October blues

It’s been a funny old month, October. For a number of reasons.

The light is going. And the twinkly Christmas ones to replace it are still a long way off. Dark days often breed dark thoughts…

It was, of course, mental health awareness day, an issue close to my heart (and head), but that I’ve struggled to write about, because I’m… struggling.

It’s also baby loss awareness month (and day earlier this week) and like so many others I’m remembering, keenly, my miscarriage. Perhaps because my Big baby turns 7 this month, perhaps because my Small baby is losing her squidge, perhaps because of the increasing certainty she is indeed my last baby – perhaps because it’s the birthday month of the baby inbetween, that never was.

But perhaps mostly because I can trace the rot in my marriage back to this loss… Which meant everything to me, maybe too much. And not enough to him.

This is also the month Dadoffthenetherege officially left, a year ago. It has been the very fastest and tortuously slow year of my life. And things are currently more uncertain than ever. I still don’t know where we’ll live, how to make it all work, how to support the kids through it, how I’ll support us going forward, or what to do for the best.

The common theme that draws all of this October stuff together is the loss of a vision for the future.

I didn’t lose a baby, you see. I lost an empty egg sac. But it was real to me – I yearned for it, I invested in it. And when it was gone, I grieved it. The same for my rotten relationship. I lost a future – and a family I wanted so badly that I hung on to the false vision for far too damn long. I still pine for it.

This loss of future vision is the crux of mental ill-health, for me. The source of the very darkest days. As a child, my OCD left me without being able to see a future for myself that didn’t include debilitating rituals – where I could only see the gloom and falling doom of not completing them. Similarly my depression and anxiety are all about interrupted vision – not being able to see clearly through the fog, the wood for the trees – or only being able to see potential disaster, and choking on it daily.

I have never yet reached a stage where my vision for the future is so distorted or obscured that it looks better without me in it. But I can feel and understand how that pathway unfolds. And that is frightening enough.

People are built on their visions for themselves, their families, and their futures. And when something rocks that, blocks that – whether it’s loss or life or something else – that’s when we struggle. That’s when the dark creeps in round the edges, or rushes in all at once.

The thing I’ve learned, I suppose, is that your vision can’t always be trusted. What you see or can’t see, in front of your face or into your future, isn’t always real.

Sometimes it’s idealistic, and just isn’t true or achievable.
Sometimes it’s catastrophic, and that isn’t true either.
Sometimes it’s just blurred, and you need to give your eyes a good rub and your glasses a good clean.
Sometimes it’s a dream, and you need to wake up.
Sometimes it’s a mirage, an hallucination, and you need medical intervention – or at the very least a bit of a lie down.
Sometimes you’re just looking at it from the wrong angle, so you can’t see it properly.
Sometimes everything you can see really IS completely awful and empty and black – but it’s not really everything. There are still some good bits underneath the big bad bits.

The point is, you can’t always believe what you see. And you can’t always see what you believe. Vision changes. And if you can wait it out you will see things differently. There will be a new vision. Always. You just have to live through the loss of the old one. And be brave enough to look again.

Right now, I am between visions. And I’m not going to lie to you, it is a scary place. I daren’t look at anything in too much detail, or look too far around or down – in case I fall.

So I’m going from day to day hoping for the best, refusing to worry about the worst, and trusting it will all work out in the end – or that someone will catch me before I hit the bottom. I’m living for the light days. And there are more of them.

And one day, I know there will be enough light to see a new future, and enough stability to build it.

It just probably won’t be a day in October.

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On Jessica

I’ve spent a long time trying to identify why the *Jessica* thing has been so damned hard.

And this weekend I think I’ve cracked it.

Part of it is that it’s just so awful watching someone else play Mum to my children. Watching her step into the Me shaped hole in my family, and carry on, with so many of my ex-friends and ex-family barely batting an eyelid. Going to the same places. Doing the same things. In my place. Instead of me.

It hurts.

And I know intellectually she’s not their Mum and never will be etc etc, and that it’s great she’s nice to them. I KNOW. And it genuinely does make me happy that she makes them happy. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Part of it is also watching him play the Dad he never was at home, for me. I begged him. Literally. To get off his phone, to join in, to put us first. And now he is. He’s a new man. Re-moulded. For her.

