Monday, 17 May 2021

Motherland; Good For Whatever Soul I Have Left

 I'm really enjoying Motherland on Netflix just now.

If you haven't caught it yet - have a go.  It is a somewhat slightly exaggerated take on the trials and tribulations of parenting school-age children and the school-gate politics that arise.

As a mama to three boys and having dealt with the school gates for the last 13 years, I can find a wee bit of myself and people I know in each of the characters.

I'm no fan of trying to make mum pals - in fact, I flat out suck at it.  

It's caused me a lot of heartache and confusion over the years.

I've come to the conclusion that actually, I am far too eclectic, too full of dark humour and just not 'proper' enough to make it with the 'in' crowd and actually, I have totally given up.

On a Motherland scale of Amanda to Liz, I am 100% a Liz.

Diane Morgan as Liz in the brilliant Motherland

From the moment she chopped her own finger off slicing frozen cheese for Julia and calmly headed off to A&E after doing her own first-aid, to the drunken promises she made on behalf of Julia and Kevin for the school fundraiser, I can totally relate to being the outsider who just does herself and fuck whatever anyone else thinks. I appreciate her down-to-earth take on things, her patience, her wit and I absolutely see her dogged determination to survive and make sense of whatever shitty hand she is dealt.

As a mum at a small-ish village school, in a relatively higher class area, I stick out like a sore thumb.

I'm not well-off enough to carry off anything classy.  Messy bun? Tick.  Running late? Epically. Tick!

I'm the one whose son wears princess dresses because he can if he wants, who champions unbranded school uniforms to keep the cost of the school day down for everyone, and asks awkward questions around fundraising.  I'm a rule-bender, a risk-taker and someone who speaks their mind.

 My kids are not in the expensive swim team, football club, art club or drama group, nor are they sporty.  I let them spend a lot of time on their computers.  We have very loose bedtimes at weekends.  

I can't afford to send them to the various 'lovely' activities the other kids enjoy, nor do we massively value academia. We would rather the kids were safe, happy and loving what they do, because we both tried hugely and did all the right things, kicked our own arses to get the grades and have struggled ever since!

As two people who have been very roughly shafted by the world in the pursuit of such stuff, we are more than a little disillusioned and probably a wee bit traumatised, and so we are focused on raising our kids to be decent people with kind, compassionate, inclusive values, where you aren't afraid to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty and where you open your mind to as much as possible - we can't begin to imagine a world for our kids where fitting in with an ever-decreasing elite of paid-for opportunity and outstanding grades at all costs would be a 'good' thing to do.

Me and my husband both work in the third sector - not only do we both know what it is like to live in relative poverty and deal with the many social, physical and emotional challenges it brings, we also spend our days scooping up other people who are dealing with the effects; the time for giving a shit about manicured lawns or whether our cars are immaculate is not really now for us.  

Is everyone fed, clothed, washed, happy, achieving, nurtured and well-humoured though? Yes! Isn't that what counts? 

Does our lack of care around some of the finer details come off as bad parenting?  


I am tired.  My life has been a fucking struggle.  Girl, I am surviving and I will absolutely take that.

Motherland tackles this to some degree. It encompasses the spectrum of mother characters quite aptly; the single mum, the stay at home mum, the stay at home dad, the seemingly-has-it-all mum, the queen bee mum and her side-kick and the mum who has run out of shits and just wants to get through it.

Joining the school PTA has become a recent favourite weird pastime for me - I'm not sure the Head Teacher knows what to do with me.  

Here's the woman he has pegged as an incompetent mother (veiled very thinly) showing up, giving a shit, interacting, giving opinions that he finds he 9/10 actually agrees with and it's always entertaining on the Zoom call (with the brilliant rural wifi 1.5 second lag) inadvertently showcasing my dark humour, which the other mums really don't seem to understand. 

The dark humour usually comes out around some of the more mundane topics, like dog shit or parking and I can't help myself.  It's been nearly two hours talking about dog poop and I start making quips, and it's like unleashing the beast.  And guess what?  Apparently, giggling about dog poop on kids shoes isn't that funny, Genna. 

