Being “just a mum”: pitfalls of friendships

I find myself, quite often, in this situation where I am “just a mum”. As you have likely already read, I home educate and am a carer to my adopted children. They rely on me 24/7, and in the past 3 years I have perhaps had around 20 breaks. I don’t mean holidays (although considering how much we travel as a family…), I quite literally mean just being able to take time out from being mum. I am counting those times I have been able to have a lie in and my husband has done everything, or I have already done everything and I just go grab myself 5-10 minutes of freedom. I don’t mean breaks like “woo, night out” although there have been a few of those included in that total, not many though. Which even if I totaled up as entire days would still barely scrape 1.8 percent of my life in the last 3 years.

I mean, even when the children were at school I was rushing to and from meetings about their education, health and welfare. Often not even having enough time to shower, or even eat. I was denied basic self care through the needs my children had, and the time I was required to commit to them and the lack of support that was available (I quite genuinely mean required here… I was asking for, and fighting for help, but if I refused a meeting I was being difficult and therefore clearly didn’t need the help).

But I just keep getting told over and over, “being a mum IS hard, we all feel tired”, or “Yeah, I barely get 5 minutes to myself!”, “oh you should just do some exercise, it’ll help you feel more positive”. I don’t feel tired, my body is failing me because of how neglected it has been, and how exhausted I am. I don’t barely get 5 minutes to myself, I quite literally don’t have 5 minutes to myself most days. Exercise is unlikely to help considering that extra trip up the stairs that I didn’t need to do can sometimes wipe me out entirely; or that I am either pushing a wheelchair or carrying a 6 year old with a toddler carrier when I am out shopping or walking anywhere, not just plodding along leisurely.

It’s not that simple. I am not just a mum, doing just the mum thing and then moaning about it. I am a mum, a carer, a therapist, a teacher, a life coach, a student of experience-psychology (by that I mean, being taught by what I experience about the psychology of children who are traumatised). I provide 24 hour care, I barely get any sleep, even if I get a child free bed because I am listening out – the children CAN NOT ask for help at night time. Night time is dangerous. They must take cover and hide and await the safety of morning. If they get too scared, we could have a wet or soiled bed, or worse, we could be dealing with trying to reverse the damage of self harm. I am on high alert 24 hours a day, trying not to transfer that to the children, but also trying to be prepared for everything that’s going to happen, could happen, has happened and is causing consequences.

It’s more exhausting than just parenting. It’s like working 5 different jobs that cover the entirity of your week where you don’t get pay, personal space (not even for toileting mostly, because one child finds it that hard to separate and the other child will cause harm to self or others if out of eyeshot for literally the length of time it takes to race unrination, pull up pants as you flush and wash hands).

But also, it’s lonely. Because everyone just gets fed up of you trying to vent out your frustrations, or because you talk about the kids (when actually that’s the only goddam thing you have done and known for months). Because of isolating yourself from the people who talk you down and make you feel like crap. Of just deciding that, no matter how tired you are, you are just going to do everything you need doing yourself (on the most part) and avoid help from certain people if you can help it because help often comes at the cost of degradation. Being told you most certainly are not ill, that the person helping you is so much worse (because you are on your feet and trying). Being told you are lazy (when your husband has said “no, you have the kids to look after, take care of them, they are anxious, keep them away and let us do the physical tasks here”) so you aren’t helping people move things, dig things, build things.

My job as a mum to these two children is mentally draining, physcially overwhelming and very strenuous. I wouldn’t change it for the world. But I would happily change the people who are supposed to be there for us in a heartbeat. And that thought plays over and makes me feel physically sick, and fills me with guilt for having thought it. But it’s true. People just aren’t there for us, like we have been there for people. Because they don’t understand. They would if they just listened, but they don’t. They talk over me/the children, lessen our problems, minimise our stresses and strains and say it’s normal. I lose faith in humankind almost daily.

And before anyone says I am depressed. No, I don’t really think I am. I may be suffering with compassion fatigue somewhat. I may be overwhelmed with how much is expected of me at times. But I am not depressed. I am reacting to the experiences I am having. If you are treated like rubbish daily, you either fight back, avoid the situations in question or accept feeling like rubbish (I don’t have the energy for the first all of the time, and the latter has never been an option for someone quite as justice fighting as I). So I avoid, not in a depressed manner, but in a self preservation manner; I save my energy for what matters: me, my children, my husband, my household.

Some hope is redeemed though when I see articles, blogs, posts pop up on my news feed of people helping other’s out and changing lives. Not those “oooooo look I tricked a homeless person into giving me their money just to prove they have better morals than the rest of society, I just so happened to record it too look…” If you can’t read it in my tone, I hate those “social experiments”. No I mean, in cases where people have gone out of their way to help someone, but not posted anything for credit – instead the person who has been helped shares their side of the story. One of those I read this morning gave me hope (Scary Mommy’s post about Sheila O’Mally).

That’s what goes on in my head. That’s how I feel.

