Well, from the back of the room somewhere, I can just about hear a voice going, â€œSo what’s the big deal? It’s not like you’ve never done this before!â€ And that would be rather the point. We have never done this before. We did try to set up a nursery. I painted Peter Pan pictures, and we put up a hanging nappy bag and a travel cot. Mr Husband even put shelves up in an enclave in the wall. But it was hard to spot the baby stuff among the bookshelves, printer, desk and general office stuff.
I remember a speaker once saying that any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a Daddy.
I remember thinking that’s true.
And now I think there’s a missing second line to that:
Many a woman can be a mother, but it takes a special one to be a good mother.
Yeah, okay, I won’t win accolades, but it is true.
This has been a particularly trying week in our home, and my patience is running very, very short. The disturbed and broken sleep of the last three nights certainly doesn’t help, and the fact that our lives are up in the air, we’re living with friends and family, moving around to accommodate our need for accommodation without inconveniencing anyone else, and the fact that my hubby is working 12 hour days, all add up to me being â€“ well… not the best.
Being a mother isn’t that hard. Get pregnant, have a baby, get the baby to adulthood alive and with as little scarring as possible. But everything beyond that basic baseline instruction takes effort. Time, energy, motivation. Effort.
Of course it’s not always tough, and sometimes it’s downright fantastic, but even in the worst job you have good days. What differentiates motherhood from a ‘real job’ is that you don’t get to go home, you don’t get to take days off, and there’s no changing jobs to get away from a bad situation. Oh, and in a ‘real job’ you get to hand over to someone else when you need to.
As a mother, however, you’re on call all the time. Even ‘scheduled’ me time falls away when something else comes up. There’s no explaining ‘me time’ to a frantic, teething toddler.
Engaging young minds is hard work. Enthusiastic work. Energy consuming work. Whether you slept or not. Going on outings, for walks, teaching, drawing, singing, reading. Sleep is irrelevant. But keeping a child active and engaged is definitely the lesser evil â€“ a bored and frustrated toddler is just plain scary.
Not snapping and getting irritable at the ‘Mama, mama, mama, mama’ that follows you around the house, or currently for us, ‘up, up, up’ is really hard. Especially when you haven’t slept.
Being a mother might be the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It might be the thing that’s made me grow more than anything else, and it might be the biggest thing that I would never ‘undo’ given the chance, but being good at it… well… it’s undervalued.
If I put this much energy, effort, emotion, thought, passion, self and time into a ‘real job’, I’d own the company by now.
* We do still cosleep, but our unsettled lives, and teething, are making for an unsettled little one who wakes up moaning a lot. Added to which I’m under a lot of stress, which means I don’t sleep much or well when I do.
* I still breastfeed and for the first time ever, my nipples hurt. This makes me cranky and not feel like nursing. This makes Ameli cranky. Two crankies don’t make a happy. Or something like that.
Today I feel like a terrible mother. See, it’s the 1st of April, and tonight we fly back to England from South Africa. We’ve had six months where you’ve grown so attached to your Oupa and Nana, but mostly to your aunty Deshaine, and tonight we take you away from it all.
For myself, I’m excited to be going home, and back to the life we’ve forged for ourselves. I’m excited to have our family unit back, and I’m excited to resume our habits and ways. I’m sad about the people we’re leaving behind, and I’m gutted about our Kat, and the fact that I’ve not managed to find a home for this creature who appeared on our bed when we woke up one morning.
For you, however, I feel sick right into the very pit of my stomach. I know you’re a child, and I know you’ll adapt. But I am very scared. See, yesterday you and I were home alone for a couple of hours, and I was trying to finish up my work before we travel and go offline for a few days. You started calling â€œDee, Deeâ€ and when aunty Deshaine didn’t materialise, you started pulling on my hand.
Knowing she wasn’t here, I didn’t move, but eventually you had rivulets of tears running down your cheeks, and my sick feeling became panic. I got up and let you lead me where you wanted to go to look for her. We walked out through the glass doors, out the garden gate, through the little alley between the neighbour’s houses and as you rounded the corner and saw her car wasn’t there, looked up at me with such surprise, raised your hands in a question and said, â€œCar?â€.
I welled up. I didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t there, and you started sobbing and wandering around the complex looking for her car.
I have no words for how awful I felt. And still feel.
So tonight, we bundle you on a plane, and we say goodbye and we take you off to a life that you don’t remember, surrounded by people you don’t remember, and away from everyone you love.
I can’t help feel that we’re doing you a grave injustice. Yet, there are no alternatives. This is our life.
So, on Monday you will be 18 months old. You have a fantastic vocabulary. You tell us when you want something, and you definitely tell us when you don’t. You can communicate your needs and wants so well, I sometimes feel like we’re having a conversation, even though your words aren’t perfect yet.
You’ve lost so much of your baby fat over the last month, and shot up too. Dresses that were under your knees when we arrived here six months ago are now shirts, trousers are now capris, and I’m going to have to buy you a new wardrobe soon.
You’ve started drawing, and every discovery of a pen leads to a ‘draw’ exclamation. So far, however, your favourite thing to draw on is yourself. A couple of months ago you just held the pen and squiggled â€“ now you actually know what drawing is, although it’s still a squiggle. I’m really looking forward to getting into arts and crafts with you.
So, little girl. Herewith starts our next phase.
I have no idea what the future holds, or where it will lead us. I’m sorry for the pain, uncertainty, loneliness or longing that you’re about to experience. I’m not sure if you even know that that’s what they are, but baby girl, I am so sorry.
All my love,