And that hurts too. Why couldn’t he do that for me? What’s wrong with me?

Part of it is that the kids don’t hold him to the same standards as they hold me. They love him unconditionally. I’m the boring everyday one. I put someone on the naughty step and get all the ‘I hate you’ ‘You’re the worst mummy ever’ ‘I don’t want to be part of this family’ stuff.

And I understand that it’s because I’m their safe space, that they can act out with me without consequences, that this is actually love in motion.

But it still hurts.

Part of it is the speed with which I was replaced (or crossover), the lack of consideration with which it was done (on Facebook), and lack of respect for the 20 years which had gone before. Like none of it mattered. Like my whole life meant nothing to him, or to her.

That hurts too. That waste. Of me.

Part of it, of course, is also that she was the age the Big Small is now when Dadonthenetheredge and I met. Her breasts are in the right place and I’m pretty sure she can trampoline without a pantyliner.

Being replaced by a younger fully-functioning model has hurt women since caveman times.

But most of it, I realise, is actually about me.

And my fear that when it comes down to it, MY CHILDREN WILL LIKE HER BETTER THAN THEY LIKE ME.

There. I said it.

And it hurts.

Intellectually, again, I know this insecurity comes from years of being told that I’m not enough. Or too much. Both at the same time.

Not ambitious enough, too intense, too lazy, too controlling, not good enough, not stable, not coping, too emotional, too stupid, not able to understand. And more. So much more I still can’t think about it too hard too often.

And I got so stuck in the middle of that, second guessing myself, losing my instincts, my sense of self, of right and wrong. And I’m still struggling to put that right now I’m out of that situation.

The dark voice in my head is still not my own. It’s his. Even now.

The fear is still here. Right in my gut. That he’s right. That I’m not enough. That I am too much. That I always will be.

But every day I am better. I am surer. I am more connected to myself. And I am more connected to my children as a result.

Everyday, I hurt slightly less.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

And so are you.

#BelieveHer

I have been depressed, this week, by the ongoing narrative across my news feed around consent, sexual assault, and domestic abuse.

From Kavanaugh to Cosby, Sally Challen to Faye Caliman (look the last two up).

Because it is the same.

And She is not equal to He.

She does not have the same standing in the eyes of the world watching – whether it’s in a courtroom broadcasting across the world, or whether it’s down the local pub, in your own social circle.

She is worth less.

She is not believed.

And without that, She is left broken. Like a real-life Tinkerbell – She doesn’t even exist.

And that’s why She is silent…

The fact is that His story is always more believable than Hers. Every time.

It is STILL easier for people to believe that She is mad, than that He is bad. It is more comfortable that way. More palatable.

(Perhaps She even believes it too. Or She doesn’t believe herself… Because She has been conditioned not to. Possibly she has learned that silence is safer).

When it comes out, when She breaks the silence around assault or abuse, She is lying, mistaken, exaggerating, remembering things wrong.

She is over emotional, unstable. Or maybe she is detached, dissociated. Both are wrong. They are evidence against Her.

The impact of Her behaviour in speaking, on His life, His future, is more important than the impact of His behaviour on Her life. Let’s all just get over it and move on, shall we?

He gets the excuses. Five minutes of madness. Cumulative unhappiness. He was drunk. The heat of the moment. Boys will be boys. Etc.

She gets the blame. She was drunk. She was asking for it. She should have known better. She didn’t say no. She stayed. Etc.

The proof is Her burden. His innocence is His right.

Her silence is wrong. Her noise is drama. His silence is dignified. His noise is righteous.

He always seems like a decent chap, can’t imagine him doing anything like that. The benefit of the doubt, in motion: believed.

She didn’t say anything before, why now? The doubt, in action: suspected.

The imbalance is ingrained and insidious, woven deep into society and psyche.

I read a tweet that’s been doing the rounds and said something like ‘I don’t know how women aren’t razing the world to the ground this week.’

