"Mummys aren't allowed to be ill." My Dad
They certainly aren't allowed to be ill when there is just one parent, an absence for 300 miles of family and your fall-back best friends are on holiday in London or Canada. Yesterday, I was caught utterly short by this predicament.I have been exceptionally lucky and only be truly knocked out twice so far in my daughter's lifetime, but they are times I would really rather not repeat. When there is literally no one to step in, it is really tough. Not wanting to sound like a whinger, but surely if there was a benevolent force, single parents would be made immune to all bugs, viruses, lurgies and exhaustion at the pinnacle point of singledom?
I now thankfully feel much better, after being a bad parent and relying heavily on Cbeebies to distract my vivacious daughter while I slept and not getting dressed until the afternoon. I have medicated myself with a-million-and-two-vegetable-soup and multivitamins and am praying that a blast of fresh air will wake me up from the land of Grim. I was trying to work out why I felt so dreadful when it hit me that a week of Wriggles being very ill, incredibly little sleep for me for said week, a period of intense worry and stress, trying to go to work when I felt awful and doing it all solo were probably five very large factors staring me in the face right there.
Everyone is always saying that you have to Look After Yourself and a Happy Parent equals Happy Baby. You hear about 'looking after number one' but the problem is once you become a parent, you simply aren't number one anymore. Number one is a small bawling figure with no sense of time, routine or rational that becomes a less-small energetic whirlwind with still no sense of reason, rational and as-yet no complex empathy. So looking after number two? To be honest, I don't think I have even been number two. Coupled with running a house and ensuing finances, attempting to work and being a half decent daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter/daughter-not-in-law/ex-partner-mother-of-child/friend it is very often I barely even stop to think about me. Who? Me? Who is this person? On top of which, my mental health has been decidedly unsteady at times and though is largely under control now, it is very true that you don't fall apart until you feel safe. And if you have been storing up falling apart, it really can be a spectacle and a half.
This relegating of self is a steep learning curve for any parent struggling to find their feet, be it weeks, months or years down the line. It is one of those things that people jovially hint at pre-children, but never really hits you smack in the face until you realise that despite that bountiful rewards, which of course I would never swop for all the health in the world, it is simultaneously a bloody hard slog too.
I am going to try and make a more conscious effort to look after myself, be it earlier nights, healthier eating or begging of friends to come and help me wash up. I am also dedicating some serious thoughts to The Future (again) as this last week has left me feeling quite isolated. I love where I live, I love my little flat, I am finding my feet with other parents and I have a good circle of friends locally. However, if no one is available and crisis calls, for Wriggles or me, invariably we end up struggling through just the pair of us. Normally this is fine, we manage because we have to. But maybe I need to have a serious look at what is best for us, best for me. Am I taking too much on, especially currently working in a stressful environment? Am I trying to prove too much at the detriment of my health? Is my perception of what is Right to do just not Right at this precise moment? Doesn't everyone need some slack, and at what point is this and when is too much? At this very minute, moving to family is not an option. But in the next few years, this should be able to change; my parent's lifestyle, pensions materialising and respective health willing. However, this is not imminent, this is still at least a year or two away. Maybe I need to assess the here and now, or maybe I am just having a Bad Day. I have no idea.