Society, get your act together

So… my son has long hair and he’s forever being called a girl. Not in a bullying kind of way. More in a completely ignorant kind of way; people see the long hair and assume he’s my daughter. There have been times when he’s had “girly” hairstyles (please tell me why it’s so unacceptable for boys to wear their hair in braids for example), but most of the time it’s either worn long, in a low ponytail or in a man bun.

This week delivered a fine example. We had to go to the opticians to pick up my contact lenses and his glasses. I gestured towards Logan as I said “I am here to pick up my son Logan’s glasses”. We were ushered to the waiting area and then called to be “booked in”, where the following exchange took place:

Assistant: OK, so now you are booked in, and your appointment is imminent, so we’ll get you sorted and then fit your daughter’s glasses afterwards
Me: My son’s
Assistant: Excuse me?
Me: My son’s glasses. I am here to pick up my son’s glasses, my daughter doesn’t need any
Assistant (looks over both Logan and Caitlin): Oh, where is he then?
Me (gesturing to Logan): right there, he’s a boy can’t you see?

Anyway… fast forward and over a 20 minute wait for my imminent appointment. We get back out, go to the front of the store and say “We were told my son’s glasses would be sorted and fitted once my appointment has finished. My appointment is finished so can we get his glasses now”. The response “well, your son actually has to be with you to pick them up”. Logan and Caitlin are directly next to me. I don’t even say anything at this point, I just gesture towards the children. We get directed to a seat back to the waiting area.

An assistant comes over and says they are ready to see us, there’s only one chair, Caitlin is in her wheelchair. I tell Logan to sit as it’s his fitting. The assistant says “You know I can’t release these to you without your son present right?” I stare blankly at him for a moment like “are these guys for real? if they want to be stereotypical, just look at his darn clothes: cut off chinos, grubby Tshirt and a ‘boy’ cardigan – what?” and then point towards Logan and say “not for the first time today, but he is a boy. This is him, and this is why HE is sat in the only chair”.

Anyways, after much of a kerfuffle later (the wrong lenses had been put in the wrong frames) we were able to leave. But not without feeling once again disgruntled at, seemingly the majority of, society.

 

30 Days Wild – Day 16

Today, as we are going to our therapy retreat Monday, we dropped our hamsters off at Nanny’s house to be cared for whilst we are away. But as we have loads of stuff we are getting rid of to various family members, and they live 60-90 minutes away in the same direction, we decided we’d make a day of it.

So today they have played with cousins in the rain, and enjoyed the red night sky on the way home.

We have been out from 7:30am until 10pm today. Very tired, especially after a late night last night trying to sort things ahead of camp.

30 Days Wild – Day 15

We had a day stuck in the house doing odd jobs whilst waiting for a parcel to be delivered (which didn’t arrive).

We listened to the birds outside, spoke about spiders and flies and wondered what it’d be like to be various animals and insects.

30 Days Wild – Day 14

Today we had to walk into town to go back to the opticians and pick up my contact lenses and Logan’s new glasses. On the way back we took a walk along the river. The children wanted to stop and take a look at the patterns that were being created on the water. They stood for about 5 minutes in awe.

Then they noticed two ducks trying to swim upstream against a very fast current and so we had to stand and watch that a while.

As we walked away and towards home, we talked about what we could hear from nature:

  • the running water
  • water crashing against the rocks
  • ducks quacking
  • pigeons cooing
  • wind rustling leaves
  • wind blowing in our ears
  • the flapping of wings

This is what we have noticed today.

A little update

So I know it’s been obvious I have been trying to get on top of things both at home and on the blog, and I kind of feel like I have been achieving that. But I thought a little overview of what is going on would be great.

Well, after months of having way too much on my plate, life has started to slow up a little. Unfortunately as I slow down, the months of doing too much has started to catch up with me, and if I thought I was exhausted before, BOY was I wrong?!?!

But it means I am getting onto more “normal” stuff. Like the fact that I am noticing we haven’t been drinking enough water. Stickers are always a good incentive for my children, and so we have made some weekly sticker charts – each day we have to put up a sticker per bottle of water we drink. It’s just to make us more aware that we need to drink… but so far it’s working. We have been advised about 2 litres a day/adult, 1.5litres for Logan and 1 litre for Caitlin, so we are working off these guidelines.

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We are also prepping “normal” stuff like factoring in international competitions – like the World Cup, realising this starts today we have setup our wall display, done a draw to see which team in each group is “ours” and are ready with our wall chart to keep a track of the scores. It’s not so much about the football, it becomes a talking point for cultural differences, a flag identification game and a responsibility to keep track of something. But it also becomes a way of learning healthy competition, these two don’t deal with losing very well and some of their reactions make me wonder what the encountered in their birth family. But this takes the competition out of our control, so we can’t be held accountable for the win or loss, and yet we have fighting talk and fun.

On the normality front, we have also been able to get to the opticians. Caitlin has never had vision problems but Logan and I wear glasses. On the way in she’d made a comment about hoping she needs some, which I didn’t think about… but when it was confirmed that Logan needed new glasses and we’d sorted his, she had a bit of a wobble about wanting some herself. In short, she refused to leave the shop until she had found some. I explained that she didn’t have bad eyesight so didn’t need some, just like Logan doesn’t need a wheelchair and she does – that wasn’t good enough. She was very adamant. So I had a little chat explaining money and how £65 just because she wants something isn’t really within our capabilities, let alone something I would teach her. However, if she’s feeling that left out I would see if I could find some without prescription online. That settled her, and here they are. They arrived yesterday, she has only taken them off to shower and sleep.

