Monday, September 03, 2007


Still looking for my happy place.

To be completely honest, I'm wallowing. And no, it's not a good look, but I'm in a phase where I just can't quite locate my 'happy place'. I am living one of those frustrating dreams where you can't quite make things happen the way you want them to. Just 'frustrating dream' status, rather than 'nightmare', so I should be quite thankful really. But I'm not in a happy place.

I'm mostly unhappy because Marc is away for work all this week. He left early this morning for Perth. Across the other side of the country - so it may as well be the other side of the world. Back Sunday - so that messes with the weekend, and it's the weekend toll that has taken its... toll... over the years. Over the 10 bloody years he's been working in this damn job, I hate to think of how many weekends have been 'stolen' from our family life.

After our crisis in March, and the ultimatum put to his work about having to stop the away work, or leave, he has been home most weekends (all bar one I think) and what a difference that has made. But there you go: "All bar one". There has had to be compromise - a midweek trip back to KL, and a 'one week trip' back to KL. I ran with these because even I realise it is pretty hard to pull out in the middle of a humungous project, and I am such an understanding, wonderful wife that he is lucky to have even though he lost sight of that there at one point. There have also been a couple of other mid-week jobs which involved being away - but midweek stuff I can cope with; the type of job it is means it is impossible not to travel to various jobs.

But this week is another compromise; someone else's project, and the other person who could do it is on 5 weeks annual leave and I'm pissed off and angry about having to compromise, because I feel like I'm being played for a fool. I made some ultimatums, because I damn well had a right to make ultimatums. But like WorkChoices, my 'fought for' rights are insidiously being whittled away...

Yes, it has been better. [Who am I kidding? - It has been fantastic.] And the thing is, I like it like this. Having hubby... Daddy... around... is normal. It's what normal people do. You get to do things together on the weekend.. even if it is just slothing around on a Sunday (which I think is ok if you've got up at 5 am to go ride your tandem together on a Saturday morning, and then spent the rest of that day with the girls' netball.)

Sometimes, now that the girls are old enough to be at home without us, we can do stuff like we did yesterday. We left them and went into the shops, because he needed my physical presence/moral support while he shopped for some jeans and a shirt. And so then, that achieved, we sat down in a cafe and had lunch. Out. Very nice.

Meh, so what right do I have to complain? My life has been, and still is, too easy in many ways. I haven't had to work. I haven't had to worry about money. Single parents do it waaaaay tougher. Most average families do it tougher - financially at least. Still, I'd recommend it to noone - not that many days, nights, weekends of the Daddy being away. Basically raising the kids (the eldest was 4, and the youngest not even born when all this away stuff started) half the time by yourself, but then having to switch back to 'normal' family mode when he gets home.

I always maintained that while he worked away, I was damned if I was going to try and juggle a job as well. He used to hassle me occasionally about getting a job (partly because he understood that my self-esteem actually needs a job; partly because I think he has found it a strain being the breadwinner.) He only admitted in March that it would have been too stressful for me to have been working all this time. (Logic tells you that he would have had to have taken on some of the home-load.)

But as the 'stay at home parent', anything that the kids don't do that you expect they should (or that he expects they should) you blame yourself for. Because you're the one with the frontline job of handling all that, and any failure feels like a failure on your part. Throw into that mix me being the crappiest housekeeper in the world, and I keep seeing "F" on my report card, rather than all the Distinctions and Credits - because people do commend our children for being 'lovely kids'. (And smart. And good at sport. And good friends. Etc etc.)

I just keep seeing the negatives. I see myself as being a failure, because I don't work, and what's more, I don't have a clue what I could do for work. (To fit in with 'being there' for the kids the way I want to be.) Look at all those mothers who are working AND their kids are nice kids, doing well at school, etc, etc!! And, yes, I hate the fact that I don't bring any money into the house. Big F for Failure.

I try my hand at volunteer work, with the school.. with the netball... and then I get the shits with it (usually one or two people start getting right up my nose), so then I pull this avoidance stunt with it, as I did over this weekend. On Saturday I refused to go into the netball clubhouse as I've felt obliged to do all year because I am secretary. I sat on my arse in a chair on the sidelines, and watched both girls play their grand final games. And I felt guilty. And then I didn't go to the senior presentation dinner.

And, then... the most trivial issues with the kids make me feel like I am failing them with the basics - and if I can't get the basics right, how am I going to handle any Serious Stuff that comes along down the track? The eldest yesterday, when charged with hanging the load of washing in the machine on the line when it finished, hung them out dripping (which I only discovered at 5pm when I went to get them in). Because, patently, I wrongly expected that by 14 years old she'd have absorbed, somewhere along the line, that washing, when the machine has finished is not dripping wet. Because it spins the water out. And she has hung out washing before this. And that lately I've had to keep going in to rebalance the load because there is something wrong with the balance mechanism on the washing machine. The machine goes *bang, bang, bang* and stops. Then beeps. And I curse, and I go in and shift clothes around, and start it again. And sometimes repeat that till it works. And I haven't actually stood her there and given her a lesson in getting clothes out of the washing machine, because I had credited her with more common sense than she evidently has. (And an ability to ring me up on the phone and ask what to do if she isn't sure.)

[And it's pretty hard for me to be teaching them any household domestics, because I am a really, really bad role model in that respect.]

And, the 12 year old has been mutilating herself, and I have been oblivious to it. We thought she was biting her fingernails.. have lectured and warned her about it... and finally this week I bought some of that foul tasting stuff to put on her nails. Then yesterday she stubbed her big toe, and we realised that she has somehow been mutilating her toenails... she has cut/ripped them back so far, that the surrounding skin on each toe is peeling, and on her big toe, with so much skin exposed, it is more vulnerable to stubbing. She can't explain what in god's name possessed her to do this, nor how exactly she did it. She used scissors, "once".. "about two weeks ago"... but wtf?!! I am freaked out that she must have some underlying psychological problem that is causing her to do this, and I don't know what the hell to do about it.