The answer is that we are far less interested in destruction or revenge than men – and society at large – seem to think we are.

We are not lying when we speak. We are not making it up for the larks. We are not out to get the innocent.

We are starting to tell Our truth.

You should stop to hear it.

You should believe it.

You should freaking CLAP – like you would for Tinkerbell.

And then you should look around you and start to SEE it, before somebody else has to end up in a dock, judged by the world.

Before somebody else ends up in prison.

Before somebody else ends up in a damn morgue.

#BelieveHer
#MeToo

Let’s talk about sex

So, let’s talk about sex, baby!

Let’s talk about all the good things, all the bad things, that, well, make me… ME.

The advice I’ve had from many different places, on breaking up with my partner of 20 years, has been to rebuild me, spend time on me, learn who I am again, be on my own for a bit – that I don’t need a man to make me happy.

Etc.

I struggle with advice.

Mostly because I want to take ALL of it, because I’ve learned over a number of years that I’m wrong and stupid and unstable, and should therefore cede to a higher authority.

But advice is like new clothes. You have to hold it up to a mirror to see if it suits you, maybe try it on, but be careful not to remove the tags and commit to buying it (or into it) until you’re sure it’s really for you.

And this advice just didn’t… sit quite right across the shoulders.

One of the things that most upset me about the split, was the overwhelming fear that it meant that part of my life was over. For good. That I wouldn’t get that chance again – of love, of connection.. of SEX.

Some part of me knew this was catastrophising. But it FELT real.

The plain fact is that being a c40 year old mum is very different to being a c40 year old dad. Parenthood simply does not take the same toll on the body, mind or day-to-day life of men as it does on women. It just doesn’t. It can’t.

And I genuinely thought that no one would ever want what was left of me after all that – the saggy, empty bits. The mad, angsty bits. The scarred, broken bits.

The unfairness and loss of that was part of the black hole that at one point threatened to suck those broken bits in for good.

But it turns out that part of my life isn’t over, after all.

And what I’ve come to realise is that sex is one of the things I needed to help stick the broken bits back together.

Sensuality and physicality are part of my GLUE. They’re part of what makes me feel like ME. A part that had been missing for a long, long time.

My relationship with sex has been – let’s go with screwed – but not in the good way. Look, if you need connection to have sex, and that connection erodes, what you end up with is… wrong. Really wrong. And that’s gonna mess with your head. (And other parts of your anatomy).

Putting that right again is an important – and ongoing – part of healing. Or at least it is for me.

The fact is I DON’T need a man/partner to validate me. I DO need to learn how to re-establish boundaries so I don’t get eroded again.

But I also need to be me.

And sex is part of me FEELING like me.

(Or at least – now that instinct has resurfaced – of feeling like a teenage boy with ZERO CONTROL over his libido. One of the two).

At the end of the day, it’s about balance. Or rebalancing. Picking up ALL of the threads that made and make me myself, and weaving them back into something whole.

A rag rug, by the hearth.
Scraps of memory, beauty, and colour.
Tied tight again.
Glued at the edges for good measure.

Help.

Sorry Elton, but sorry isn’t the hardest word. (As that sentence proves). The very hardest word is HELP.

Help, and its root source, kindness, has been missing in my life for a long time. I learnt not to ask, and not to expect.

Relearning that I actually deserve kindness, and how to ask for help, has been one of the very hardest things in a year of very, very hard things.

It has been harder even than learning how to establish barriers and boundaries, how to demand respect, and how to weather disrespect.

But I’ve been regularly floored by how much kindness there is out there, and how help often comes in quite unexpected forms…

Sometimes help looks like someone coming round to open the latest divorce papers, because you can’t face them by yourself.
Sometimes help looks like being taken on a night out for a treat.
Sometimes help looks like a Marks and Spencers voucher.
Sometimes help looks like taking the kids for an evening slumber party so you can get to a hospital appointment.
Sometimes help looks like someone reminding you it’s not you.
Sometimes help looks like someone reminding you it IS you, but that you should forgive yourself, and that it’s part of growing.
Sometimes help looks like medicine.
Sometimes help looks like advice.
Sometimes help looks like a compliment.
Sometimes help looks like a babysitter.
Sometimes help looks like a chat.
Sometimes help looks like a cup of tea.
Sometimes help looks like cheese.
Sometimes help looks like a tissue.
Sometimes help looks like a hug.
Sometimes help looks like money.
Sometimes help looks like sex (more on that another time).

