No. 17 – Becoming a bit more ‘Tigger’

I am, naturally, a bit of an Eeyore. The glass is, more often than not, half empty, rather than half full. I like to look for problems that may occur with anything I’m doing, rather than just getting stuck in and seeing how things turn out. Fancy a picnic in the park? Hhhmmm, looks like it might rain. Shall we go out for tea? Well, the kids might kick off, or the baby might fall asleep on the way and it’ll be a nightmare come bedtime. That kind of thing.

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I am, naturally, a bit of an Eeyore

I often psyche myself out of doing things by deconstructing them in my mind beforehand, imagining what may go wrong, and building the original event up to be something way bigger and more scary than it needs to be. And then, most likely, I don’t end up doing it, but sit stewing about it at home. I find that it’s easy for me to get stuck in a bit of a mood funk, focussing on the negative in any situation, letting pessimism take over. So, can I learn anything from Eeyore’s mate, Tigger? That bouncing, exuberant, confident tiger who’s glass is overflowing, never mind half full. Can I retrain myself to start seeing those things that are getting me down differently, through his positive eyes?

Sleep – We don’t get a lot of it in our house. The baby wakes twice most nights, occasionally 3 times. The middle one is stuck in the habit of getting up at least once per night, for a wee, or because his covers have mysteriously fallen off his bed, and even the eldest is rarely up later than 6.30am. I’ve not had a full night’s sleep in close to a year, and haven’t had to set an alarm for almost 9 years.  Wow, this makes for depressing reading doesn’t it? Surely anyone would be a little bit down in the dumps with all that going on.

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I’ve not had a full night’s sleep in close to a year, and haven’t had to set an alarm for almost 9 years.

But, we are never late for anything. We can be ready to leave the house by 8am easily, and that’s after I’ve done a workout, we’ve all eaten breakfast, I’ve sorted all 3 boys and the random stuff they need for that day. I’m writing this on a Sunday, one which started at 5.40am.  Pretty standard. By 7.45am I was pegging a load of washing out on the line and thinking about starting to prep some vegetables for lunch. Whilst the rest of the world was still asleep. Our crazy early starts mean that we can sign the kids up for football and swimming lessons at the weekend that start at 9am, be done by 10am, and still have the time to get a long walk/bike ride/scooting session in before lunchtime.  With a day that starts so early, we have the time to do whatever we want, and still be home in time for tea. I’d do pretty much anything for a full night’s sleep though. Just saying.

Being a stay at home mum – Our household set up where my partner works full time and I stay at home was never a conscious decision for us, although I know it is for some families, and I’m not judging your decision at all – what works for some families won’t work for others. But we found ourselves in this situation by way of a sudden, unexpected fertility boost which resulted in our beautiful baby boy number 3. The logistics of potentially having two working parents and 3 kids all at different schools/nurseries, not to mention the cost of childcare and wrap around care, meant that our decision for me to stay at home and just be a mum was the only sensible one we could make, for now at least. I struggle with my new ‘role’ on an almost daily basis, and at times it gets me down. I feel weighed down and restricted by the responsibilities of being everything for the kids; cook, maid, homework supervisor, referee, you name it, that’s me. And my partner works long hours in a demanding corporate role, with regular nights away, so the huge bulk of the childcare and family admin falls on my shoulders. When I’m tired, (see above), I easily slip into shouty Mum mode, which I then feel guilty about and beat myself up over way too harshly.

But, being at home and getting so much time with the kids means that I get to see all the little things that their Dad misses whilst at work.  He’ll often comment that the baby has started doing something new whilst he’s been away, which in turn makes him feel guilty for missing the day to day developmental stuff. I was back at work for several days a week by this stage with the older two boys, so missed out a fair bit on them turning into toddlers and seeing their little personalities develop. Now I’m at home, I get to collect the older two from school and nursery at a leisurely pace, rather than dashing in after work, grabbing them, dashing home, shovelling tea down them and getting them into bed, with all of us getting frustrated and cross with each other.  We can stroll home, chatting about their day, make dinner and eat together, and still have time for playing before bath and bedtime. Sounds idyllic, right?

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We can stroll home, chatting about their day

Let’s be honest though…at least 50% of the time one of them is screaming at one of the others, or stamping around the house. They are typical siblings in that they can’t stand the sight of each other one minute and then want to be playing together 5 minutes later. We have lots of after school and nursery meltdowns; early wake ups and full on days make for grumpy boys come teatime! At those times, I find myself resenting my ‘stay at home’ status, and long to have time away where I can be something other than just a Mum trying to keep the peace and clinging on to my sanity by a thread. I guess that the Tigger viewpoint would be that the kids will remember that I was around when they were growing up, and that they’ll value the time we spent together. Even if I do regularly resort to threats and bribery, (essential parenting tools), as I attempt to keep them in line.

Busy days – Most evenings it gets to 7.30pm, the kids are in bed, and I collapse onto the settee wondering quite where the day has gone. If one word could sum up my days, it would be ‘busy’. From 6am until the smalls are in bed it is pretty much non-stop providing sustenance, hygiene and entertainment to my ungrateful bosses. I get a maximum of two hours of baby naptime in the day, and I try to cram eating and anything that needs two hands into those precious hours, whilst looking after the other two if they are home from school and nursery. My baby thinks I’m the most amazing person alive, obviously, which means he needs to touch me at all times when he’s awake, making doing stuff a mammoth task. I am pretty good at doing stuff one handed though – I can simultaneously make a phone call, empty the dishwasher and keep an eye on dinner in the oven, whilst balancing a clingy baby on my hip and debating the merits of Optimus Prime versus Bumblebee with my 4 year old. Multi-tasking at its best. Add to this the life admin of keeping the household running and it’s pretty much a full time role. Only without the pay. And no holidays. And very little kudos.

