Usually I have never before minded about the freedom Joel has. Up until this point, it’s been fine for him to do his aikido-martial-arts-whatsy-thing after work, to go surfing when he’s felt like it, to meet his friends for a beer. I’ve been the perfect 1920’s Housewife-Mother. And not to keep in the good books, but because I haven’t yet felt overly trapped. I haven’t yet felt like I’m missing out on too much because being with Ella and growing her up has brought with it its huge share of pleasures. In fact, I have secretly thought that Joel was the one who was missing out and doing it tough; that him going off to work was a huge sacrifice and so he should be “granted permission” to have His Time whenever he needed it.
Today is different.
Today I resent his Freedom.
Because today, just for a few hours, I don’t want to be anyone’s mum. Today I want to clock off, have a beer and write. In silence. Without any interruptions. I have come to the conclusion that babies sense this. They know when you want out, because that’s the exact occasion they decide to be extra fussy, extra whingey and extra needy. They assert their power. They say, You’re kidding yourself, right? You know I own you, don’t you? You know it’s about me, right? And you pat them and cuddle them and soothe them while shutting down the computer, defeated, saying, Yep I know. Oh how I know.
This morning I told Joel I was meeting a friend tomorrow for coffee. I look forward to these occasions immensely. He then tells me he is going surfing so he needs the car, didn’t I remember? We talked about this days ago, he says.
I went quiet, which is what I do when I get angry.
To be fair, it’s not his fault. I did apparently say days ago that it would be fine and now I seem to have simply forgotten. But I was angry all the same. And thank God I’ve learnt to be quiet when I’m angry otherwise this is what the neighbours would have heard:
Oh, you have to go SURFING do you? Is that AFTER you meet your friends for a beer or BEFORE? And will you be needing to go to aikido in the afternoon as well? BECAUSE YOU SURE DO HAVE IT TOUGH! Oh you’d like to just pop out for a coffee too? WELL YOU CAN’T! That kind of freedom is now FORBIDDEN!
YOU can stay at home and pander to her every cry. YOU can breastfeed at 3 am. YOU can do the dishes and the washing and the cleaning. YOU can put up with driving with a screaming car-hating child but doing it anyway because you just HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!
But I was quiet.
Joel quickly, smartly left for work. He has learnt by now that Silence means Look For An Escape Route and I’m sure I saw relief on his face as he left.
I then pandered to her every cry. I breastfed. I did the dishes and the washing and the cleaning. I tried to find the pleasure in the mothering that I had, up until this point, bathed myself in. I did not respond to Joel’s text messages. I remained
And then I read this:
And I realized many things.
I was not being there.
I was not saying yes as often as I could.
I was not building rocketships.
I was not finding elephants and kissing them.
I was not not yelling.
And above all, I was not remembering how Really Small they are. I was not remembering that Ella is a baby. That it’s not her fault she was born and she’s here and she’s needy and she’s just doing what babies do.
So I put down what I was doing. I accepted that I am a mum to a newborn baby. Which means that for the minute, I don’t get overtime, holiday pay, flexi time, sick days or public holidays. I don’t get days off. I’m on call 24/7.
And that’s ok.
Because, honey, we’ve got elephants to kiss.