And sometimes, help looks like a free silver-smithing workshop…

The latter was offered by a lovely lady called Alison, who saw this blog and thought I needed cheering up. Alison happens to be Mrs Handmade In Nether Edge, is a glass and jewellery designer, and runs workshops from her Nether Edge studio.

This involves rocking up to her house, shooting the breeze about life (and boy, has Alison LIVED), being fed homemade comfort food, and inbetween being taught how to make jewellery from precious metal clay (she also does glass workshops too).

If you play your cards right you might even get a cuddle and a few words of wisdom. These are worth worth than their weight in, well, silver. And glass.

Some people might get renewal from a spa day or a massage, possibly with a group of friends. I’d rather take that group of friends to see Alison, get lost in a bit of creativity, and come away with a full belly, something beautiful you can keep, a sense of achievement, and a vague feeling that life really is worth living, isn’t it?

I will never get married again, but I would LOVE a Handmade in Netheredge Hen Do (another of Alison’s services).

So thanks for your help, Alison, and all the other helpful and kind people of the world, and in particular of Sheffield.

Thanks for showing me that kindness rules, how to accept it (sometimes even without becoming teary – progress!), how to EXPECT it, and increasingly, gradually, how to ASK for it.

(No, I’m not asking for another free workshop, I’m still high from the first one and will be saving up for my second 😉 ).

Repeat after me:

Can. You. Help. Me. Please?

It’s getting easier every day.

As, indeed, is everything else.

Mumonthenetheredge
xx

Blind date – BLOW BY BLOW

So who wants to hear about my first date in more than 20 years??? My first BLIND date ever.

Brace yourselves.

There was bonding.
There were tears.
There was laughter.
Things got really real, really fast.
Hell – there was actual BITING.

And I’m about to give you a blow by blow account.

Go get a cuppa. You’ll need one.

Back?

Okay, so I MAY have slightly oversold things…

Because my first blind date wasn’t a result of the Great Online Dating Experiment. It was with a woman I met through this blog.

Lots of people PM me. These are mostly people going through similar stuff, who’ve read a post and identified with it, but can’t really comment in front of family and friends. Those messages mean a lot to me. But I’ve always shied away from meeting anyone – possibly because I’m afraid I’d be a massive disappointment in real life, where I’m much less amusing, witty or deep.

However, now I am a YES woman. I say YES to stuff. I explore. I put myself out there.

And I go on blind dates, apparently.

*Mae* had had a similar break up to mine. Two kids, of similar ages, also struggling to varying degrees with their new split life; the new woman, the new routine.

What we recognised in each other was loneliness, I think. And not single parent loneliness – but the loneliness of being emotionally isolated for a really long time, in the company of the one person who used to think we were sunshine, but came to dim us.

What’s most upsetting, possibly about any break-up, is that it tends to be the very things that someone fell in love with that they come to hate the most. That your best bits are suddenly the worst to the one person you fully entrusted them to. That the beautiful parts – the very brightness that drew them in – are the parts that turn dark and ugly in their eyes first.

Kind of like moths coming down with a gradual but severe attack of photodermatitis. 😉

The word that came up most with Mae was CONNECTION.

Connections, for both of us, were lifelines.

Connection is why all those PMs mean so much to me. Why I started this blog in the first place.

And the lack of connection in our marriages had started to erode and rot other connections and relationships in our lives too – feeding tubes cut off through isolation, confusion, death, mental ill-health, and just plain old circumstance. And it has left both of us reeling, gasping for air, for meaning, reaching out in the dark – trying to remember our sunshine.

Trying to connect with ourselves again. And needing those connections to do so – to feel real again.

