As Pretty As Flowers And As Funny As A Clown – Thoughts on Mother’s Day.

In the past I’ve been very against Mother’s Day. The marketing machine dictating that mothers like all things fluffy, pink and scented annoys me. It’s a cop-out to give the woman who you should really know very well a off-the-shelf on a certain day of the year for doing a job and maintaining a relationship that she is obligated to.

I would argue that very small children do not appreciate you, but rather simply rely on you. Or at the very least they cannot articulate their need of you into the concept of appreciation. So until this year, it seemed a bit off for some adult to manufacture Mother’s Day on my children’s behalf.

This year, my son is in Prep and my daughter is in daycare, and so there is a lot of talk about mothers, what they do, and why we love them. The school facilitates a mother’s day lunch and a stall from which the kids can buy gifts, and daycare encouraged the kids to make cards and gifts.

So as fake and tacky as the day can be, it’s nice to see my son articulating things he appreciates about my – both as a Mum and as a person. He wrote: “My Mum is sweet, loving and gorgeous. My Mum can cook, drive and do washing. My Mum is as pretty as flowers and as funny as a clown. I love my Mum.” It’s clear my son is increasingly aware of the enormity of my job as mother since separating from their father. I’m everything and I do everything. It’s tiring but necessary. It’s just rewarding enough to not give up.

Dissonance
My music blaring to fill the empty house
The sound bouncing off the walls
Resonance
In my empty chest cavity
My heart left home with my children
Their absence sorely overdue
I need time to refill my near-empty cup
Time for silence to not be so suspicious
And yet it is
I’m jumping at shadows
The kids absence a festering wound
This dissonance
Because I miss them
Because I can’t seem to love them this much
When they are at home
Bouncing off the walls
My little shadows
This cup has a slow leak
And is spilled across the table at every meal
I cannot imagine how it is ever filled enough
And yet it is
12 May 2019

 

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Starting School

Yesterday, my eldest child started school.

I’ve been counting down for five years until this moment. I thought I would skip off merrily after dropping him on the first day, and with a big sigh of relief have myself a mid-morning cocktail and a rest. I was sure I wouldn’t cry.

 

But there I was on Sunday, alone in my house while the kids are with their dad, balling my eyes out.

And there I was on Monday, in the school kitchen, listening to some other Prep parents chat about how drop off hasn’t affected them, watching my daughter and ex-husband eat slice and weeping into my tea.

I was crying not because I’ll miss him being around during the day, although I will. Not because I’m proud of him, although I am. Not because he wasn’t ready or seemed too little, because he was raring to go.

I’m upset because it means the hardest five years of my life are over. There is a sense of achievement, and yet this celebration is bittersweet because I still feel like a failure.

Firstly, my identity as a mother of two preschool aged children shifts again and I am one step closer to the reality of what I will do with my time when both of my children are at school. In the next two years, I will need to ensure that my chosen line of work reaps enough financial rewards to fund my life – and meet my children’s needs – and I’m terrified because it probably won’t.

Being a mother of two children at home is really tough, but it’s still a luxury because my life is funded (to the bare minimum, don’t get me wrong) by the government. Thanks to that, I’ve been able to be more artistically prolific than ever in the past five years. Looming on the horizon is the day I am no longer eligible for Parenting Payment and my efforts in making a living from making theatre and writing will be tested.

Secondly is the fact that the family I thought I was bringing this child into no longer exists. While we were able to wave goodbye and wish him luck at the classroom door together, the nuclear family portrait only has a passing resemblance to our dreams and plans of five years ago. After we drop off our son, I will take my daughter home and their father will go his separate way until the next co-parenting event.

This moment of shared parental joy will forever be underscored by our failure as a couple. I think I did more to nurture and prepare him for school, and I resent that burden of the uneven load enforced by our separation. I’m sure his father feels like he has missed out on moments of his childhood and resents that too.

So in my moment of pride, I am distracted by worry – not that our son will be bullied or find the work difficult or have separation anxiety – but that our failure will mark him somehow.

Buddhism says that if you are sad, you are living in the past, and if you are anxious you are living in the future. I find really hard not to follow these thought paths – one into the past and one into the future – at pivotal moments like this. It’s hard to just concentrate on how proud my son is of his new uniform or excited he is at the new books and pencils waiting for him at his desk when my head is a whirl of future worries and past regrets.

So I am starting school too. I’m committing one evening per week to attend drop-in meditation classes. They start tonight at the Ballarat Mechanics Institute. Unfortunately I will have to wait until next week as I have another event on tonight! But as of next week, I will invest more in my own mental well-being, and hope to break this habit of following negative thought patterns. I’ve found reading about Buddhism to be helpful so far, and now I’m keen to learn about actually practicing it. I hope that my learning means that I can fully appreciate the moments in my life for what they are – full of joy, pride and love.

Flashback Friday – Poem “Parent-thesis”

I love this poem so much that it now forms the opening of my newest play, The Let-Down Reflex.

I wrote it in June 2017 and it really does reflect the every day lived experience of parents. The Let-Down Reflex is currently in development and will be having a work-in progress showing on Thursday 24th January at Ballarat Trades Hall. Come along!

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