I have been off work for the last six weeks.
When I was in work Squidge went to nursery two days a week to coincide with the two long days per week that I worked.
Now I’m not in work he goes three days a week for the simple reason that I just can’t cope with trying to get my mental health back onto an even keel and looking after Squidge on my own for five days a week.
Many different people have said to me that you don’t know guilt until you have children but it’s not so much guilt I’m feeling as shame.
I am ashamed.
I am ashamed of so many things.
The money that we could save if I could just pull myself together; looking after Squidge during the week and not eating my emotions.
Dreading the two days when the Northern One works and I have to look after Squidge by myself and watching the clock and counting down the hours until the Northern One gets home.
Feeling my heart sink when I hear him wake up from his morning nap and knowing that my quiet ‘me time’ has come to an end.
Hiding under the duvet when Squidge wakes up at night or in the morning, willing him to go back to sleep and for the Northern One to get up to him so that I can go back to sleep and not have to deal with reality.
Breathing a sigh of relief when they leave the house in the morning to go to nursery and work and I know that for the next ten hours the only person I have to worry about is myself.
When I was two weeks old my parents moved to the other end of the country for my dad’s new job. My mum was faced with looking after a new baby in an area that she’d only visited to buy the house and where she knew no one. She was hundreds of miles away from her own mum or any of her friends or family and my dad was working every week day, most evenings and weekends in order to get to grips with his new job.
Not only did my mum cope but she coped amazingly well, in a way that I seem to only be able to dream about. Far from becoming overwhelmed by the challenges of caring for a new baby and sinking into a state of loneliness and depression she took it all in her stride in a way that I’ve completely failed to emulate.
Where I shut myself away from other mums she went out and found the local mother and baby groups and made friendships that lasted for years.
Where I’ve fallen into a pattern of comfort eating and hating the way I look my mum had lost all the baby weight by the end of the first week and has continued to look amazing ever since.
I listen to her talk about the things she used to do with me when I was little and it sounds so far removed from what I do with Squidge that it actually makes me feel a bit unwell. She doesn’t mean to make me feel like a bad mum but when I compare the games and singing I remember from being small to my lying on the sofa while Squidge entertains himself I can’t feel anything else.
This evening she’s sat with Squidge for hours while he struggles to sleep, remaining calm while I want to scream and throw things and cry tears of absolute frustration.
I don’t know how to be the mum that she was to me.
The mum that Squidge deserves.
It’s not so much mummy guilt that I’m experiencing, although I’ve got plenty of that, more failing-to-be-like-my-mum guilt.
I look at myself; fat, miserable, unable to work, hiding away from everyone and everything that I can and falling apart at the thought of having to the most basic daily tasks.
I can’t help but compare myself, even though I know that all that will happen is that I’ll feel worse and worse about myself as a wife, mother, even just as a person.
My Mum has her faults, as does everyone but throughout my childhood I never doubted her ability to cope with whatever I threw at her.
Childhood tantrums, homework, falling out with friends, teenage heartbreak, revision, exams – all these things she dealt with. She may have been angry and annoyed, frustrated and disappointed depending upon the situation but she always sorted things in the end.
I can’t even get through one evening of Squidge refusing to sleep without bursting into tears, swearing my head off and stuffing myself with comfort food. I try and console myself with the fact that at least I’m not doing these things where Squidge can see or hear me but I’m not fooling anyone, least of all myself.
At the moment Squidge doesn’t seem to realise how much I’m struggling. He’s still of an age where being told ‘no’ is hilarious and where there’s nothing in his life that can’t be fixed with a cuddle but it’s not going to be like thus forever.
One day he’s going to realise that I just can’t cope with being a mum. As he gets older some aspects of looking after him will get easier other things will get so much harder. He’ll get to the stage when he’s potty trained and can feed himself but he’ll also be able to throw tantrums, argue with me and realise that I don’t know everything.
The day will come when my patenting style of wrapping myself in the duvet to try and stave off multiple panic attacks while Squidge entertains himself just won’t cut it. The cracks will show, my facade of coping will fall apart and my failings as a mother compared to my mum will become painfully obvious.
The guilt that I feel already is almost overwhelming and they way things are I can only see it getting worse.
All I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, trying to make it through each day and accepting all the help and mental health support available to me.
It doesn’t seem like it now but maybe when the time comes when Squidge really needs me to step up for him I might be able to.
Or maybe I’ll have destroyed myself with guilt.
I hope it’s the first thing.