I had small breakdown over the weekend. A raging fever, hot knives in my joints, manic shivering, a malaise that felt as though this was the end.
Somewhere in the middle of it, I found myself in a delirious stupor admitting to a friend that I just can’t cope. That these kids completely overwhelm me on a daily basis and I just don’t have the patience for it and I’m so done and they’re so permanent and I just don’t see other mothers struggle like I do and I thought I would be more maternal and I’m not and maybe I need to go on antidepressants because I’m not unhappy but I’m just so stressed and maybe it would make me calmer and why can’t Joel understand the intensity with which I live and holy jesus it’s cold, can you please get me another blanket?
“Rachel,” she said. “Stop. I spent a week with you guys and that was enough. Your kids are great and you know I love them to bits but they’re KIDS. Holy shit. I honestly don’t know how you do it. What you are feeling is TOTALLY NORMAL. You talk to any mum. I bet she’s finding it bloody hard.”
Me – “Yes, I know, my mum friends say it’s hard, but it doesn’t look hard. It’s not the same struggle as how I struggle.”
Yes, I said that. I know better than to say that. But somewhere deep down I truly believed it. I think maybe deep down we all believe that. We all think we’re struggling greater than most and that this means what should come naturally doesn’t and therefore we are malfunctioning as a woman. We all have that other better mother out there – someone we’re treading water like mad to keep up with.
Did I tell you the kind folk at Woolworths had to open up another check-out aisle for me a few weeks back because Billy was thrashing and tantruming so intensely it was almost like it wasn’t real? And that about three or four other women came to help me unload my trolley and I was fine until one of them told me what a great job I was doing and it’s so hard some days, but we’ve all been there and LISTEN TO ME you are doing a GREAT JOB and all I could do was keep nodding my head because if I opened my mouth I’d cry?
I now have one hell of a pep talk up my sleeve to give myself, especially on the days I’ve burnt myself so far out I’m sweating under doonas and refusing champagne.
LISTEN TO ME. THIS IS THE HARDEST WORK IN THE WHOLE DAMN WORLD. Half the mothers you know are on antidepressants. Tell me what man is so overwhelmed by his profession that he has to take antidepressants to deal with it? You might know a few. You’d advise him to leave his job. Obviously. Well, sorry honey. Not an option for you. Kids are beautiful things but they are also INSANE. It’s not you, it’s THEM. IT’S THEM. You, my friend, are a totally normal member of society. Small children are like drunk people – the obnoxious kind – with a tendency for violence and a billion needs that fall in your lap, day after night after gut wrenchingly long day. Frankly, I can’t believe you don’t drink more coffee than you do. In fact, let me make you another one now. Because you know what? In five minutes, they’re gonna be crying again about something and you have to be the bigger person and CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT AND TAKE DEEP BREATHS AND BE AN ADULT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND MODEL BEHAVIOUR YOU WANT THEM TO LEARN EVEN WHEN YOU JUST WANT TO THROW THE HAIRBRUSH AT THE WALL AND SCREAM YOUR LUNGS OUT. And then, when your husband gets home, you will have to be nice to him and pay him attention and the whole goddamn day will be the biggest test of endurance you’ve ever taken. No, your husband doesn’t understand. He probably never will. DO NOT CONCERN YOURSELF WITH THIS AS IT WILL ONLY MAKE YOU WANT TO DIVORCE HIM.
Listen to me. You, sister, are a WARRIOR. But let me tell you something else. You are stubborn. We all are. If life didn’t get so heavy, we’d never admit we need each other. And we would be missing out on the best part of life. SISTERING IS THE BEST PART OF LIFE. There is no room for your husband on this plain. He’s really half the reason you feel so alone. Now shut up, drop your kids somewhere, find that friend – it only has to be one – and let her sister you. Let her tell you to stop talking and listen to her. Let her tell you that she spent a week with you and your kids and that she loves you but sweet fancy moses she’s surprised you don’t have more breakdowns than you do. Let her tell you EVERYONE FEELS LIKE THIS WHO IS IN YOUR SHOES. And those who don’t – who knows – maybe they have cleaners. Maybe they have air conditioning. Cool air makes a difference, you know. Maybe their husbands cook dinner and then even wash up afterwards. I don’t know, it sounds crazy, but maybe it happens. IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS to concern yourself with who and who isn’t coping and why or why not. It’s your business to sister and be sistered. Because that kind of force is the best, the best, in the whole wide world.
Red Tent on, sisters.
“The future is female.” From I don’t know who but probably someone really important and famous (and bloody smart).