Motherhood is full of contradictions in the best of circumstances. These are not the best of circumstances. Motherhood during lockdown, in a global pandemic, has meant that more than ever we’ve had to be all of the things all of the time.
2020 has robbed us of our village, stripped away our routines and gifted us a whole range of new worries to add to the anxiety casserole we already haul around with us. I feel like a walking contradiction at the moment, I simultaneously feel one thing and its opposite, all of the time.
This year, we’ve spent months at home shielding our beautiful boy. Of course, there was never any question that we would do it- I honestly can’t think of a single thing I wouldn’t do to keep him safe. But that’s not to say it’s been easy. Life seems to be filled with more contradictions than ever. My days have never been so busy, and so empty. I’ve had months of loneliness; without ever really being alone. I’ve been frightened to go anywhere, but desperate to leave the house. And I spend the whole day needing some space from the people I never want to leave.
I flit wildly between pangs of true sadness that one day he won’t want to spend every second with me anymore and desperately wanting to be alone, at least for the duration of one peaceful wee. In one moment I can feel like I want to scoop him up into the tightest cuddle, and also that if I’m touched one more time today I’ll collapse into a pile of dust. All day my mind jumps, like a flea in a cattery, between knowing that I’m an excellent mother, and worrying that I’m doing everything wrong. Through our years of infertility and an IVF adventure, I longed for the day when I would finally be called Mummy. And yet, some days, once we pass the 1,000th “Mummmmyyyyyyyy!” mark, I think if I hear it once more I might combust.
I try to cherish every moment, as we are oft advised (warned?) to do, whilst also clock-watching like a hungry teenager in double Maths. It goes so fast, they say. So why has today been 73 hours long and it’s not even bathtime?
I’m constantly busy, but often very bored. And I feel guilty about it. It’s all very well people telling mums not to feel guilty, but I do. I feel guilty for not loving every minute, for finding the eternal Groundhog Day of lockdown really difficult and for the simmering resentment that I try hard to keep a lid on. People are complex. Motherhood is complex. Despite what Netflix and our friends’ Instagram highlight reels tell us, no mother is just one thing or another. We’re all doing our best to navigate the contradictions and raise children who are stuffed full of complexities of their own.
Recently I wrote a post on Instagram about boredom and loneliness and it seemed to resonate with lots of women- more than I expected. I found it very reassuring to know that I’m surrounded by mothers who are also straddling the divide between devotion to their children and desperation to reclaim their brains. I confessed (what a ridiculous choice of verb) that I miss working, I miss adult conversation and I miss engaging my brain.
I adore my boy, and I’m so grateful for the time I get to share with him- I know not everyone is so fortunate. And yet, the constant work of keeping him entertained, fed, safe, clean, happy and learning (not all at the same time, obvs.) is exhausting. By the time he’s in bed, I can just about manage to eat and slump in front of the TV. Which is usually just fine with me, but to be honest I feel like my brain is melting and my personality is drifting away.
The response I got to that Instagram post showed me that lots of people are feeling the same. The balance for me, during these most ridiculous of times, has come from finding something to make myself happier, rather than finding yet another reason to berate myself for all the things I think I’m doing wrong. For me, that escape has always been writing and never more so than since I became a parent. I kept a book of writing throughout my pregnancy, through some very tricky times in hospital with our son and whenever I could steal a moment during lockdown. I’ve found it to be a powerful tool to process my emotions, to document our journey and to give me the creative outlet I need. I’m very keen to help other women to access the joy and catharsis that writing can bring to their own experiences of motherhood. So, I’ve decided to reignite my online creative writing course for mums. If there has ever been a period of our mothering history that needs documenting, it’s now.
If writing is your thing, or you’d like it to be, my Creative Writing for Creative Mothers course could be the thing that kicks your brain back into gear. I’ll guide you through the creation of a keepsake collection of writing about your experience of motherhood, and we cover poetry, memoirs, fiction and more. You don’t need any previous writing experience and it’s fun, I promise! By the end of the course, you’ll have a collection of writing to save for your children when they grow up, or just to capture the memories of this bizarre, ‘unprecedented’ time for yourself.
Once you’ve signed up, you have access to the whole course immediately. You can enjoy it at your own pace, anytime of day or night, with no need to be online at a particular time. Which is perfect if you’ve only got half an hour each evening before the Netflix withdrawal kicks in…
Follow Sarah on Instagram: @writesparks
Find out more about Sarah’s online course Creative Writing For Creative Mothers.