At the gym today, picking up Alice from the crèche, I bumped into another mum, collecting her little boy.
“Hey, how are you?” I asked, as one tends to do in polite society.
“Fucked,” she said.
I didn’t even blink. “Me too.”
She’s studying, see, and working, and mumming, and gymming – just like me, just like so many mothers – and she’s fucked.
“I thought about quitting last week.”
“Motherhood?” I asked. “Yeah, me too.”
“No,” she shook her head, as one does when speaking to a simpleton. “My course. I completely lost my shit and decided to quit my course. It all got too much.”
“You changed your mind?”
“If I don’t do it now, I’ll always regret not finishing. I know I can do it – I just need more hours in the day. But I’ve got to do it. Maybe magic mushrooms would help.”
That last bit took be surprise, to be honest, but the rest of it? I got it. I get it. ‘Cos I’m fucked too – I’m not coming up for air at the moment. On Friday night – wait for this – I was too tired to drink. Yes! Party night! Too tired to drink! Can you even IMAGINE? At about 8pm – after we’d thrown the children in the general direction of their bedrooms, and wiped the snot and glitter off the walls and floor, I collapsed on the sofa and kind of died. Kind of.
“If the house catches on fire, I’m going up with it,” I told Paul. He smiled indulgently and poured my wine into his glass.
I’ll be honest here: sometimes I yearn for the inherent misogyny and domestic drudgery of the 1950s. I’m fucking serious. A day spent scrubbing the front step and kneading my own dough – fuck yeah, I’m in, where do I sign?
Here’s the thing about us forward-thinking, clued-up 21st-century women: we want it all. I want it all. I know what I’m capable of, and I’d very much like to achieve it, thank you very much. But Jesus, it’s tiring. I’m tired. I’m starting to do stupid fucking things – like, stupider than normal, which is saying something. I grazed a nice man’s car in the carpark on Saturday, because I was rushing to get Ben to a birthday party, and had forgotten to get a present, so stopped to get one on the way, while my clock-watching Rainman of a son sat in the passenger seat muttering, “Oh my god, we’re going to be one minute and 30 seconds late, oh my god,” over and over, until my ears bled and my soul withered, and I bashed into another car. Apparently I shouldn’t have accepted responsibility, but fuck it, it was my own dickhead fault. Actually NO, it was Ben’s fault – he can pay the flipping excess.
And then the other day, I nipped into my favourite shop to get Paul a birthday present, and started talking to the owner like an actual and certified nut-job. I started ramble-chatting, with no break between sentences: “Hey how are you it’s my husband’s birthday on Friday I need to get a present oh look shiny hey do you have kids oh that’s right you don’t have kids but you do have a niece and her middle name is your actual name that’s cute isn’t it.” I mean, she was smiling, but in a “please back slowly out of my establishment and we’ll say no more about this” kind of way. That was, like, seconds after I’d ripped my car to bits looking for my phone, only to remember that I was talking on it.
I'm fucked. I have a backlog of emails and messages to reply to, and text messages opened and quickly forgotten. I saw one of my best friends in England at Christmas, and I've been meaning to email her photos of that day. I've been meaning to do this since DECEMBER. It's now AUGUST. I forget birthdays, notes from school, children. Don't tell my mum, but our car was uninsured for two actual months. I'm always rushing, always late, always frazzled.
I have reached storage capacity. There's no room left in my melted head. I've got too many tabs open. Whenever Ben gets hold of my iPhone, he spends the first few minutes closing all my open screens. "You're wasting the BATTERY," he says, and OH MY GOD, that's me! Too many screens open! My battery's dwindling!
Are we doing too much, us 21st-century mammas? Have we fucked it all up? We’ve fought for so much, and we’ve achieved so much, but we forgot to shake off some of the housekeeping along the way. We’ve basically just quadrupled our workload, silly sausages that we are.
I’m no martyr (alright, I am, a bit) – I’m not doing it all on my own, because husband is EXCEPTIONALLY well trained. He pulls his fucking weight. If he’s home, he’s on duty – bathing and feeding and tidying and all that other tiresome shit that most men shy away from. But even with his epic contribution, there is still SO MUCH TO DO.
It’s a conundrum. We’re rushing so much, because we want to achieve so much, but on the other hand, we want to be lying on a play-mat, playing eye-spy with our kids and eating a shit-tonne of fairy bread. We yearn to be mothers – we LOVE being mothers – but we want to use our brains too, and fulfil our potential, and take over the world - because we CAN, because our lady ancestors FOUGHT for this.
I don't have the answer. I wish I had the answer. I might have the answer, if I wasn't so fucking tired, but right now ... coffee. Coffee is the answer.