Going down

Friends, particularly those with only one or two children, see me as ‘super mum’. How do I cope with three children and a job and a husband with his own business?

I do, but only just. It’s a very fine line. With that much pressure day-to-day just to get everyone up and out of the house on time, then back in, fed, put to bed and the house left in reasonable order for the next day, it’s only a little bit of additional pressure that makes it all too much.

I can feel myself teetering on the edge of depression and it’s not a good place to be. In recent weeks my life has spiralled out of my control and it’s now getting too much.

I’ve been diagnosed with depression once in my life. It’s no big deal and I doubt there are many adults who haven’t suffered at some time. My daughter was five months old and everything was just getting on top of me. It was pretty low-level, I didn’t even need medication. I just needed to take the pressure off myself, get back to work and get some help with the kids.

I am fairly certain that wasn’t the only time I’ve been depressed. I’m pretty sure I was depressed after both my boys too. And I was definitely depressed during the final months of my two years working full-time in McDonalds because I couldn’t find a ‘real’ job.

I know I’m depressed because I cry. Not in the privacy of my own home, but in public. The tears just pour silently down my face and there is no stopping them. When I was ‘on the lobby’ (McDonalds speak for cleaning the tables and floors) all those years ago, the tears ran down my cheeks for all to see as I chucked milkshake cups and fry packs in the bins.

For me, depression has always been caused by injustices, to my children, but mainly to myself. When I say injustices, I of course mean PERCEIVED injustices, because actually they weren’t rational.

I had a big issue with my very good friend (she never knew about it, I hope). She had more money and more time than me, at a time when we were struggling financially and I was battling with the pressure of three small children. I could see her out of the window, living her easy, carefree life and I hated it. And I hated that she had other friends apart from me.

I have had issues with my sister, again, I’m sure without her knowing, because I felt my mum was favouring her over me. One particularly stupid example was when my sister came to my mum’s for lunch on ‘my’ day and my mum made something my sister liked, but me, Ms Wheat Intolerance, couldn’t comfortably eat. When we buried my grandparents’ ashes I was in bits, not because of what we were doing, but because my sister and all my cousins were going out for tea and I couldn’t because my mum wouldn’t let me take the kids and there was no-one to look after them. Injustice. Totally irrational.

For many years after having my children, my default setting was ‘slightly unhappy’. In the last two years it has turned around. It is now ‘mainly happy’. I love my children and my job. I take pleasure in the small things in life, like walking the boys to Cubs and Beavers.

But in the past few weeks the external pressures have begun to increase and the random crying has started.

It started with work. We are being restructured and I thought I would be made redundant. In my head I was ticking off what I could go without, what I needed to give up. We could manage, of course we could, but those luxuries, like days out and holidays, are what keeps us sane. I’ve been poor before too many times and I don’t want to go back there again. Actually now that situation isn’t looking too bad, but there are no certainties until nearly Christmas.

My husband, who copes far better with stress and pressure than me is also teetering on the edge. When he starts to struggle I pick up even more at home to try to support him, but it takes its toll on me and on the kids.

He has recently taken on the coaching of my younger son’s football team. He is excited and enthusiastic about it, but he hadn’t accounted for it being physically and emotionally draining. So I am helping out a bit. At a time when I should be spending time with my other two children or doing stuff around the house, I’m piling yet more pressure on myself.

There’s the pressure of my son’s secondary school application and all the work I’ve done for the kids’ school in the past few days, including being interviewed by OFSTED.

Yesterday it all got too much. And it was an injustice to my son that sent me over the edge. My two boys were playing rugby in different places. One a big tournament not too far away, the other a normal match a long way away. One of the many things I am crap at is driving. So I opted for the ‘nearby’ option. Big mistake.

If you’ve read my previous post you will know what happened – to cut a long story very short, my son didn’t play rugby. We were there for over six hours in the beating sun, with my daughter too, with nothing to do except wait for him to play rugby and he never did.

After his third rejection one or two tears slipped down my cheeks. They were slow and I was wearing big sunglasses (thank goodness for the heat) and I was able to wipe them away discreetly. After the fourth time they came thick and fast. I tried to hide them, but my daughter said ‘Your voice has gone funny’. She pulled up my glasses and saw the truth.

Neither of my kids knew how to cope with a grown woman, their mummy who is supposed to be strong, crying buckets in a public place. My son told me to ‘Grow up’, then said I was being embarrassing and tried to send me back to the car. To make matters worse, he also told his best friend, whose Dad happens to be the coach, that I was crying. If I was embarrassing him, surely he should have kept it to himself. I was on my way to the toilet to get it out of my system. I could have kept it hidden.

As a lifelong teetotaller I don’t have alcohol to fall back on. When things get too much, I have three options – tears, anger or chocolate. Yesterday was a bad day. 100g consumed, compared to an excellent 30 the day before. 100g days are bad days – stress, pressure and self-loathing. Or ‘run more than eight miles’ days. It’s acceptable on those days. It’s probably no coincidence that now I’m not training for anything and struggling to fit running in with the increasing demands of mine and my kids’ lives that I’m more stressed and depressed.

My husband totally understood the rugby injustice. Although he wouldn’t have dealt with it by crying. He understood the pressure, hurt and sheer boredom the three of us had been through. So he got the washing in and put it away and did my younger son’s reading with him. All completely unheard of.

He knows we are both close to the edge now. We have to ease up on something, have to start saying no or something is going to give.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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