I was jealous of you.
When I saw you in the garage sanding down that old shelving unit, I felt jealous. I wanted to be the one gripping the old grainy wood and holding the rough sand paper. It looked liberating, you looked relaxed and happy and I felt trapped and unhappy, and that’s why I was jealous and consequently petty and prickly that evening.
It’s just that sometimes I feel like I’m disappearing in the haze somewhere between the washing machine drum and the toy box. I think I’m becoming invisible to myself, Dan. Since having the kids I’ve grown, shrunk, withered and grown back again and now I feel like I’m in the cacoon metamorphosing but I’ve not had the space to take a look at what I’m metamorphosing into. My identity’s changed and when I look in the mirror I’m not sure who’s looking back. I know you see me and love me, I really feel that, I also know the kids see me and love me in their screamy, shouty, demanding, cuddly way, but I don’t know me or love me anymore because I’m not sure who “me” is. I desperately want to get to know and like this new person that I have become but I need space and focus to do that and I think you’ll agree that our children are not conducive to “space and focus”, so I’d like the occasionally feeling of liberation too. Do you mind? No, you don’t because you’re lovely and you love me but you’re unaware of all of this because I don’t tell you. I haven’t breathed a word of it to you because I hoped that somehow you would psychically pick up the message and I wouldn’t have to say it out loud, but seeing that you’re not supernaturally gifted I guess I’m going to have to, but I don’t want to, because I feel guilty, like I’m doing something wrong by the children. I’m not quite ready to say it yet so bear with me a few more moments.
I hope you don’t feel this letter is about getting at you or blaming you. I don’t “blame you”, I love you but I don’t want to become resentful towards you because I’m wobbly under foot. You and I are brilliant together and I know we can make this work, so when I finally get to my point and you understand what all this is about can we have a conversation and make this work, please? I need solid ground again otherwise I might wane into dust that permanently sits on our TV screen and annoys everyone.
Do you ever feel like expended and trapped? Yes, I know you do. I see your handsome tired face every day when you walk in through the door and the limpets attach themselves to you after a day in which you’ve worked so hard and for so long and all you want to do is collapse on the sofa but you can’t because the limpets demand you. But do you ever relish the time at work when you are “Dan” and not “Dad”? Or do you miss being “Dad” and get fed up with the demands of being “Dan at work”? Or is it tiring being both? I expect it is, that’s why you sanded down the shelves and fixed them up to look amazing, wasn’t it. It was your time to be you and to switch off and I don’t ever want to take that away from you but equally I don’t want to be jealous of you.
Do you know Dan, the other day I tried to assemble the kids’ play tent and I couldn’t do it. The poles of the basic cube frame were disconnected and I couldn’t connect them back together, I couldn’t make head-nor-tail of it so I gave up and whacked a few towels over some chairs instead. The kids loved it but I didn’t because I couldn’t build the proper tent and that made me cross and angry with myself… and with you, and you weren’t even there! Ha! Sorry, don’t be upset, please let me explain… all my energy was gone and there was nothing left in my tired head to work out a basic thing, and that makes me feel stupid. I hate that. But even more I hated that I knew you could have done it easily, and in that moment a nugget of bitterness formed in my chest towards you because once upon a time I could have put it together easily too, but now only you seem to have the headspace to do it. I don’t want any more of those bitter nuggets because one day they’ll be too heavy to carry around.
I know you won’t question my love for the kids but I feel like I have to say it anyway – I love the children, so very, very much but something has shifted in my gut recently and I’m hungry to start learning again, growing as an individual. I need to start getting my energies from elsewhere so I can contribute more to the kitchen table, I want to be more than I am now, learn about myself, love myself and then flood that love back into our family. I’m out of water Dan, I don’t have the resources at the moment for a “love flood”, instead I’m shrinking into tired bitterness and jealousy and that’s ugly, I don’t want to have an ugly soul. So something needs to change and I’ve decided what that is, so finally I’m going to say it…
…I don’t want to be a fulltime mum anymore.
There, I said it. Already I feel guilty, I feel like I’m letting the kids down and being ungrateful for giving up the opportunity you gave to me, the opportunity many brilliant women have and are so incredibly amazing at and who turn it into something unspeakably marvellous – the opportunity many other women would love. Does that make me ungrateful? “No!” I can hear you say to me as you pull me in for a hug, because like me you know that lots of women don’t want to be a fulltime mum, they want a career, a job, an income and the independence that comes with that because it’s integral to the wonderful women and mother’s they are.
For a long time I have loved being a fulltime mum and not having to juggle a job and the kids, it felt good to be completely focused on the children and it’s been indescribably precious. But time has moved on and I’ve grown out of that now, I didn’t think I ever would, but I have and I feel ready to expand my focus and expand myself. I can feel it itching through the soles of my boots right up through to the split, frizzy ends of my hair – now is the time for me to step out and dig a path that is just for me, whether it’s to walk along it in quiet contemplation or skip down it backwards in my never-matching knickers and bra air-guitaring “Summer of 69”. Now is my time to go back out there into the big wide world again and get a job. If I have a job I can afford a spade. If I have a spade I can dig.
I know we can make this work because it’s you and me, we’re the Bewildereds, we can do most things without screwing it up too much along the way. This will work, it has to.
I love you. I love our kids. And now I’m ready to find me and love me.