This week I turned twenty four. An age that I used to think would be one where I’d have my life together, all figured out. It seems like a properly grown up age, doesn’t it? On paper, I guess I do have that life together. I’ve found a very lovely man, with whom I live in a very lovely apartment, with our (not biased at all here) very adorable toddler. I even work for a company who while I won’t go as far as describing them as very lovely, do treat their employees with decent conditions and some rather lovely perks. I’ve been to university, attained my degree and an education on top of it which didn’t happen in the classroom or lecture hall but rather in the rainy cold mornings spent working towards something Student Union related, or the late night “tired and emotional” chats enjoyed with Lennoxes chips. I live in a city which I now consider home (not quite “home home”, but getting there) after six years here, it’s given me my accent, my love of tea and my life as it currently stands. As far as things go, it’s not a half bad way to be at 24.
But. Is it enough? Am I being enough?
While on paper I seem to be living a rather nice grownup life, it isn’t the life I envisioned myself living through my teenage years or even in my earlier twenties. To be fair, I headed off to college to do a Drama degree, so it’s quite likely my career path would have been a tad more rocky had I stuck to the dreams of my teenage self (Rachel Berry, I was not). I envisioned further education, masters, phd’s, the potential of becoming a lecturer, or changing my career path and becoming something that required a crazy amount of extra study like a solicitor, or going into research. These days, I’m lucky when Daddy Pig comes out with a scientific statement that I can put down as “educational programming”, or I watch (depressing) documentaries on television or Netflix about the obesity/refugee/economic crisis. Today I ran into someone I used to know back in my heady university days, someone who I’m incredibly happy that her life has worked out the way it has as she’s worked really hard to get where she is and is still the lovely person she always was. But I walked away from that meeting, brief as it was, feeling inadequate. I was wet from the rain, dressed down in a hoodie, a toddler always 5 seconds away from meltdown in the buggy. I looked frazzled, and despite it probably not being real, and probably being my imagination, I felt as if she was looking at me with a look of “So, this is how your life has gone”. If she wasn’t thinking that, I certainly was.
This is not how I saw my motherhood being. Honestly, I don’t know how I saw it being. I didn’t see it being like this though, spending half my days willing it to be bedtime already, and the other half feeling ridiculously guilty for even having those thoughts. I feel guilty for having post natal depression, for letting it invade my bond which I have with my (as previously referred to) adorable child. He’s a deadly little person, dance moves and all, and yet I am just so tired, so frustrated with not having a manual, with him not having a volume switch or the ability to realise that Mammy isn’t quite able to keep up. Toddlers are hard work, I know, but I’m constantly feeling like I’m not giving him enough, asking myself how many Leaving Cert points each Peppa Pig episode is subtracting from his final total (not to mention the bumps on his head. He’s inherited my accident prone trait. Not good.).I wonder if I should, could, be doing more to bring on his development – and nothing has been mentioned by medical professionals or childcare workers, this is all just in my head. We sing songs, we play games, I try to get him into reading. He loves to brush his teeth and to dance. But each time I try to grab 10 or 15 minutes of peace by placing him in front of Fireman Sam or Peppa, there is a niggling part of me that says “This is not the parent you were meant to be”. I find myself sometimes resenting my motherhood, not so much for the change it has made to my life, but for the fact that I am terrified that I will mess up this tiny little person who has so much potential, and that I have no idea how to stop it if that is what I am doing. In practicality I know I’m doing a semi-decent job, the child treats fruit as sweets, and gets along with other kids perfectly well, while trying to charm every woman that walks by with his smile and tilted head and big brown eyes. The nagging feeling though, the Mammy guilt, the feeling of not being enough is a permanent, unfortunate, fixture.
I sometimes feel like I’m 24 going on 90. My body is failing me (as is my mind). Thanks to an almost two year old back injury, I’ve been out of work sick for months, unable to do basic tasks without pain, in a seemingly unending cycle. It’s not a permanent state of being, there are days and weeks where I feel like I can do anything, but then one act of overdoing it knocks me back a couple of steps. Others my age are heading out on crazy nights out, going travelling, progressing in careers; and I find it an achievement most days to sit in the same chair for more than 20 minutes at a time. This isn’t an “Oh Poor Me”, I swear, it’s just frustrating to know that the things I should be able to do are just outside my reach, thanks to something out of my control. I am extremely lucky in that I have access to wonderful medical professionals who are doing their damnedest to ensure that my physical condition improves so that maybe soon I’ll be 24 going on 40, there is no doubt about it, I’m privileged in a way that makes me feel bad for even having this kind of a rant. I know there are much worse out there. That has been my attitude thus far dealing with my depression – unfortunately it’s also a stick I’ve used to beat myself with, a common one with others suffering from the condition going on anything I’ve read – “What are you upset about, so many people have it worse than you”. I watch the news and see the horrific things going on around the world, I listen to the radio and hear interviews with parents whose kids have been in life threatening situations or are suffering illnesses beyond even my worst nightmares for my child and KNOW that my life is a charmed one, as they go. It just feels like something is missing.
I have a wonderful life, a supportive family and loving, amazing partner, a funny, intelligent toddler full of love, a beautiful (if half unpacked) home, and I’m sure that my daily stresses are likely heaven to some people’s ears. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m not being enough. Enough of a mother, enough of a person who has had the education and the chances I’ve had, enough of someone I thought I’d be. I’m not looking for reassurance, thats not what this post is about. I guess its just something I’m going to have to change my standards for myself for.