"Why am I such an outcast?" I'll sob to Dave (usually the day before my period when the world is a dark black spot of shit and everything is pressing harder on me than usual).

I tried to make mum friends - I really did.  I suck at it.  I'm in the wrong area; outcast, out-resourced and outnumbered.  I'm in a weird middle ground and I guess I have resigned myself to a lifetime of lonlieness.

Fuck it.

For now I'm taking my solace in Motherland and enjoying their take on Mum life.

If you are like me and feel totally left out of the mum circle with no hope of getting in any time soon, give it a watch.

It's a source of real comfort in an ever-weird and confusing world of parent politics.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

A Lonesome Walk

 Yesterday was the 6 year anniversary of our us becoming home-owners, and as I woke up yesterday and saw this on my Facebook memories, it gave me a sense of how far we have come in the last 6 years, but also how hard the struggle has been.

Always decorating, eh, Doll?

We have battled against so much to barely keep our heads above water, and here we are this weekend, on the 6-year-versary basically starting all over again.  Except maybe perhaps, with the heating finally going in, on slightly better footing.

At least this year we won't be sleeping with our hats on and in sleeping bags under our duvets.

It also struck home with me this weekend, just how much we have had to do alone. 

I have written before about looking for that village when it comes to parenting, and the ever-changing scenery surrounding modern parenthood which sees a dearth of support in today's busy world. 

Well, we moved to a literal village and our already-wee world has shrunk considerably.

In 6 years we haven't had any child-free overnight time, and I can probably count on two hands the amount of child-free time we have had.  And probably on one hand how many of those times were actually date nights just for us and not fulfilling social commitments like work-related dinners or wedding invites.

We have to have a really good excuse to get a babysitter.

"Date" hour.  Lunch hour.

Our own "date" nights have lost all real purpose and meaning - they are usually snatched bits of time which have a lot of pressure attached to them to be back quickly or be on call for any complications.  

At least working from home has meant that we have managed to catch up on that - though there's nothing magical about watching each other do Zoom calls all day.

I guess it just makes me feel a bit sad sometimes that we are missing that support. 

Instead we have had to power on and find ways to get through it, and it hasn't always been pretty.

There have been many times we have totally lost our shit with each other, and sometimes the screaming loneliness that comes with the territory at times can be all-consuming.  

Not having another adult (who isn't Dave) there to help break up the day-to-day, not having someone else to take on the load of loving these kids is hard.  It's really tough to stretch ourselves between all three sometimes, and once you have, there isn't much time for much else, especially if you have a lot to do, like, say, a house renovation! 

It's counter-productive too - we live in a perpetual mess, so you feel constantly ashamed of the state of your house.  We rarely have visitors.  And when we do, it is a massive operation to get things looking semi-normal(ish). 


We. Are. Shattered.

Factor in job changes, home working and Covid, and we are basically a self-supporting commune of 5.

Looking back on the last 6 years this weekend has just made me feel shit.  

Really shit.

And really beat up.

I worry constantly about this whole thing - we live in a constant state of flux and the kids have had to come along for the ride, because mum and dad are so fucking stretched, they have no choice.  We have had to be their everything to them all the time; is it enough?

And that's the real middle-of-the-night stuff, isn't it?  That's the stuff that keeps you up and makes you panic.

Our house is crazy.  It's set to get crazier in the next few weeks.  We have so much decorating, structural work and sorting to do.

Another struggle.

Another challenge.

Man, I am so tired.


Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Moving in the house

Well, we moved the bedrooms round.

After 3 years of letting the kids have their own rooms, which were wasted, wasted on them, we managed to convince the older two to share again (I don't know what kind of twilight world we have slipped into), O has his own room, and Dave and I finally got our light, airy, lovely main bedroom back.

It's amazing.

For the first time in 3 years I have my own space, it's quiet, it's peaceful, I am getting loads done and I am absolutely kicking butt.

Except I'm not really.

We are getting new heating in this time next week, so we have SO MUCH TO DO, I don't even know where to begin.

Dave is on one - he literally spends all day sitting at his computer moaning about how busy he isn't at work, then tonight he sauntered out to the shops with all three kids, reappearing at 6pm, kids eating handfuls of sweets, and having missed O's dance class, which was PAID FOR, dammit!

