Today, on; The day in the life of a Mother, Jenny shares her story.
Before I had Isla, I had no idea that being a mother could invoke such a wide variation of, and such intense, emotions. As a mother, you don’t just feel a little bit this or a little bit that. Whatever feeling you experience at any given time will be amplified by the love you have for your child.
Simple things, such as waking Isla up early on a rainy November morning to get ready to face the twenty minute walk to school will make me feel guilty. Knowing that she’ll arrive at school cold and wet – although I am fully aware that this will bother me far more than it bothers her. Her asking me if she can walk with her friends will make me feel a sense of loss and pride in equal measure. Loss because the walk to school is just one more example of where I have become surplus to her requirements. Pride that she has reached a new milestone and that she feels confident enough to do this without me. I haven’t reached the point yet where I feel completely comfortable with her going to school without me, but I’ve been assured by friends and family that this day will probably come sooner than I think.
I’ve been lucky enough to work school hours throughout Isla’s childhood. I’ll meet her at home and she’ll relay stories to me of her day which will mostly consist of who fell out with who, who’s going out with who, and which child got sent out of the classroom completely unjustifiably. She’ll speak at the rate of about one word a minute whilst texting the very people she just spent all day with, dragging out the story with ‘ums’ or ‘errs’ to keep me there for when she’s ready to speak again after she’s finished texting. I’ll hear almost nothing of what work she did at school, and she’ll always sum it up with one word – ‘boring’. Frustration and gratitude take precedence at this point: frustration at the thought of all the chores lined up for me to do while she takes all afternoon just to tell me that she had pepperoni pizza for lunch; gratitude that we have so far managed to maintain a close relationship and that she feels she can talk to me in the first place.
Being a single mother, I have to do everything in the home; if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Every day I feel overwhelmed by the amount of work to do at home just to keep above board, and equally satisfied when it’s all done. Therefore, it is inevitable that guilt will also play a part: guilt at the knowledge that I am wasting valuable time on unavoidable chores which means I’m not spending time with Isla. As Isla is an only child, it falls on me to provide interaction and entertainment – which, as mentioned already, isn’t always feasible. Watching her on the sofa or in the garden, alone with no brothers or sisters to talk to or play with, sometimes brings me to the point where I could cry. I encourage her to have friends over as often as possible to keep her company but that isn’t enough to make me wonder what effect, if any, being an only child will have on Isla as an adult.
Sometimes she’ll arrange to meet friends at the local park just at the end of our road. This is just one example of how I feel that Isla is constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone. The walk there; crossing the busy road; the other kids she’s with – all of which makes me feel nervous. Always wondering if I’m making the right choices. If I don’t let her go, will she resent me? If I do let her go, will she be safe? And that right there is the biggest issue for me right now – letting her go. I don’t want to let her go. I don’t want her to grow up. But I know I have to.
Only after we’ve had dinner, I’ve washed up and baths or showers have been had do I feel like I really have the opportunity to sit down with Isla and talk with her. Feeling exhausted from the efforts of my own day, I’ll ask her questions to delve into greater detail of the day’s events whilst we flick through the TV channels trying to find something we both want to watch. She’ll show me pictures her friends have uploaded to their Instagram accounts or let me know how many ‘streaks’ she has on SnapChat, whilst I re-commence my ongoing internal debate about whether she should even have a phone in the first place. I’ve always said to Isla that I would much rather know about something, even if it’s something I’m not particularly happy with, than find about it. So whilst I might be feeling troubled at the knowledge of her having access to social media, and therefore the online world having access to her, I also feel comforted knowing that she is open with me.
At age eleven, bedtime is far less of an ordeal than it was even just a couple of years ago. However, I miss the days of reading a story and watching as Isla would go from excitement and joy to sleepy in a matter of minutes. The days of being needed to help her go to sleep are well and truly gone. I’ll return to the sofa in front of the television alone for an hour or so before going to bed myself.
But at least I can go to bed at night secure in the knowledge that Isla knows how much I love her. After all the emotional ups and downs of the day, the pushing of the boundaries, the shifting of the comfort zones, that is the one thing that will always remain steady.
Until next time,