Well, how much difference a year makes.
Supposedly, the march of time will inevitably lead to an improvement. I beg to differ. Sometimes, for all of us, things go for bad to worse, or just stay plain old rubbish.
Certain elements of life are definitely a bright spot. Let’s start there. Being a mother is the best thing in the universe. My daughter turned 2 back in May and oh my, what a blessing she is. It’s that little voice piping up ‘mummy’ at the start of a morning that makes me get out of bed and it’s that tight hug and kiss and giggle before bed that helps me get some rest.
For yes, I’m able to be a mother. It took having to return to work to push me in that direction but it has been the greatest thing. The guilt at not being able to provide her what a nursery can has gone, as she thrives day after day learning so much I can barely keep up with her. The joy of that little person rushing towards me every time I pick her up after work and the cuddles as I carry her for as long as my arms can possibly hold out are worth every agonising juggle of bags and shoulder strain.
The hatred of leaving her never ends. She still cries seven months into being left, without fail every day. My heart wrenches each time. We have a needy child and I KNOW she has to get used to it because school looms in, crumbs, eighteen months. But I also love that she wants me, that I didn’t fuck up our relationship so terribly in the previous year when I couldn’t even leave the house. It’s a definite guilty relief that she’s sad to see me go, that my baby stays a baby just for a while longer so I can enjoy her.
Toddlers, I am told, are hard work. I find mine a total delight. Sure, she gets upset when she doesn’t get to play with my new phone, and has the most amazing meltdowns when she’s tired. Yet they tend to be in the house. Today, for example, we braved IKEA just the two of us for an afternoon and we had such a blast. She is so well behaved, so cute and adorable and all things right in the world that I really do find it hard to understand why people have such a hard time. Not judging, not at all and I totally feel for the poor parent whose child is having a tantrum in aisle nine over being denied that bag of crisps!
It’s just every moment is so precious with her that I have to make the most of each one. I missed so much time before and, crucially, I don’t know how much time I will have left.
To be blunt, my daughter is the one thing that keeps me alive. I literally do live for her little beaming smile, the cuddles when she bops her head, the kisses she liberally bestows. She is sun, moon and stars to my husband and me.
I don’t want to look down from wherever I might be if I die that she doesn’t have her mummy to sing her songs (daddy is not allowed to sing – only mummy). I need to provide for her – I am the only one who can at the moment as my husband has been battling a stomach ulcer since January and is not fit to lift a tea towel let alone put in a full day’s work (an illness for which he lost his job, by the way). It is thanks to my salary that we have been able to move into a much nicer, larger apartment and away from the neighbours from hell who spun me into my last manic phase. It is thanks to my salary that my daughter has clothes on her back and that she can enjoy the benefits of a wonderful bilingual nursery. It’s thanks to my salary that our poor doggie was finally able to go to the vet and get the treatment he needed, not to mention some much overdue jabs.
I have no choice but to survive right now. I can’t die because both my daughter and my husband rely on me. And work is a literal battlefield.
I have a misogynist for a boss. I am not listened to, I have totally unreasonable demands made on my time. I am in a high-pressure, high-responsibility role and the only bonus is that I can come and go as I please to have nursery pickup and dropoff times catered to (a real plus) and that I can when necessary actually bring my daughter into work. Aside from that, I’m shouted at, belittled and made to feel less than worthless.
Being a mother, however, has hardened me in ways I didn’t realise possible. I have become a fighter with a rugged determination to succeed despite the odds. For my daughter, I want to make the world she inherits a better place. I will not be a victim, nor will I let my daughter see a victim, a beaten woman who can’t stand up for herself. I am determined that my daughter will learn that, although life throws you curveballs that you can’t believe are even fucking well possible in just how fucked up they are, you find the strength to overpower them, or just another route around the insurmountable obstacle.
She will learn that you don’t let people beat you down and you sure as shit don’t let such assholes win.
I want my baby to be as proud of me as I am of her. With that in mind, I should perhaps be grateful that my boss is such a twat. Instead of cowing me, it’s merely made me refocus on what is important in life. How can I live with bipolar, PTSD and be a mother that can damn well earn a living and not be dominated by her illness? There will be a way, and I will find one.
And in the meantime, there’s smiles and cuddles from my beautiful baby, an image I hold in her head with her laughter in my ears as I receive yet another onslaught. The anger simmers, and I focus it in the right direction, to ensure my daughter NEVER has to endure what I have had to, and what I must – for another year or so at least. I will try my best to survive, to ensure you know how to stand on your own two feet in a way Mummy never could.
Thank you, my beautiful daughter, for making Mummy the person she was meant to be. I may not change the entire world for you, but I can at least try and make a tiny corner a better place.