This wasn’t a man-hating session. It was about sadness, and loss, and growth, and solidarity. A lot of it focussed on our kids and how to help them – again relationships we both base on connection, and we talked about how hard a line that is to walk and hold alone.

I like to think what we found in the park was a connection. And that it was important to both of us – two lost fireflies passing each other and glowing brighter, just for a bit. And maybe stronger as a result.

I don’t know if I’ll see Mae again. We were both raw. Both busy. Both preoccupied. And obviously I don’t want to look too much like a massive weirdo stalker by insisting she become my friend (although if she reads this, yes please!)

I do know I learnt a lot from her in just a short amount of time.

She’s further down the break-up line than me. And more sorted and more wise than she thinks she is.

When the poor Small Small got bitten by another feral toddler vying for the slide (I promised we’d get to the biting bit!) Mae had an emergency lollipop in her handbag that fixed everything in super-quick time.

I have always wanted to be the kind of woman that has emergency lollipops in her bag, but it has always felt like a sea-change of personal development, organisation and adulting that I’m simply not ready for.

Mae made me believe that perhaps I could just pick a couple up the next time I pop into the corner shop.

And THAT’S what connection can do for you.

BLOW BY BLOW.
As promised.

It may not have been salacious, but I hope it’ll do anyway.

Happy Sunday.

Mumonthenetheredge
x

An online dating UPDATE

I have now officially been online dating for 5 days.

So far I have ensnared a series of 50+ gentleman who appear from their very best mug shots to be serial axe murderers, several slightly younger men who call me ‘babes’ a lot and can’t use punctuation (apparently an aphrodisiac for me – who knew?) and a Turkish sex therapist who wants to broaden my orificial (possibly not a word) horizons.

One man I very mildly flirted with then actually LEFT THE INTERNET.

I still got it, ladies.

AND I HAVEN’T HAD THIS MUCH FUN IN YEARS.

I’ll keep you posted on progress..

Hinder

After my husband left at the end of October, things were basically as dry as a desert down below for at least 6 months. Probably dryer.

In fact you could package that sort of dryness up and put it in little paper sachets at the bottom of new handbags.

(Now I come to think of it, we’ve actually got no idea what’s REALLY in those packets, or how it’s harvested… Just saying).

More recently, however, I have begun to feel the first stirrings of my dormant libido.

Female sexual desire is something that’s still a bit taboo, isn’t it?

I mean we’re all supposed to be porn stars in the bedroom (plus perfect housewives, dedicated mothers and successful career women, obvs), but we’re not actually supposed to talk about it, advertise it, or actually enjoy ourselves too much.

And we should never, EVER mention all of the squelchy wet bits.

Personally I do not consider this a good example to set.

Sex isn’t when a mummy and daddy love each other very much. People do it because it feels GOOD.

Or at least it should…

A bit more honesty about that (and around safety, and consent and respect) should be part of decent sex education.

I’ve been in a relationship for nigh on 20 years, and despite brief high-risk pregnancy/small baby pauses, my body is basically used to having sex pretty regularly – at least a couple of times a month (or suffer the epic sulks). And after that sort of training, it’s definitely now suffering withdrawal symptoms.

I can of course see to this manually or electronically. But the bits I’ve always really liked about sex are the fleshy, sweaty, squelchy wet bits. So it’s not really the same thing.

Trouble is, I’m not sure I’m ready.

Or if I ever will be.

I generally don’t go around getting a wet-on for a lot of people. I’m obsessive compulsive, have a thing about germs, and I mostly don’t really like to be touched by strangers. (Or you know – people I actually know).

I’ve never done casual sex. I wouldn’t have clue how to go about it, frankly, and it all seems a bit icky, sordid and unhygienic.

I’m socially anxious, and a billion times more entertaining online/in text than in person – so I don’t rate my chances of reeling somebody in particularly highly.

Plus I’ve slept with just one person for a really long time and for all I know, I MIGHT BE DOING IT WRONG.

Then I’ve had 2 kids. My body was never great (ditto my face) – and it’s even less so now. There’s sag. There’s stretch marks. There’s loose skin. There’s full-on FURROWS. Plus I can’t really be bothered to get it all dressed up or have to shave all the hairy bits into submission (body not face – but it’s probably only a matter of time).

