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What shall I worry about today??

Are we defined by our children?

PMT or Post Natal Depression?

Are two children enough?

Are we defined by our children?

When I meet someone new now, generally at preschool or swimming or at the park where I’m out with the children, the obvious questions are how many do you have, how old, boys or girls, are you planning any more? I used to be an IT manger working in the Finance Industry, now I’m Holly and Michael’s mum. The standard uniform used to be suits, stockings and high heels, now my uniform is trousers and a t-shirt, no makeup, because a) I didn’t have time b) It melts off me as I’m running around after the children, and c) I’m not trying to impress anyone.

Admittedly I am very glad to lose the stockings and high heels. Actually I’d be happy never to have to wear stockings again in my life, and I’m far more comfortable dressed as I am. It’s also great not to be trying to impress anyone

But the point is, no one knows I have a degree from Cambridge University, I had a decent career spanning 14 years, I was doing well at work and was respected by most of my colleagues. I had a team of staff and a good six figure income.

So which is the real me? Perhaps they both are. It’s just a question of changing over time. Right now, I have exactly what I’ve always wanted in life – a loving partner and two gorgeous children but my job satisfaction is currently pretty low.

Why is that? I used to have control over my job. I had lists of thing that needed doing and I did them to the best of my ability. My work colleagues and customers could look at the results of my work and my team's work and judge whether we were doing ok. And generally we were.

Now how am I judged? My job is to look after my children. So my children are a reflection of how well I am doing my job.

I can be objective here and say that I have generally happy children who are loved and are loving. But, from an outside perspective, my now four year old whinges and whines and interrupts me when I'm talking to other people. She struggles to say hello or goodbye to friends and neighbours without a bit (sometimes a lot) of pressure. She screams and stomps and occasionally hits out when she can't articulate her frustration. This can be at home, or when we're out - she's not fussy where. She is happy to tell me she wants to go home when we have just arrived at someone's place. She will lie down on the floor in the shopping centre or she'll run around like a mad thing, oblivious to the people around her. And she'll tell her pre-school mates that they're not her friend anymore, even though she doesn't mean it.

And my nearly two year old has learnt how to defend himself with his sister and is now experimenting with this behaviour with other children. How bad do I feel when he shoves or hits my friend's little girl, or probably worse, a stranger at the park?

This is the outcome of my job. This is how I'm judged. And I don't feel in control!

I know, I should not worry about what other people think, but I'm afraid I'm one of those people that likes/wants some positive feedback. Yearly appraisals at work reflected the time and effort I'd put into the job. It wasn't just about the money, it was about the results.

And now, well there's no money. My kids are cute, but don't have the right temperaments for ad work as yet! And what about the results?

I guess I have to stop looking outside and savour the special moments even if I'm the only one who sees them. What's more special than your four year old telling you that she loves you? Or your little one giving you lots of hugs and smiles.

It was Holly's birthday last week and we went out to our local RSL club for dinner. (I know, times have changed, but don't knock it 'til you try it). Being members, they have our details on record and every year they send out a voucher for a free ice cream cake for the kids in their birthday month. So I left my cake making skills for party day and we had an ice cream cake at the club with four shining candles.

I said to Holly 'make a wish'. (as you do)

And she said, 'I don't need to make a wish. I have everything I want. This is the best birthday ever'!!

Colin was gobsmacked, til I told him about an episode of Clifford's Puppy days we watched earlier in the week...

Still, the sentiment was there, even if the words were borrowed.


PMT or Post Natal Depression?

When we got home on Thursday, Holly sat down to take her shoes and socks off. I asked her to keep her socks on, as on cold days, our wooden floor boards are freezing and their feet become little ice packs pretty quickly. Holly ignored me and removed her socks and then removed her brother's as well. Normally, I would be fairly calm about this, I would tell her I asked her to keep her socks on and explain why. I wouldn't force them back on, but I'd tell her to come back if her feet get cold and put them on. She's not one to be in discomfort in any way without complaining! And I would put Mikey's socks back on, as he can't necessarily judge or tell me the condition of his feet.

This Thursday however, was PMT Thursday and I got mad. I yelled. Nothing particularly offensive or constructive, just HOLLY. WHEN I ASK YOU TO DO SOMETHING, YOU SHOULD DO IT. But inside I was seething. This child was completely ignoring me and I could not find the words I needed to express myself. Words that she would listen to. I don't ask her to do something just for the hell of it. There is generally a logical reason and when mummy says to do (or not do) something, mummy should be obeyed. I felt so mad at her, I wanted to squeeze her till she hurt. Instead she went upstairs sockless and Mikey was so shocked at the tone (or volume) of my voice that he came and sat down and his socks went straight back on.

The point is, for maybe 26 days or so of the month, I can be patient, calm, think things through, try to explain and give some leeway, but when the hormones are raging, I feel grumpy and touchy and get annoyed more easily and cannot cope as well with the minor disasters kids throw at you everyday.

It made me think, this is what it was like every day for a year when Michael was about 3 months and Holly was in her terrible 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 phase. So were my hormones all over the place? Was I on permanent PMT or was it Post Natal Depression, or was I just tired all the time? I get tired now and I don't generally want to squeeze my children till they hurt, but in that year, there were regular evenings when I can safely say they pissed me off something chronic. 'Will you just SHUT UP' became the way I'd react. Not meeting my own standards for parenting, but needing in some way to outwardly express my inward anger.

