Published September 1st 2011 – this was my contribution to the RUOK? Day Collective, which was the hard work of Gemma from My Big Nutshell and Madam Bipolar
I talk a lot about how I’m not a super mum. Chances are, no one actually thinks I am one. But I hear the term bandied around, and have been called a Super Mum a lot in the past year, by my family, by some friends, by nurses.
It’s very flattering.
It’s also terrifying.
The expectation is overwhelming.
And being branded a “Super Mum” only makes me feel more woeful about the mother I actually am.
When I think Super Mum, I think somebody who is organised, with a clean and orderly home. With time for her children, her family and her friends. With the head space not to be hiding in her pantry singing high pitched songs of: “You’re Driving Mummy Craaazzzzzzy” out the kitchen door. A mother who doesn’t want to run a mile from her children at least at some point every day.
Because honestly, that’s who I am. I am the mother who struggles. I am the mother who when her husband arrives home from work, it’s always too late even if he’s an hour early. I am the mother who thrusts her children at their father and says: “Here, you deal with it.”
I am the mother who changes so many nappies in a day that she has the stink of digested tuna constantly in her nostrils. Who always has someone waiting to be attended to. Who listens to crying at many points throughout the day because I have three children with similar yet different needs and I can’t help them all at the same time.
I am always having to make choices. Assessments. Who is the most upset? Who is the most hysterical? Who will cope best when I walk away with the other child? Who will wait the most patiently? Who will stop crying the fastest? Who needs a hug the most? Who is hurt more? Who is more hungry? Who needs their bum changed first? Over and over and over again, my day is having to make these decisions and they are upsetting to have to make.
I am the mother who chooses to put her children in the pram and walk. Anywhere. To see anyone. Because one more moment in the house that will not clean itself, nor stay clean, is actually going to send me over the edge.
And the truth is, I feel always on edge. Always about to fall.
But therein lies the rub.
I don’t fall. I inch back from the edge every time. I crawl backwards and take stock and know and love and cry at how lucky I am.
Even in the most harrowing moments of my journey as a mother, I have maintained that I am one of the lucky ones. Held onto my thankfulness and my gratefulness and found a silver lining in it all.
And because I hold on so tightly in my faith that my life is good, I never do fall off the edge. Or jump willingly to my doom. And because I never hit rock bottom, I am “coping”.
Coping is a funny idea. ”How do you cope?” I am often asked. Well, it’s not really my decision. Time passes and I have no control over that. So I keep going. I put one step in front of the other. Put one load of washing out after another. Give Oscar his ventolin one puff after the other. Go to each appointment, one after the other. I cope.
And because I am coping, it is assumed that I don’t need support. I have help in the form of a Family Chain volunteer, our Marie, who helps with the washing. And yet I still struggle to stay on top of it.
I have my mother who helps in any way she can. And is now considering changing her life, putting her career to the test, completely rearranging her existence. To be near me. To be near my children. To help me.
Because, without asking, she looked at me (and my house) and knew the answer to the unspoken question: “Are You OK?”
My spoken answer would have been “Yes”. My eyes would have been screaming: “No!”. My house would have been pleading: “No way! You’ve seen the state of those floors, right?”.
So please. This 15th of September. In fact, no. ANY time. Please look at someone you love. Really look at them. Stop assuming. Look beneath the humour. Look beneath the calm façade. And ask. Out loud. With your eyes. With your actions.
Are you OK?
If you don’t know how, read this.
There are people in the world without a mother such as mine. Without best friends. Without a Marie. Without genuine community. Without genuine offers of help, support, love and coffee.
And they might to tell you that, right now, they are OK.
But can they promise they will be OK tomorrow?
If you feel you need to tell someone you aren’t OK, and you really want to, here are some numbers that might help you (that I totally lifted from Madam Bipolar’s brilliant blog):
Get Help Australia:
Suicide Call Back Service (National) – 1300 659 467
(Up to six 50-minute telephone counselling sessions for people who are suicidal, caring for someone who is suicidal or bereaved by suicide. 7 days a week 10am – 8:30pm.)Help/Information Lines* beyondblue info line (National) – 1300 22 4636
* Lifeline (National) – 13 11 14
* Just Ask Rural Mental Health Information & Referral Line (National) – 1300 13 11 14
* SANE Australia Helpline (National) – 1800 187 263
* Suicide Helpline (VIC) – 1300 651 251
* Mensline (National) – 1300 789 978
* Australian Psychological Society Referral Line (National) 1800 333 497
* Mental Health Information Service (NSW) – 1300 794 991
* Kids Helpline (National) – 1800 551 800