AND, I’m really not into any of the fancy stuff. I’m too damn tired for tantric. I don’t want semen in my hair/face. I may never have actually given birth but the two pregnancies/c-sections were enough to pulverise the pelvic floor and more importantly hammer the hemorrhoids – so there will never, ever be any back door action. Ever.

Finally – and probably most importantly – I don’t think I actually want a relationship. I am still reeling from the last one.

I was not supposed to be here.

I was supposed to grow into my aging body with someone who would love every battle scar and wrinkle and know their stories. I’m still so broken after that. And so eroded by the awfulness that came before… I’m not sure there’s enough of me left to stand upright in a couple – and I don’t want to bring yet another person into my kids’ lives. It’s not fair.

So basically what I want is a nice, clean, single man, who I actually fancy, who isn’t overly promiscuous (or indeed terribly fussy), who doesn’t have a MILF fetish or cougar fantasies I can’t live up to, likes early nights, neurosis and slightly used breasts heading south, and is up for no-strings, largely monogamous, casual-but-not-too-casual, basic missionary or doggy style quickie-sex, on an every other weekend basis.

IS THAT REALLY TOO MUCH TO ASK?

I think I’ve just invented really crap middle-aged/single-parent Tinder.

I shall call it Hinder, create an anti-logo with a snuffed out candle instead of a flame, and clearly MAKE MY FORTUNE!!!!

If you are interested in Hinder’s services, or know someone who would be, please let me know below.

Let’s see if I can put together a viable business case for NatWest…

Either that or I’ll just have to screw my courage to the sticking place, try and take a picture in which I don’t look like a wrecked husk of womanhood, join Tinder and see what happens.

Wish me luck.

Mumonthenetheredge
Xx

The Packing Of The Bags

The Packing Of The Bags.

This, more than anything else, epitomises for me what’s now called the ‘mental load’ of motherhood.

And I’m afraid it is Mums who cop for The Packing Of The Bags, more often than not.

Everyone knows that as soon as you have the baby the physical load of what you have to carry round is frankly enormous. Nappies, spare clothes, change mat, wipes, bottle, dummy, sanitisers, warming holders, spare bottle, food, food options, the one spoon they’ll actually eat from, muslins, bibs, scratch mitts, hat, toys, nappy bags, pram/buggy, umbrella, etc etc.

But it’s not the fact you have to leave the house carrying slightly more than the SAS on 3-day exercise drills that’s so draining – it’s the thinking through the day’s eventualities for each and every member of the family – day in and day out.

It is debilitatingly exhausting.

And misunderstood.

“It’s just putting a few things in a bag, what are you making such a fuss about?”

This is a direct quote, and fairly typical of the mystified reaction of, let’s face it, Dads.

I once (perhaps twice) threw all my toys out of the pram (metaphorically) and told HIM to pack the bag for a change. I was told it was harder for him as he doesn’t do it that often and easier for me because I do it all the time. WHICH IS EXACTLY THE POINT.

All. The. Time.

The minutiae of everyday, step-by-step, running through your head on a loop. Who’s got to be where by when. What they need with them. If they/you can carry it. Where the car seats are and when they can be swapped round. All of it.

It’s like constant crisis, contingency and inter-dependency planning, in your head.

And it’s NOT easy.

When you’ve got more kids you’ve got the school bag, too. **Shudder**.

Not to mention your work bag and handbag.

And no, just because it’s now the school holidays DOES NOT MAKE IT ANY EASIER.

Because now you have The Packing Of The Picnic and The Packing Of The Suitcase too – GOD HELP US ALL.

Even in regular term time, it’s not like it’s the same stuff going into The Packing Of The Bags every day.

A consistent groundhog day would actually be comparatively easy – but this really never happens.