I sought help on a number of occasions, but I'm not very good at asking for it directly, so I wanted people - the midwife, the doctor, my friends, to notice and let me know it was ok. In hindsight, how I can expect these busy people, to notice my frame of mind, I don't know. A fault I've always been guilty of I think. Like the time I went home for a week before I got married, hoping someone would ask me if I was doing the right thing, so I could say 'no', but not having the guts to bring it up myself, as it would be admitting a failure in some way. (I ended up getting married and divorced within a year, but that's another story....)

Anyway, I am not good at admitting I need help, or even knowing that perhaps I should get it. Eventually at Mikey's one year check up, the midwife suggested a visit to Tresillian would be beneficial to get Mikey's sleeping pattern sorted and maybe address some terrible two behaviour. Unfortunately I'd left it a bit late. One place I called didn't take babies over one, another wouldn't take siblings, and leaving Holly at home for a week would have exacerbated the problem, not helped with it. So we didn't get any outside help.

But, when I stopped breastfeeding Michael at about 14 months (he was a real booby baby..) and he finally started sleeping through on a reasonably regular basis, things gradually improved. I got my energy back and a bit more sleep and began enjoying my kids more.

I still think, was that PND, or just tiredness? I have a friend who definitely had post natal depression. She couldn't get out of bed in the morning and felt physically ill with it. Compared with that, this was nothing, but maybe there are different degrees of depression. If there was a next time (which there's not going to be!) then hopefully I would do things differently and get more help.

As it is, on PMT days, a couple of hours alone is a good option. Not always possible, but at least I know why I feel like I feel and that it won't last long...


Baby Thoughts

My body is betraying me, and since it has a fairly close relationship with my mind, my mind is joining in to. I think it's something to do with not having enough to think about. Not that there aren't a hundred things to do in a day, but most of it, the washing, the cleaning, the playing, the cooking, even the negotiation and the desperate searching for patience, are all fairly routine stuff. The closest my brain gets to a challenge is doing the Sudoku puzzle in the paper while watching the kids in the bath. So, when it comes down to it, I have not much time to do anything, and a lot of time to think. And the thinking at the moment is about babies. (Don't tell Colin) We have decided we are only having two children as we are older parents (I had my 40th last year) and we don't cope with the lack of sleep as we might have done 10 years ago. There are also other factors such as the money required and the logistics of having three verses two, not to mention the strain it would put on our relationship to go through that baby stage again.

I have been fully on board with this since before we had Michael, but since weaning him off the boob, every month, like clockwork, my body reminds me that it is ovulating, and perhaps I should be doing something about it. It never happened like this before children. My periods were regular, but I used ovulation tests to check when I was ovulating, as I could never be a quite sure. Since babies though, I swear that at that same time mid month each month, my body aches for a day or two at just the time I think I'd be ovulating. For the most part I've just thought, how interesting, my body is telling me what's going on, but recently, it's got worse. Now I feel horny at the same time! So not only is my body telling me time is running out, here's the eggs, give it a go, but it's also saying, go on, here's your man, seduce him!

Colin's not going to complain about that, as I have to admit initiation on my part has not been a frequent event in the last four years, but if he knew the background he'd probably run a mile. Lucky for us, he's in charge of contraception.

I try and logic my feelings. We recently gave away all of our baby things and Michael is nearly two, so we've finished the baby stage for ever. I look in baby shops and there are such great things, which I have no excuse to buy any more. Also, I like my kids at the moment. They play well together, Holly can be caring and sweet to Michael and they have lots of fun. He's also at the great stage of language development which can be really cute and funny. So, I guess I'm just looking at them and thinking, they're not that bad, I could have another one of these.

The other thought is that I'm looking for a sense of purpose. I was talking to a friend about money the other day and how it would be easier if we had sacrificed a bit on location and gone for a smaller mortgage, and she pointed out to me that in a few years time I'll be earning again and it'll be easier. And I thought, oh yes, that's probably right, but what will I be doing?? I have no career plan, apart from looking after the kids, so maybe I'm thinking about babies because it prolongs that sense of purpose. Nine months with a specific goal in mind - to have a healthy baby, and then 3 years before they start pre-school where the focus is 100 percent on caring for my children.

But let's think about those nine months. I had relatively easy pregnancies, but even so, the thought of being pregnant again doesn't really appeal. Nine months of aches and worries, heartburn, breathlessness, clothes not fitting and trousers continually falling down, not to mention lack of sleep, the need to pee at least three times a night and the fact my bladder is almost certain never to recover. Actually the only positive I can think of is the boobs. Be nice to have them back for a little while...

So, pregnancy doesn't appeal, the birth certainly isn't a fun part, and the first 14 to 18 months are knackering, which doesn't do anything for my patience, sense of humour or sex drive.

I've done my bit with breast feeding and have no unfulfilled desires there, I have pureed enough food to last a lifetime and we're looking forward to a nappy free house in the foreseeable future. (How much does two and a half years of nappies cost....?)

And then there's the logistics of the whole thing. Who holds the extra hand, who carries the extra child when everyone wants a carry, who reads the third set of stories before bed, where does the third child sit when two knees are already taken?

Don't get me wrong, if I were 10 years younger, my response to this would probably be to start a round of gentle hints and persuasion with Colin. I admire the mums with three, especially those who maintain a sense of calm, but I set 40 as my own personal no go zone for babies, and I think I should stick with it. After all, instead of potentially straining a beautiful relationship and a happy family, my new found sex drive could make things a lot more fun, at least once a month anyway. Perhaps I should take up crosswords as well as Sudoku...




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