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On Monday we are going to be heading to a therapy retreat to do some intensive work as a family. We have no expectations of what we’ll get out of it, but hoping for some positives.

30 Days Wild – Day 13

Today, I was mostly stuck form filling (another 8 questionnaires arrived that needed to be filled in ahead of a therapy retreat we are going to). So another load of hours stuck indoors.

We talked about spiders, and how although they are kinda creepy and I don’t really like them, I appreciate that they catch flies… spiders may be creepy, but at least they aren’t loud and annoying.

(Just have to try and convince myself of my words now…)

spidey

30 Days Wild – Day 12

Late posting for yesterday: it was a tough day which involved hours and hours of form filling (that’s what happens with children who need lots of intervention, every assessment requires form after form after form).

But we took sanctuary in hearing the birds all having fun, even if we couldn’t!!!

Building “the beast”

As promised, I am writing a post about our custom bed, a product of my brain, borne of necessity.  The attic room, our bedroom, is accessed by a staircase that’s only 70cm wide and has a right angle bend in. Given the layout of the room: eaves, radiator, slanted wall due to staircase, alcoves and so forth, I knew it would be difficult to suppose that a double bed could sit against a wall, as well as having wardrobes without having the radiator, among other things, moved. So I knew we needed a storage bed of some variety. I had looked into ottoman beds, but the mattress base tends to come assembled, which we would find quite literally impossible to get into the room. So I tried to look into alternatives. But nothing suitable was coming back. I had a search around on Pinterest a bit, but still nothing overly struck me. Bits and bobs but I didn’t see anything that would suit quite what we were looking for.

After a while sat thinking about what stuff we’d need to be stored etc. I realised we didn’t need hanging space (we are drier to drawer kind of folk, we do own an ironing board, and it does come out for special occasions, but given the children’s inability to do big functions… that’s very irregular indeed). So, I needed drawers, like a cabin bed. Then it hit me… The small Ikea Stuva frames with drawers… perfect. After having measured up the floorspace, I knew I had space for a superking, so now it was down to planning. Once I had the idea though, it just came together…

Fast forward to moving in and all the packages arriving for me to build the frame. I was left to carry all of these boxes up the 2 flights of stairs (whilst trying to keep the children safe…). I am quite disappointed I didn’t lose a stone that week in all honesty, I swear I sweated out more than a stone in weight but whatever…

 

Next came assembling the cupboards as they should stand. I had decided I would need 9: 2 sets of drawers with 2 deep drawers, 4 sets of drawers with 1 deep and 2 shallow drawers and 3 cupboards with doors and a shelving. Then placed into a U shape 30 cm away from the wall so that they were inline with the coving.

 

After a painstaking process of leg adjustments, leveling and screwing each cupboard to its neighbouring unit, I had to add a central and header frame. But ensure that it was low enough that the mdf sheets would slot in and remain flush with the top of the cupboard. And allow for an extension cable to reach the end of the bed, for plans to later be revealed.

 

Once that was on, and we had drilled some air holes in the MDF and hoovered, we could leave the mattress to rest. Although, Bruce got confused and decided that he was called mattress and not Bruce (I should also add that this masterpiece was created by my brain, shopping power and physcial strength and energy… he just helped from the point of drilling holes in the MDF – lazy pants).

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Once 48 hours had passed, I dressed the bed and set about my plans for shelving either side of the bed… The plans were always intended but how they were going to be achieved wasn’t clear in my brain until I got to this point.

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The shelving had to be no deeper than 30cm, but allow maximum capability to store things such as books and the like. But then I found there’s a Stuva unit that is only 30cm deep – so that was perfect. I got 4 and a Besta TV unit, which now houses our TV, speaker and Xbox for when we finally get moments of respite… And that’s the bed (almost) complete. Looking at the picture, there’s a 30cm gap between the edge of the bed and the coving where I intend to do a 30cm square shelving, with double USB port/single plug socket charging point and small cupboard.

Behold, “The Beast”

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PS, good luck trying to get up our stairs and into this after a few beers… it’s a challenge.

30 Days Wild – Day 11

Due to Caitlin’s aches and pains today, we have just been at home. We did manage to finish the painting of the playhouse porch (we laid a new floor on it). And managed to sort the toys to go in the playhouse. So the kids now have a play area outside, that is fully operational! WOO… we just have so make it safe for them to take the walk up and down.

However, we did look out at the garden for a while and watch the birds coming and going in the shrubbery lining the fence (the neighbours have suet balls there). It’s a rubbish photo as it’s taken through our extremely dirty window (cleaning them is on the list, but I only have 1 pair of hands).

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We also spent some time quite amused by a fly who refused help, guidance and encouraging comments in getting out of the house, and instead proceeded to seemingly get fed up with flying into the same door frame on repeat.

So today, our widlife has been birds and flies.