A change is as good as a rest?

I’ve never been good with change.

As kids we used to spend lots of time in Dorset with our cousins. On the morning we were due to leave I’d always have a secret cry in the toilet – I was one of the younger ones and knew crying was for babies, but I felt really sad. I was having a lovely time and it was all changing again. This is fairly dramatic given we went there every few weeks and would most definitely be returning, and I rather liked my own home and family. When my mum drove me to University for the first time I cried all the way there – I wanted to go, I was excited about going but couldn’t stop the tears.

I’m absolutely fine once I’m used to the new ‘normal’, it’s just the build-up and transition to new situations that I find really unsettling. So I probably should have guessed that Buster starting school last week was going to take a bit of getting used to.

I’ve seen people putting up their facebook pictures of their little darlings in pristine room-to-grow uniforms in previous years and thought ‘that’s nice’, but the volume and accompanying ‘I cried like a baby’ commentary all seemed a little over the top. Surely they’re inwardly rejoicing at some free childcare? And most kids love school once they’re settled so it’s a win win.

As usual I had it completely wrong. The build-up itself was pretty full on – sorting uniforms and childcare (shocker – the school day is a short day!) not to mention feeling like we should in some way mentally prepare our son. We had the added drama of not getting a school place at all initially, and some of the families at the new school we are now at will probably leave as soon as they move to the top of a waiting list which feels pretty unsettling.

So by the time last week came around I felt pretty spent. When things get too much I can go one of two ways – retreat and look after myself and know sleep will make it better or take on MORE and try to get everything done NOW and suddenly that lightbulb that has been out for three months needs replacing IMMEDIATELY. In the evenings I went in to manic mode; storming about the house, barking (actually barking) at Doug to help me with the seemingly endless list of things I needed to do; feeling angrier than usual at him for crimes such as leaving the kids pyjamas scattered around the living room and not taking out the goddam recycling. Then frantically googling savoury muffin recipes looking for portable, wholesome snacks I can feed Buster between picking him up and getting Mabel thus avoiding malnutrition.

When the third reminder from the opticians arrived I wanted to cry. Weirdly it’s the first time in a while I felt something a bit like when the kids were small – foggy and overwhelmed. And then I felt cross with myself because I know this is nothing. It’s a change in our routine and all part of growing up. The problem is, it’s impossible to have perspective all the time. Lack of sleep or hormones can lob perspective right out the window.

There’s also a bit of me that feels a failure, when it feels like other kids are running in without a backward glance and my kid is clinging on to me, legs and arms wrapped around my body like a koala.

Buster’s first day was a TRIUMPH, he practically skipped in through the gate. Second day, see aforementioned koala grip. It was hard to know what to do – peeling them off and handing them over to a stranger who I know will become familiar but isn’t yet. Most of us are being thrown together with lots of new parents too, so it’s like starting again and worrying about being judged, even though if roles were reversed we’d only feel empathy for another parent having a hard time. I sat in my car weeping after a bad drop off and someone I’d just met came and tapped on the window and gave me a hug.

I think the difficulty is that mums feel change in their kids so very personally. Have they eaten enough? Are they happy? Am I damaging them with the choices I’m making? When my kids wake up early as well as feeling gutted not to get more sleep myself, I immediately feel anxious as I know they’ll be tired later and I feel overwhelmingly responsible for ensuring they get enough sleep. I don’t think Dad’s feel it so personally, which is perhaps why I felt so annoyed last week – it felt like Doug was swanning about all calm and taking it in his stride while I flailed about feeling out of my depth and wandering if the other parents thought I was useless. Despite growling at him for his oblivion of the admin taking place behind the scenes with name tags and the like, I probably wish I could react to these things like he does.

I’ve spoken to friends over the last week and nearly all the kids just starting school are having some sort of reaction – whether or not they’re wailing at the gates, there’s night-time bed-wetting, lots of crying, and/or angry outbursts that are interestingly mostly aimed at mum. (Seriously kids, we GREW you. Give us a break!). I also know a number of mums who are punishing themselves about not being there for every drop off or pick up. Ladies – unless you’re on a chaise longue being fed grapes bellowing ‘fetch my kids wench’ at someone else, I’m pretty sure you’re doing what you need to do. We need to give ourselves a break.

Is this you?
Is this you?

Buster flits between being a dream (my loving, funny, dancing boy) to growling at me (I’ve no idea where he gets it from…) and looking very hurt at the whole situation. I know he’s confused, and I also know it won’t last because I’m learning that this is motherhood – each new phase is a challenge and can feel insurmountable and then you settle in to it and before you know it, it’s just part of life for all of you; feeding, weaning, nursery, potty-training…and now school. We’ve handled a new phase before and we will handle one again.

So you see, I think we’re all going to be ok. Soon this will become our new normal and we’ll forget what all the fuss was about. In the meantime rather than fight it I say we’ve earned the right to weep in cars/streets/strangers arms while we all adjust.

If you need me I’ll be cranking on a power ballad and letting it all out.

