Subsistence or existence?

Hello, dear reader. I hope this post find you safe and well and happy. As always, I apologise for the huge gaps between posts. Things recently for me have been tricky and sticky and icky. But, I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about this..

Being a parent is incredible. No-one can prepare you for the love you feel when you see your child or children for the first time. It is an all-encompassing, overwhelming and completely belittling experience. And I am speaking now as someone who had THE MOST powerful rush of love when I saw both of my daughters – I know that some women and men don’t or can’t feel this and I don’t wish to exclude you from this – but please bear with me – what I have to say might have relevance for you too.

As well as not being prepared for the love and the exhaustion and the overnight complete change of everything in your life, no-one can prepare you either for everything else that follows after that initial rush-of-love, and the weeks and months of life that happen in the year or so afterwards. Although, there is a HUGE amount of books, blogs, support groups and the like that are there for new parents – I’ve found that as my children grow, the amount of support and advice on how to deal with everyday life dwindles in direct opposition to the children’s age or situation.

Take, for example, going back to “normal” life after maternity leave. The world expects you to go back to work and apply yourself with as much dedication and energy as you had when 8 hour-a-nights sleep was a reality and you didn’t have a small human being attached to you at every single minute of the day or night demanding every ounce of your affection. And then you have another one! And there are 2 of them (or more!) clinging to your leg every time you leave the house, leaving their Weetabix finger-prints and snot all over your best work trousers.

And that’s just the beginning. Currently, I am a mother of two beautiful girls I have a house and a dog and a job. On paper, I should be laughing. In practise, not so much.

A colleague of mine asked me the other day how I do it. I replied, quite quickly, and without thinking, that the only way that I can both work and be a parent is to do neither very well. What a world.

So, that’s what led me on to this. I’m fascinated by history. I love teaching it and learning about it. I often wonder what it would be like to live in another time. I’ve studied both History and Sociology and what has made me think is this – in the Dark Ages, people subsisted. They woke at the crack of dawn and immediately began working and they did so until the sun went down and then they went to bed. There was very little time for recreation. They lived because they worked. Otherwise they’d die. In our society now, in the 21st Century, we have so many labour saving devices and recreational activities because we don’t have to subsist anymore. We can exist.

Unfortunately, over the past few weeks that’s all I’ve felt I’ve been doing – subsisting. The responsibilities of being a working mother in today’s world means that my life is a series of footsteps – one in front of another – moving forward from where I just was into the place where I am about to be. My best friend (who I haven’t seen in months due to our busy schedules) calls it “the tunnel”. An apt description. I can’t remember the last time I properly laughed. I miss appointments and deadlines. How is one person supposed to deal with so much? I don’t get to watch anything on television. I don’t have time to swim. I read, thank god. But that’s because I have a fantastic Kindle Paperwhite which means I can read at the same time that I’m putting the girls to bed without disturbing them. It’s my only escape. Otherwise I get up, go to work, deal with the children or do the housework. My life is not my own. No books or blogs prepare you for that. Apart from my wonderful book club, and a very few of my wonderful friends and family, I’ve not spoken to anyone (properly) in weeks. My back is stooped and my heart is heavy.

I’m subsisting. But the difference between me and my ancestors is that if I stop getting up at the crack of dawn and working until the sunsets, I won’t die. But I’m not living. Which is worse?


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