I look at last nights (and possibly two nights ago) saucepans in the sink with a sigh. I haven’t brushed my teeth or washed my face yet, or had breakfast or even a cup of tea, but I’ve been on the school and nursery run already. I turn away in disgust. Kettle on. I wonder, am I being judged like I think I am? Or is it all in my head? Do I care?
The school is approximately 8 minutes walk from my house. It’s an easy and not unpleasant walk, if you don’t count the dodging dog poop part (seriously, how hard is it do clear up after your dog?). Two days a week I have the nursery drop off too, so I drive there and then walk from nursery, minus one child, it’s just easier that way. One of the other days I drive to school, manage to park somewhere, and then drop the youngest off at my parent’s house which is a drive away in the other direction to my house.
There’s a particular mum who walks past my house every day to school – this means she walks from further than me – and if I take the car she says “Cheating!” I’ve said a couple of times why I do it, and quite frankly if I want to drive, I paid for my car, I pay for the fuel so sod it, I’ll use it if I want to. It took me slightly longer to get my licence, I passed my test when I was 25, third time lucky. Before that I relied on my bike and public transport. I was so grateful when I got my car, I love the freedom it gives me and if I go somewhere, I love being able to leave when I want. Anyway…
When I walk, if we cross paths, it’s usually when she’s walking back from school and I’m still walking to school, she always says “Morning” in an overly cheery voice and I always wonder, is she being friendly or is she being sarcastic because I always look so knackered and disorganised? Does she judge me? Does she think I’m a slummy mummy who can’t be bothered to walk and am so pathetic I can’t manage my time effectively when it’s obviously so easy. Or is it me who’s putting pressure on myself to be some sort of perfect person? You see there’s a time vortex that happens when I’m getting the kids ready for school, I never quite manage to get going when I want to. Sometimes the stars align and we manage it early which makes me feel amazing, but most of the time we’re middle of the road or just in time.
I’m not a morning person – I hate getting up no matter how much sleep I’ve had, if I had my way I’d have a cup of tea in bed followed by more tea, breakfast and then get dressed and slowly think about the day. When I was working I often sacrificed breakfast in front of the TV for toast in the car because I’d rather have ten more minutes in bed. I’m a low energy person. I’d give anything to have bags of energy, go for a run pre breakfast, go to school, work, cook a wholesome dinner, do crafts and home learning, parks, bike rides etc. and survive on 6 hours sleep but I’m just not. I have a brief window maybe after breakfast and before lunch but that’s it. I often wish I could spend the day in bed but those days are long gone. I just run out of time in the day when I can be useful.
So I often feel sleepy, dishevelled and disorganised on the way to school, no matter if I’ve had a ‘good’ nights sleep because I usually spend the morning getting the kids breakfast, making a packed lunch, getting them all dressed, sorting out the school bags (because I haven’t done it the night before – too tired), just about getting dressed myself, shouting, doing hair and then somehow making it to school. No wonder I couldn’t cope with going to work three days a week! I now work from home 2-3 days a week and often squeeze in a night shift somewhere.
Most mornings I am desperately looking for signs of my inner struggle in the other parents – do they feel like me every morning? A lot of them look smart like they’re going to work, there are the gym bunny mummies in their gym gear already, the glam mummies with their make up, jewellery and designer shoes and yes, there are some others like me, just trying to get through it and out the other side. Let’s look at the evidence that I can do this:
- I have dressed them appropriately, they have their coats with them and at least one of them has a jumper.
- My daughter’s hair is tied back, not in an elaborate plait but still, off her face and out of her eyes.
- I have made a packed lunch for the eldest, it has cut up cucumber in it and everything.
- Their uniform is clean.
- The water bottles are present and filled with fresh water.
- They’ve had breakfast and a drink.
- The youngest is dressed, in nursery and has a coat.
- I have got them to school on time
- I’m in my fourth year of school and so far social services haven’t come knocking
Based on this evidence, I think I’m doing ok – maybe I should get up earlier so I could have breakfast and wash my face and brush my teeth so that I feel semi human and then I’d feel a but better but I do enjoy those extra ten or twenty minutes in bed, often spend cuddling Daniel in bed and giving him his morning milk so I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon. Am I being judged? Maybe I am, after all, I make judgements about other people, we all do, it’s how we get by in the world. All I can do is try and look beyond the obvious and look at the bigger picture. Do I care? Yes, sometimes, but if I’m doing my best, my children love me despite my faults then I can hold my head up high and perhaps I should start doing that instead of worrying what others think of me.
As I start my way back from school I pass my friend whose eldest greets me with ‘Are we early or late?’ I glance back at the closed gate. I am not alone and the struggle is real. Do I judge? Absolutely not.