It's not 6.20pm and I have left him to make tea, because apparently he "has a plan", and I literally WADED through bin bags and sacks of old books and socks and other nonsense to come back up to my new happy place.

EVERYTHING needs decorated.

There's some really sad washing on the line outside which has been there for days because of endless rain and my inability to deal with it.

There's about ten bin bags in the driveway and general waste collection isn't until next week.

Yes, the boys are sharing a room, but Tom's bed is going to have to come apart so the workmen can access the radiator (haven't told Dave yet - not sure he has realised).

We've hired an Air BnB situation down the road for the shittest 'holiday' ever where we have to decamp and sit with the three anti-social dogs for two days.  We *might* get to come home overnight.  Eek.

Work is mental just now - I am exhausted.

And we have a week.

One week.

To pull a de-cluttered and clean house out of our bums.

Pray for Genna.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Bairns and Blethers - A Good Old Catch Up

 Well, world, what in the heck happened?

One day I catch myself saying to Dave: "I wish something would happen, you know?  Something that just makes the world stop for a bit.  I'm so done with the relentless-ness of it all and just want it all to stop"

And the next - it did.

Sometimes I do feel like I am connected to this wee old planet in a bit of a spiritual way (ooky spooky!) and well, most times I do really just feel like a bit of a spaceman floating around waiting for something to happen or tell me where to go.

And sometimes I feel absolutely driven, like I am desperately feeling like I need to fulfil my purpose RIGHT NOW, which is kind of how I am feeling just now.

Covid has been a bit of a crazy ride, and as we come up to the wierdest anniversary of anything ever - like, ever - I feel a bit like I have ridden the greatest rollercoaster in my whole life and now I have to get off and go home back to the boring mundane.

I'm not ashamed to say, I have quite enjoyed being locked down.  I mean, okay, it has been a bit shit for the kids; my oldest basically got chucked out of p7 and into high school with the shittest goodbye ever, my youngest has had to start school in pandemic conditions and I think I might have gained about 2 stone because I have comfort eaten the fuck out of it, but otherwise, it's been fine, really.

Middle boy has been better than he has ever been and has come on so much- any of the regular societal pressures he has felt over the years has completely gone and school is now much more manageable for him.  The weight of all of that being taken off has changed our family considerably.  The crazy merry-go-round has actually stopped, which is nothing short of miraculous.  It may even have given us some actual formative real chance of getting somewhere with this.

Myself and Dave are keyworkers in the third sector and our jobs have catapulted our careers further in a shorter space of time than any of us could have imagined.  It is absolutely mind-blowing compared to last year where we are now, and for that I am eternally grateful.  It feels like a mad dream.

By all accounts, I certainly don't ever want to downplay anything that has happened in the world or the horrible, awful, terrible hardships anyone has been through in the last year; not at all.  Working in the third sector (and in things like emergency provision for basic needs like food and clothing), I know life is so tough on so many and in so many horrible conditions all over the world.

But personally, for me, for us, for our wee family, in this wee dilapidated cottage which is going to suck our souls dry (or leave us dying of frostbite or in an electrical fire) for once...for once....FOR ONCE....the world isn't shitting right on our laps for a change.

And it feels good.

It feels good to be able to put food on the table without panicking.  We are travelling a lot less, so less wear on the cars, which meant come MOT time, we weren't completely destroyed.  We are paying a lot less for fuel, so aren't constantly running on empty.  We have been able to address some real pressing issues in the house like basic furniture needs, like buying the kids a bed and bedding.  We have been able to buy gifts at Christmas without sheer panic.

I keep waiting for the bolt to shut across the door, when whatever cosmic being has let us free from our usual crock of shit life realises that we got out, but it hasn't happened just yet.

While the rest of the world is desperate to get back to 'normal', here's me in a corner saying, "please, not quite yet.  There's still so much to do".

I mean, I've written it down now, so I have totally jinxed it, but it has been so nice to just have this break.

And if all I end up with is this little memoir to look back on, well, I'm glad it happened and now I know it can happen - so watch out world, here I come.

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That time my Dad left