But ‘busy’ is definitely an Eeyore word, most often used negatively, said with a sigh and an eye roll and reciprocated with a knowing nod. Usually we are looking for sympathy when we bemoan how busy we are and how much boring, time consuming, adult stuff we have to do. And because everyone says that they are busy, if we don’t too, does that mean we are a lesser person? Is feeling busy so central to our being, and contagious somehow? I know that compared to say, a nurse, a policeman, or a teacher, my days may seem full of mundane unimportant tasks, but keeping on top of house stuff and kids stuff whilst trying to carve out moments here and there for keeping myself sane and having the occasional brew, is hard work. Bloody hard work, with very few moments where I don’t hear “Muuuuuummmmm….”

If asked, a person with a Tigger view on things would not grumble about being busy, but would say his days are ‘full’, with a satisfied grin across his face. A full day is a complete day, with no spaces left unfilled. Days jam packed with good things, hard work, leisure activities, family time, mealtimes, holidays, events to look forward to. Not having a free weekend for 2 months is brilliant – lots to experience, places to visit, people to see. Days that are full mean we have important tasks to carry out and people who rely on us. Even if those tasks mainly consist of nappy changing, snack providing and building and rebuilding towers of wooden blocks, and our taskmasters are mini slave drivers, demanding 100% dedication to servicing their every need. Just in my house, no?

Social life – Ha, what social life? It’s got so bad that I can count the number of nights out that I’ve had in the past year on one hand. Maybe even on two fingers. A combination of ‘still’ breastfeeding the baby, the tiredness that comes with having 3 rambunctious boys, and trying to coordinate schedules with friends means that nights out can take weeks, if not months, to plan. Winter time and dark evenings make it so much easier to hibernate indoors, with fleecy pyjamas on and red wine in hand, rather than having to go through the faff of sorting a babysitter, getting ready and actually going out! The longer it is since I’ve had a night out, the harder it seems for me to be able to get my arse in gear to organise one. I bemoan my lack of a social life, and how I feel chained to the house day and night, yet don’t actively do anything to change the situation. I assume that the baby will wake up as soon as I’ve left the house, or one of the older two will have a nightmare and we’ll have to rush home early. How very Eeyore of me! Seems I prefer to sit and feel sorry for myself, wallowing in gloomy self-pity about my lack of out-of-the-house-evening-fun, rather than attempting a night out and dealing with any fallout later.

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…dark evenings make it so much easier just to hibernate indoors, with fleecy pyjamas on and red wine in hand

But when a night out finally does happen, I appreciate and enjoy it all the more, because I know how much bloody hard work and arranging it has taken to actually leave the house. I’m the stereotypical Mum on a night out, going for it full pelt, encouraging everyone to start on the neat vodka by 8pm. 3 glasses down in the first hour, chatting rubbish to anybody who will listen, then heading home after a couple of hours feeling worse for wear, praying that the kids have a lie in. Which never happens. I can take a perverse joy in my inevitable hangover, because I know it’ll be months before I have another one quite so bad again. Imagine if every Sunday morning felt like this? No thank you! Tigger’s positive outlook on things might suggest that my lack of a social life is actually good for my health. Fewer brain cells pickled by wine, less chips eaten on the way home, fewer bumps and bruises all over my shins (where do the bruises come from after a night out?). Plus, I genuinely value every second of my time out of the house. It’s like I’m 18 again and going out drinking for the first (legal) time. No wonder that I go a little bit crazy and have no off switch once that first glass of wine is poured. I’m not sure I’d feel this way if nights out happened more frequently – If I could go out for the evening all the time, I’d soon be craving a cosy night in on the settee with Netflix and popcorn. You see, I am an Eeyore at heart really.

In conclusion, the feeling that springs to mind is that I am slowly learning to count my blessings. I really don’t like that phrase, however, as it suggests that being happy with your lot is more important than any desire to change or improve things. As if settling for the status quo is the only way to live. I’m definitely not suggesting that we should just accept those things which get us down as being part of our life. After all, nobody is happy with a life of getting little sleep, feeling busy all the time, with not much chance to let their hair down and go a bit wild. But, if we look at this another way, through Tigger’s positive eyes rather than Eeyore’s negative ones, it appears differently to us. Long days, packed with stuff to do, activities and fun with our loved ones, with occasional and very well-earned hedonistic nights out sounds like not a bad way to live at all!

Are you more Eeyore or Tigger in your outlook on life? Is your glass half full or half empty? Today I’m channelling Tigger, throwing caution to the wind, and heading out to the park after school pick up time, despite the fact that there are grey clouds in the sky, the baby is full of cold, and the 4 year old is on the cusp of an epic meltdown. What’s the worst that can happen? Plus, there’s always an ice cream van at the park, and ice cream makes everything better!

Follow me: Dippyeggplease on Instagram, @dippyeggplease on Facebook and Twitter

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