* On a Monday it’s swimming, so pack the kit – not THAT towel the other one – and don’t forget the snack for afterwards.
* Oh, and they’re painting at nursery so there needs to be an old t-shirt in there somewhere.
* Bring £1 for sports day/wear green day/wear spots day on Tuesday.
* Might be sunny, so don’t forget hats and suncream – all labelled.
* And raincoats, because Britain.
* Small has ballet later and we might not get back to the house so need shoes and tutu in there.
* Don’t forget Baby!!!!!!
* No not that one – the other one. No, she was the favourite LAST week, apparently.
* Play date after school so there needs to be a change of clothes – Sarah’s bringing her bridesmaid dress so something like that.
* Library day – don’t forget the library bag.
* Return the X form by Y in the book bag. No, not the library one, the other one.
* The new school shoes rub a bit so put the trainers in as back-up, just in case.
* More pants for nursery, please, she came home in spares.
* Return the spares, washed.
* Homework is due. Ask other mothers what the hell it is at on the WhatsApp group and scramble to put together in the morning before school.
* Multi-sports/dancing/jazzercise club after school so another change of clothes.
* Nursery are walking to the library – don’t forget sensible shoes and permission slip.
* Bring in plastic bottles for the recycling sculpture.
* Packed lunch day, and we need to buy more jam for sandwiches. No, ham will not do.
* Nursery needs more medicine! So call Dr, call pharmacy, collect and deliver.
* Dress down day at work – bring in home baking. (LOL).
* Period – throw in sanitary towels – once wrestled as novelty play items from the children.
* No, tampons are not cat toys.
* Even if you draw a face on them.
* Big external meeting on Thursday – find ancient lipstick and bag-sized hairbrush – probably in the Barbie box.

I could go on. But you get the picture. You probably LIVE the picture.

And now your picture involves outdoor entertainment and sustenance supplies, too! JOY!

During The Packing Of The Picnic you must cater for every taste, take pains to appear relatively healthy if you’re in public, include pudding unless you want to be stung for another ice cream, a full size rug, bin bags for the debris, all of which must all pack away into a bag you can carry solo, alongside the toddler who won’t a) walk or b) buggy, and two scooters/bikes, for an unspecified distance until a suitable picnic spot is found. And back again.

Oh, and you may need kites/footballs/wet play stuff too.

Don’t even get me started on The Packing Of The Suitcase. This was a previous blog, where I take you through the process in approx 181 simple steps. Go look in my page archive. You’re welcome.

THIS is the mental load.

Right here.

Now the instinct of your average Dad, is to try and SYSTEMISE this.

Because, MEN.

But in a highly unscientific survey of Mums I Happen To Know, this systemisation is resisted, seemingly in some kind of unspoken yet instinctual last ditch feminist stand.

I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure this is what the first wave of feminists were trying to achieve…

I’ll give you an example.

“My mother,” said Dadoffthenetheredge, helpfully one day, “used to do HER washing on regular days, and plan out all the meals for the week beforehand.”

Obviously, this is just what every wife wishes to hear.

I believe this is the same conversation where I was told I was “underperforming at washing” (direct quote). I can’t imagine why we split up.

I tried to explain, to his bemusement, that I would rather DIE than live life like a 1950s housewife, with a whites wash on a Monday, coloureds on Wednesday, and fish supper every Friday.

It literally makes me want to poke my own eyes out with the one plastic spoon the baby would eat with.

So does the thought of keeping laminated lists of what everyone needs on each given day, and ticking them off one by one, as I diligently pack the bags the night before and line them up neatly at the door – presumably wiping my hands on my apron afterwards in satisfaction, setting my curlers, and possibly ironing a newspaper, for reasons no one has ever understood.

It might make life easier; it would also make it INFINITELY MORE DEPRESSING.

So here’s a radical idea. What if we didn’t systemise the mental load – what if this summer, we SHARED it?

Whoah.

Rad.

What if The Packing Of The Bags was something both parents both did – perhaps on a rota system if you really really can’t live your life without management systems?

I’m pretty sure that’s the way the SAS operate.

No man left behind:
No woman left bogged down by the unexpected but very real weight of family administration.

Until that happens, though, good luck with The Packing Of The Picnic and The Packing Of The Suitcase.

Only 6 more weeks of Summer!!!!

😉