I have wondered about writing this post – Is it too honest? Am I hanging out our dirty washing? Is there too much to say to make sense? – but I feel like I owe it to anyone feeling like me. I see so many posts on social media that give the impression of perfection. I cannot speak for others but know that when I post smiling pictures it’s often when I’m having a tough time and I want something to make me feel better. This post is not a smiling picture. It’s the truth of what is behind the lens.
Yesterday our bed snapped. Sadly not from marital exercise but because the kids jumped on it. Shortly after the bed broke, I broke, and not for the first time during lockdown.
It wasn’t a silent cry in the bathroom. It was guttural howling from the depths of my core. I was stood on the landing. The kids were near and the windows were open. It was loud and painful and ugly.
I broke because of what lockdown has revealed in me and in the world – despite much good, there is much that is not and much that needs to change.
I broke for the monotony of existing – the relentless cycle of cleaning and washing and cooking and eating and tidying up, over and over and over again.
I broke because of the guilt that I have so much to be thankful for and yet most days I want to run away.
I broke because of the guilt I feel for not being able to nail home-schooling; for feeling utterly overwhelmed by the resources available; for not being able to simultaneously juggle the educational and behavioural needs of a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old; for not managing to stick to a timetable; for not helping my children to learn everything on the curriculum; for not raising children with a hunger for reading, maths and knowledge but a hunger for YouTube and Roblox.
I broke because my children are young and wonderful and funny and sometimes kind and caring and hardworking but other times mean and rude and lazy. I broke because my expectations of them and of myself are too high and I have set us all up to fail.
I broke because it all feels too much and my faith in Jesus should feel stronger than it does.
I broke because despite living in the 21st century where equality is supposedly better than ever, lockdown has starkly shown (in my circles at least) that it remains largely women who take on the primary responsibility for childcare, housework, cooking and grocery shopping. Lockdown has intensified these responsibilities massively and yet many are still expected to work in their jobs at a similar level – an impossible demand.
I broke because, even before lockdown, I see so many women who are clever, skilled, savvy, emotionally intelligent with razor-sharp senses of humour having to compromise their professional lives in order to carry the vast majority of the domestic/childcare responsibilities.
I broke because it is unfair that so many of the aforementioned women are exhausted, trying to juggle jobs and kids and housework. At best they have a rock-solid support system helping them carry the load – maybe their parents live close by or their children’s father works part-time or flexi-time or not at all. Maybe they work for/with people who understand that people get sick, children have nursery productions or are off school for THIRTEEN WEEKS A YEAR and can’t be left to fend for themselves. Some, like me, have given up finding a happy medium and have had to stop working altogether.
I broke for my friend who has mental health problems because she is carrying too much.
I broke for my friend who is trying to do her job and home-school her kids and whose husband works in another room blissfully unaware of the monumental to-do list and the load she carries.
I broke for my friend who lives alone and carries more responsibility than most can imagine.
I broke for all the women sucked in by awful pyramid schemes telling them it’s the only way they can “have it all.” These intelligent, personable women desperately wanting to juggle kids and own a business. They want to find a happy balance but their investments do little more than line the pockets of those above them. The only success they have if is if they find someone else to recruit and “invest”, thus bringing them an income. It makes me so angry. They deserve so, so, so much better.
I broke for the women who, to coin the phrase, are expected to work as if they are not parents and parent as if they don’t work. I broke for those who have had to forego careers and ambitions to, like me, stay home.
I broke because of the guilt I feel for not working and yet still feeling utterly overwhelmed. I also broke because I am jealous of those who do work – go figure. Because of our family’s needs I currently don’t work but I so, so want to. I want to earn money and pay tax and work in a team and have targets and ambition. Instead, I spend my life ensuring everyone else’s needs are met.
I broke because of the guilt of not being able to remain grateful for my lot at all times. I have a husband and children and that should be enough. I am truly thankful, trust me. They are my joy, my pride and, my goodness they make me laugh so much. But I feel like I have lost myself in caring for them.
I broke because the ugly truth is that I resent my husband. Dave is honestly incredible. Kind, non-judgemental, able to stay steady when I am not. He has been fortunate enough to not only continue working from home during lockdown but also be in great demand as the need for online services increases. He does a job he loves. He is professionally needed and admired. He makes things possible for others. I am genuinely delighted he gets to do his job but his high demand and long hours coupled with our home circumstances has meant my dreams have had to be put on hold, and that hurts. It has meant that I cannot work and, because of Coronavirus, have had to stop a course that I was absolutely loving and was the one thing I had that was just mine. Instead, I have become a 1950’s housewife, with less lipstick.
Our broken bed provides the perfect metaphor for much of how I feel. There is no fault placing on the broken bed. I do not blame the kids, nor do I blame anyone. The bed did not break just because the kids jumped on it. It broke because it was old, needs replacing and has an invisible week spot. It has been temporarily fixed but at some point, it will need radically addressing.
Inequality remains silently rife in workplaces, churches, marriages and organisations. So, so many organisational structures are weak at best and completely broken at worst. We are not going to bring any semblance of equality unless domestic, parenting, household and caring responsibilities are shared. You do not raise someone up by adding to their already heavy load. You raise them up by taking, or at least finding a way of taking some of their existing responsibility from them. This means a holistic approach, looking at not just the person but their wider relationships and responsibilities. It may mean the employers/leaders of 2 people working together to find a solution for one family.
We need flexibility and total bravery to change structures to make it work better, for everyone. Coronavirus has proven that when the status quo is forcibly stopped – new possibilities are found.
This means every manager/leader/business owner saying “how can we help your whole life, your family, your dreams, your hobbies, your illness, your pressures?” It means having bold conversations about working schedules, pay, childcare, wellbeing, health – both physical and mental. It means dropping unreasonable expectations of someone with caring responsibilities, be it for children, elderly relatives or someone disabled – even if they are not currently the primary carer. Someone will be and the pressure on them might be huge. It means recognising that if someone lives alone, their home responsibilities are likely to be unshared and weigh heavily. It means honest conversation and radical new ways of thinking.
I have been told so many times “you are in this season for now…..”. I fully understand the sentiment and yes, at times it is true. But do not write me, or anyone else off because you cannot think bigger and bolder and find a radical way for it to work.
I realise my blog started with other reasons why yesterday broke me. I am under no illusions that we are in the middle of an abnormal and unprecedented pandemic. We are all feeling things now that we wouldn’t normally.
I am not overly concerned for my mental health – that’s why I feel able to share this. The current pressures have however brought to light things I have been bubbling for a long time. That stuff needs addressing and will be.
I am not overly concerned about our marriage. It is not completely broken – not by any stretch. We are largely strong and stable and that is why I feel able to share this. Like all marriages, there are parts that are weak and the current pressures have shown the parts we need to work on, and we will.
I am not overly concerned about my kids or home-schooling. We are in a pandemic and I am not a teacher. My kids are safe and loved. They are young and brilliant and they’ll be okay. There is more I can do and I will gently attempt to do so but in the calm of this evening I am reminded to be gracious to myself, and even more gracious to them.
Finally, I am not worried about my faith. Jesus says in my weakness he is strong. Bloody good job too!