Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs…

on January 24, 2015

I had a medication review this week for my anti-depressants. I’ve been struggling recently, feeling anxious and irritable and stressed at work and at home. And I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve been going to bed as early as possible, which takes over the time available to me for things like hanging up laundry and loading the dishwasher, which in turn makes my home life feel more pressured and me feel less competent and capable. In short, my life feels like an out-of-control disaster and I feel like a rubbish parent. But, as I explained to the doctor, work is quite stressful and I’m a single parent to two small children, so it is probably normal to feel under pressure. The GP suggested increasing the dose of anti-depressants and said that my life does sound quite challenging, and asked if I have support?

I do have very supportive friends and family. Big Girl and Small Girl go to their dad’s house regularly for two or three nights and I have almost no anxiety when they are with him. My parents will come and help if I need them, my sister babysits and talks to me about my children, and I have lots of friends who will help me in various ways if I ask. I feel very lucky. But I don’t feel that I have all the help I need. It’s quite hard to say this; it could seem that I’m being a bit needy, or criticising the amount of help my friends give me, or being passive-aggressive, or indirectly asking for help. But the reality is that I don’t have enough time to do all the things I need to do, evidenced by the state of my kitchen.

Sometimes I think I would like some ‘magic time’ – a couple of extra hours a day which no-one else has, between work and school, where I can get things done – do the laundry, tidy, sort, have a quiet cup of tea between the demands of customers and the demands of my children. There is a way to get this magic time – by buying other people’s time. I’d like someone to come in each day and empty the dishwasher and reload it, empty the washing machine and hang up the clothes to dry, put away the clean clothes, do any ironing, hoover and tidy. But I don’t want to spend money on it, or organise someone to come round, or deal with someone else being in my house.

There are lots of things I do ask for help with – things I don’t know how to do, or am not tall enough to do, or which require more than one person or a car or a different perspective or a sense of style. But it doesn’t seem fair to ask other people to give up their time to help me with other things, day-to-day things. I would be asking them to sacrifice their free time so that I could have more free time, and everyone has other things going on – children to look after, jobs, parents, their own DIY and housework.

One of the difficult things about being a single parent is having no-one to look after you and no-one to make sure your needs are met, or even recognised. This weekend, feeling incapacitated by my depression, I have started looking after myself. I realised, or decided, that my girls are now big enough to learn to have some respect for me and to put their needs second at times. This is not in the context of me being a selfish monster, but rather of having put my children’s needs ahead of mine almost constantly for five years. So today, after I had got their breakfast and they had eaten it, I told them I was going to eat my breakfast and drink my coffee and have some peace and quiet and read the newspaper. Small Girl wanted to be with me, and I told her she could, but that I was being quiet and not talking. And, mostly, I got some peace and quiet. They played with their toys and I explained that if they argued over toys I would take away whatever they were arguing about. Big Girl likes me to help her with almost everything. If she needed help or wanted to ask me something, she had to come to me. It was, largely, successful. It’s much easier at the weekend when we don’t have to go anywhere or do anything, but at least it’s a start.

I still believe that one day I will be domestically functional. One day my house will run as smoothly and easily as when Ex-Husband was here and doing all the housework. And every time I visit Ikea I know that if I can just find the right storage systems my home will be transformed. If only it were that simple…

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