Images: news.stv.tv; chuckman1920sarcadecardbeauties.wordpress.com

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14 thoughts on “A change is as good as a rest?

  1. Sally says:

    All I can say is thank you. I feel like it was me that wrote the article as I could relate to it 100%. My son is exactly the same and clings to me in every social situation where it seems like all the other kids around him are happy to run off and have fun. I am so worried about him missing out in life as he seems too scared to give things a try however much I try and encourage him and then I beat myself up for days afterwards for getting frustrated with him for not trying. You are so right that we feel what our children are going through a lot more than our partners and I am so envious of my husband for not ever getting wound up or anxious about it as it just feels like another failure on my personality. Sorry I’m ranting. It’s not been a good day after another failed social situation and first day at school tomorrow. My best friend forwarded me your article and it made me cry with relief I’m not the only one feeling like this. Thank you thank you thank you. Keep on writing amazing articles like this. They really really do make a difference.

  2. jude says:

    Aw, honey, it is SUCH an emotional time. I remember feeling like it was ME starting school all over again in the playground. There’s so much resting on it going well and then you’ve got all these cliques in the playground and all the school gate politics to deal with. Yuck. It feels AWFUL to leave a child who doesn’t want to be left, but as you said soon this will be your new normal and he’ll love it! x

  3. Helen says:

    Brilliant article! Steph it feels like you have taken my recent thoughts, feelings and actions and expressed them far more eloquently than I ever could. This made me laugh in recognition and gave comfort that there are many of us all feeling, worrying and behaving in the same way. The “new normal” is mine and my friend’s favourite term for rationalising and getting comfortable with the non-stop change that accompanies having little people, it seems to help to acknowledge that whatever is currently unsettling will soon feel normal.

    I hope that you and Buster are both settling into the new routine xxx

    • Steph says:

      Definitely – sounds like you and your friends have it right. The fear of all the change is usually worse than the actual phase itself…kind of?! And thank you – today was a good drop off so I’ll hold on to that for now! x

  4. Suzanne says:

    This resonated with me on so many levels Steph. I’m such a capable person in most of life but when change occurs, it hits me like a ton of bricks! These feelings that you describe seem to be hitting me again and again and each time that little bit harder. I don’t think I will ever get used to it but that’s ok. The feelings and the new life settles down eventually and we get into a new routine. You will too. Such a lovely honest post and I truly LOVE the idea of being fed grapes whilst draped over a chaise longue!

    • Steph says:

      I think we might be quite similar in some ways Suzanne. I agree – as I’m understanding that this is how I am with change and that new phases are always a bit of a struggle at first, I know easier to see it’s just short-term and not allow myself to totally sink! You totally belong on a chaise longue BTW. x

  5. Sarah (@tamingtwins) says:

    Oh love I’m so sorry it’s been such a difficult time. For years I’ve looked at those photos and thought just the same as you “aww how sweet but geez, bit OTT” Now I think “oh my sweet lord that will be us next year SOB SOB” hang in there, everyone else is furiously paddling below the surface too. I’m sure you’re doing a grand job xxx

    • Steph says:

      Thanks lovely Sarah – it was only when I stopped to write this I realised that I’d found it so hard, but also that we now KNOW all these things are a phase so you don’t dwell in it for as long as when they’re teeny. I shall send you gin when the time comes xx

  6. Hannah says:

    Thank you Steph for such an honest open post! I’ve cried reading it. I too have struggled more than I anticipated with this whole school thing, all I have thought of the past year is yippee cheaper childcare and how cute he will be in a uniform! Shallow yes! I never expected to feel this emotional about the whole thing, especially about me not being there to pick him up 3/5 days a week, it’s really got to me I won’t be there for him and it’s made me question my career and job. How lovely of the mum that gave you a squeeze! Love Xxx

    • Steph says:

      So many of us aren’t able to do it though, so you’re definitely definitely not on your own. It was one of the reasons I started a business, but I think it’s a struggle whatever you do – I’m going to have to make use of after school clubs and breakfast clubs. It’s going to get easier once we’re all used to it. It WILL be ok! xx

  7. Complicated Gorgeousness says:

    Ah it is a horrible transition when they start school and when they realise it is not just for one day it gets worse. There is lovely reception things to come though and I am excited for you experiencing it for the first time. And I am glad he has an actual school ;). If you need me I’ll be lounging on that couch thing. Hang on in there xx

  8. Libby Price says:

    I have just realised that the whole growling at the husband think and being slightly manic has totally been me for the last fortnight – talk about not being self aware!!
    Yay to the lovely new Mum who gave you a hug. I think quite often we’re thrown together with people where the only thing we have in common is that our kids are in the same academic year – but in amongst all of the others Mums, there are always some ‘keepers’.
    Lots of love to you all. xx

    • Steph says:

      I think she might like a gin too… Thanks Libby. The manic thing is SO ridiculous! I’m really pleasant to everyone else too. Poor bastard. x