On gratitude and the blues
This weekend, Chris and I both had to do a lot of work. This meant we didn’t have time to take the girls out to cinemas or swimming or to hang out in cafes and museums. They got their homework done, had their baths, got given breakfast, lunch and dinner and also had approximately 5 billion little curious questions answered. And then they read and tidied and watched a bit (not much more than normal, though) and played with each other and on their own. Mostly they didn’t try to tear each other’s heads off, and they definitely managed to restrain themselves from wrecking the house. Mostly they were happy and occupied and entertained.
And yet… I’ve been feeling grumpy and guilty and sad that we haven’t at least one of us been spending big chunks of fun time with them. I’ve felt resentful at the work (which is not anyone asking the impossible, but rather things suddenly colliding in the unplanned way that happens now and then – or a lot, really – in the publishing world). I’ve been frustrated that I haven’t been able to have my normal few hours of dedicated design time that I get at weekends. I have trained myself now to use design time and drawing and painting as my way of winding down from work and from parenting and any other responsibilities that happen to be throwing themselves at me in any particular week or on any particular day. So when anything cuts into that time, it hits harder than it might otherwise do.
So, I was feeling grumpier and grumpier throughout today and started to feel resentful about seeming to be the only person responding to the girls’ requests and demands (not true, but my grumpiness made it seem so). The crunch came when an earlier promise to have dinner made for me looked like it was to fall through. I stomped off to the shop to get the bits and pieces we needed – milk, bananas, creme fraiche. My mood lifted a little as I walked through the park, catching glimpses of snowdrops and crocuses, speckled with raindrops from the earlier shower, seeing patterns in the clouds and bare trees starting to show little green buds… At the shop, it occurred to me that the children had been remarkably good and well-behaved and kind, so I added pudding to the basket and then threw in a last-minute pair of Zomblings and packet of mini eggs (yes, that did entirely make up for no fun trips out – I know them well). And I may have added a bottle of wine for the grown-ups, too.
The walk home helped clear my mind a bit more, though the blues had not entirely lifted. I thought a lot about how our life before children was filled with work – we worked most weekends and most evenings (much less efficiently, somehow) and looked forward to bank holiday weekends because they meant we could get even more work done than usual with no phone calls or emails interrupting us. When I got home (after distributing my bounty) I cleaned the kitchen and remembered how much I actually enjoy doing that, when I have some peace and quiet and time to myself to think.
And then I thought about how ridiculous I was being and what a spoilt little brat, frankly. One weekend of working instead of spending fun time with the girls? One weekend of not getting 15 hours of designing in (and I did still manage to find an hour and a half to do some painting last night, and did a bit of sketching on my scrap paper)? One weekend where I had to stop work to make a few wraps or cups of juice? One weekend where I had to step away from the computer to brush conditioner-laden hair and pull a nit comb through it (all clear, still, hoorah!)? One weekend where we didn’t manage to hoover and clean the bathroom (OK, there are probably a few weekends where we don’t manage them!)?
One weekend not working out brilliantly, when so many people are working their weekend after also working their whole week. When so many people are having to go into work, while their kids go to grandparents or friends, because their zero-hour contract means they have to come in whenever they are told. When so many people are struggling to feed and clothe their children and certainly don’t get to make up for it by throwing Zomblings and sweets at them, or by sticking a £4.99 bottle of red in their shopping basket. When so many families are stuck in bedsits or even out in the cold, because they couldn’t afford the bedroom tax. Yeah, one weekend – or even a few – of having to fit in work, is really nothing to complain about.
I’m grateful for my two careers, for our established business and my burgeoning one, for our two healthy and bright and energetic and (mostly) happy daughters and our cuddly, and slightly deaf, dog, and the roof that doesn’t leak and belongs (mostly) to us and has many rooms under it, that are warm and dry and full of stuff and love, for our families close by and far away, for our excellent school staffed by wonderful teachers and support staff, only five minutes (or half an hour, depending on how many stones you’re picking up or walls you’re climbing) away, for our full fridge and working cooker and our internet access and many computers, phones and tablets, for the hundreds and thousands of books filling our house and the hundreds and thousands more just down the street and available for the grand total of absolutely nothing, for the doctor down the road and the chemist who give me statins and asthma medication for a teeny amount of money and the midwives and nurses who looked after me and the girls in their early hours, for the neurologist and the MRI machine and the nurses and their needles who will work out what is wrong with me, for the grand total of absolutely nothing, for the park only five minutes away and the other parks and fields and commons and woods so close by, for the town full of charity shops and cafes (and strangely lacking in men’s clothing stores) and brimming with artists and authors and poets and musicians and old friends and new ones. And for a tonne of other stuff, too.
So this week, the only blues I’m going to let in are the indigo paintings and patterns I’ll hopefully fit in if the other work calms down a bit. And even if I don’t have time for them? I’ll be fine 🙂