And now he's gone away for a week, which makes it hard to do the shared parenting thing- particularly over this trivial stuff.

So the way I handle it is to rebel with the household domestics (who has the psychological problem do you think?)... and wallow.

Perhaps now I've unloaded this piffle I can get up off my bum and get through the week with a more appropriate outlook. Any kicks up the backside as long as they are gentle, will be gratefully received and taken on board.

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Hey honey - do you feel any better?

From my side of this screen:

You were totally justified in watching your own daughters in the grand finals;

You are totally justified in wanting a bit of escape time when you are not "just a mother/housewife" but everything so often;

In some ways it is harder, your situation to the single mum thing in that you HAVE to keep doing the switch;

Housework IS hell and a great way to air all your psychological trauma;

A 15 year old should be able to gauge that soggy washing is not "finished" - but then, sometimes I use to get caught with such traps, so she is allowed a little (teensy weensy) bit of slack.

You are ON CALL not just during work hours but ALL OF THE TIME.

Even your weekend together you are the jeans support group - you need time where you are the Tracey you want to be - she doesn't have to be social or involved or active or even neat and tidy - and I think you (and your family) deserve you to have the time and space to work out what that part of you that you need is.

Personally? There is some neat freak out there who needs to do your hard work housework while you get the chance to expand - either in the IT bits or the writing bits or the organising bits - not the volunteer to help the world bits because they are part of the self-flagellating bits and there is enough of that going on.


Lecture over - love you Trace.
Hey, when you figure out how to fix the washing machine, please let me know, because mine started doing the same thing about 3 days ago! I need help, when you find an answer, will you please help me?

Hey, I have an idea- you help me, and I'll help you! Granted, I don't practice Psychology, just majored in it and then lived life for a couple of decades, but some warning bells are going off in the Psych corner. First, I recommend some un-stress stuff, like eating more spinach/iron/salmon and getting regular sleep and exercise. If you can, find a movie or something that makes you laugh and laugh.
Yes, I know you are "single mom" this week. Exactly why you need to be at 90-100%, not 50%, and spinach/salmon/exercise/rest/laughter will raise your abilities to cope with a shitty week.
Second, find a counselor/helper for the 12-year-old, whether just to explain how to hold the toenail clippers correctly (somebody- not my mom- had to do that for me at age 16!), or to find out what's bugging her. 12s usually want to look beautiful from head to toe; looking mutilated is a warning-level issue, not usual.
If that was no help, at least you can laugh at what a cheesy dummy I come across as!
Good words in the first two comments. I'm shaking my head in agreement.

Do something fun, with your girls. A movie, a lunch or dinner out. No mention of school work, jobs done incorrectly, nails destroyed.

You have to find that spot of relaxation together when things get tense. Laughing is always better than crying and it's amazing how it can lift spirits.

It took time but I can laugh at myself now and it's wonderful.
Oh Man. I am sorry you are having a shit week. I sense your disappointment about Marc working away after the good work you guys have done in getting closer and spending time since the March thing. It is tough to be the constant "go to" all the time when all you want to do is scream "give me a break" and then the self-imposed guilt when things don't go 100% during our 15 seconds of break. It is hard, but I agree with Elizabeth. Try to take the pressure off and make this week a girls week of fun and good times. It is amazing how more responsive kids are to chores and "helping" when you've had a laugh and a some good quality time doing nothing important. They might even be more receptive to a lesson in dealing with the un-coperative washing machine.I hope you are feeling better. I would love to be able to drop in for a cuppa and a chat. I am here on the email.
My 29 year old female housemate didn't realise you should push the big knob in before turning it on the washing machine to the cycle that you wanted, then pull it back out to start that cycle. After hearing her do this a few times with the machine jolting on and off as it was flicked through the cycles, I gave her a brief lesson in knob control.

Tracey, not everyone picks up on things that others might think are "obvious".

The rest of the stuff there I'll not comment on because frankly, I'm too immature to give any advice apart from drink more beer - its the cause and cure of all my worries.
No kicks from me. You've let it all hang out, much better than festering within. Now take your own advice in the last paragraph and get through the week, if not with a cheshire cat grin, at least with a pleasant expression. I know that life can be hard at times. Sometimes you just have to compromise and live with your decision.
Pity you can't come and have a cuppa with me for a bit of cross-generational comparison. Yuck! That would probably be the last straw.
Thanks for all the ideas. I feel very guilty for whingeing, because my life is not hard; please don't think I'm saying that my life is hard. I'm just saying that I'm wandering around aimlessly in it at the moment. I have 6 hours a day to myself, and I still can't get my act together.

I do realise that I can make mountains out of molehills, particularly when it comes to the kids. Re the nails, the 12 year old isn't into the 'looks' bit yet, so I'm not concerned from that angle. Her fingernails have improved a bit, so I will just keep on top of it.

I'll never get someone in to do the housework, because I am too embarrassed to. It would be admitting complete failure if I do. I just need to pull myself together and get onto it.

Anyway.. if I babble on here too much, I'll run out of blog post fodder!!
You have my whole-hearted empathy. My husband worked on the road for a year (not 10 years! Holy Cow!)and was gone during the week. I know how stressed I was. I agree with the advice, especially JerseyChick (and not just because I know her). She handles stress better than anyone I've ever known. And she goes to movies ALL the time.
You're in my thoughts. Take a deep breathe and remember that you aren't alone, even if I can't show up there with spinach salmon cookies.

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