daughter was born. It happened because, frankly, running around after two children instead of just the one – and once more being on call during the night as well as the day – I simply don’t have time to worry any more. I don’t have time to worry whether the TV has been on for an hour more than it ‘should’ have been; whether all meals have been made from scratch; whether not taking my youngest to baby yoga/baby ballet/baby sign language/baby sensory classes is going to somehow stunt her development; and I certainly don’t have time to worry about how everyone else is raising their children – and how I compare. Ultimately, however parents get through the day, we are all doing the best we can for our children. And if that means a ‘from the freezer’ meal while glued to The Bedtime Hour to avoid meltdowns every so often most evenings, then that works for me. After all, tummies are getting filled and my children are happy. So now, rather than beating myself up about it, I’m happy, too.

There have also been a few actual parent fails this week…

I had 10 minutes to clean the house the other day and, on leaving the front room to locate a broom, returned to find the baby had discarded her toys in favour of the vacuum cleaner’s electrical cord and was cheerily using it as a teething toy.

Cable teether

‘Baby toys? No thanks Mummy, I’ve found this’

Then yesterday, while cleaning the splash mat after my daughter’s enthusiastic baby-led lunch, the toddler swiped the Dettol (which I’d left lying on the floor) and casually gave his little sister’s head a spritz.

BLW lunch

I’ll admit she needed a clean. Just not like that

In days gone by, both the above would have left me feeling like such a bad mother I’d have needed a 12-week course of therapy. These days? We simply rectify the situation and get on with things. Happily. No guilt.

It’s a revelation.

There’s been one other major change that has led to me feeling so much more relaxed and happy as a second-time-round parent: not only do I no longer have time to worry, but I have also not had a chance to open a single baby book.

Not one.

They have remained closed, on the shelf.

Which has resulted in all those ‘shoulds’ remaining on the shelf as well. Gathering dust. Where they belong.

Instead, I have been parenting by instinct. If it feels right to me, then it probably is. It’s liberating not to feel judged by a few hundred pages written by an author who does not know me, or my children. Not to be made to feel that I am somehow ‘spoiling’ my baby by cuddling her to sleep [check], bed-sharing [check] and baby wearing [check] (incidentally, I’m not saying any of this is the ‘right’ way to parent. It’s simply right for us).

Snuggles2

Sleepy cuddles to go. Nothing better

Ironically, this newfound ‘no-book’ attitude led me to an interaction on Twitter, which saw me recently attend a book launch. The Confident Mother by Sherry Bevan is a parenting book – but not as you know it. Comprising interviews with some truly inspiring mothers and experts, it doesn’t tell you how to parent: it simply helps you trust yourself. Its message is simple and brilliantly empowering – being good enough is good enough. Really.

I am not the perfect mother.

But I love my children with a love I never knew existed until they were here.

And that’s good enough for me.

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