Going on a mama sabbatical and why naked, wild swimming made me cry...

Going on a mama sabbatical and why naked, wild swimming made me cry...

And this, I learnt, is what being wild means. Not just the outdoor camping, the cooking on an open fire and the lack of electricity but the unfurling of the constrictions that we unknowingly place upon ourselves. Being wild means peeling back the layers of conditioning, being untamed, unfettered and giving yourself the permission to be messy rather than permanently nice, neat, kind, happy, caring, good and flexible. It means trusting that what you are feeling IS who you truly are and that you don't in fact need to fit in. In essence, being wild means revelling in the freedom to be yourself. 

Duties versus needs? Welcome to mama guilt!

Duties versus needs? Welcome to mama guilt!

Today I'm feeling guilty. That special kind of guilty that only mamas feel. The kind that implies that you are not doing what you should be doing, that you are putting yourself first before the kids, that the kids are your duty and therefore somehow you have failed and above all, that you are selfish. 

Moody people-pleaser or affectionate bad loser?

Moody people-pleaser or affectionate bad loser?

If you have more than one child, you are probably already aware of the birth order theory which expounds that one's place in the family is just as important as one's genetic blueprint. Experts seem to have a differing opinions on which birth place means what (if anything) but from my informal, playground straw polls, it seems that the real experts - us mamas - have got it nailed. Because we are the ones for whom the very worst behaviour is saved, remember?

The bottom line is that all children want attention from their parents. The more kids there are, the harder this is to grab and so the more inventive a child needs to be to succeed. 

This is how it plays out (at least in my family):

Why mamas who 'bounce back' are doing more harm than good

Why mamas who 'bounce back' are doing more harm than good

We ALL remember what it is like to give birth. How can we forget? It is gruesome. Or at least, it is most probably the most demanding, physical act that you will ever accomplish. It is not, in any way, pretty, groomed or neat and tidy: your body is a mess; the baby comes out in a mess; you make a mess. The whole thing is MESSY.

You have kids? Welcome to second-class citizenship!

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One of the major downsides of having kids, is that their needs take priority over yours. They can't not attend school because I am feeling rough. Because having them around all day would make me feel even more rough. So I have to spend the teeny tiny amount of energy that I have left to cycle our wendy-house-on-wheels-that-cost-as-much-as-a-small-car (being slightly Eurotrash as well as slightly Eco, we ride a Danish-style cargo bike), in the howling wind and driving rain to both drop the little darlings off as well as to pick them up.

Don’t worry about the kids, they’re just fine – they are under cover, in the warmth, having fun singing carols. I however, am on the outside of the cover, (looking like a total geek in my really unattractive waterproofs) using all of my remaining pedal power to get us there. And it’s not that far. But they are big kids. And given that we live on top of the one and only hill in the whole of Cambridge (and for the flat-as-a-pancake-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see Fens where we live, that is quite something), this twice-daily outing pretty much takes me back to feeling as flu-ridden as I did before I cancelled all of my own personal plans in order to lie low and recover.

And repeat ad infinitum.

Which is why I have not been to yoga for a whole two weeks; which is why I have not gone for a run; which is why I've cancelled two pretty important social gatherings; which is why I’m ingesting as much turmeric as is humanly possible (even my teeth are going yellow).

Because I'm TRYING to get better. But the school run keeps on knocking me back. And I've been battling flu for nearly three weeks now.

And so I’m slowly going a little doolally. Partly because I hate not feeling great physically. And partly because I hate knowing that I am in this predicament DESPITE my multiple attempts to get better.

(Belting out six carols yesterday at the annual school Xmas service at the top of my voice probably didn't help either. And the fact that my voice gave out half way through the top notes of Hark the Herald probably explains why I’ve been on the cough sweets today).  But since this post is about how annoying it is that kids take over your life I won’t dwell on this nor on the on the fact that I am so fed up with not feeling myself that I keep comfort eating and drinking too much wine – neither of which sets you up well for getting the rest you need to recover at night).

All of which is pretty frustrating. Hence my ‘not amused’ photo face. Because, for those that don’t know me that well, I like to be in control.

But one of the many lessons that having kids offers you is that you are NOT and never will be in control. THEY are. They run the show: their emotions, their after-school activities, their physical needs, their mental welfare – all of it comes before yours.

Which I found very difficult to get my head round at first. But having three kids in three years kind of wears you down. And you have to surrender at some point otherwise you would go mad. But in my case, this is never without a little inner grudge holding. (I may have conceded power but the fact that I begrudge it must surely mean that I retain a little?)

But luckily for me, I’ve got a whole weekend of cargo-bike free time this weekend and I intend to use it well. It won’t be exactly restful – I’m returning to one of the sources of my journey into the sacred feminine for a course on leadership hosted by the incredible Jewels Wingfield.

But even if my mind is active, my body won’t be so that I hope to come back fighting fit AND even more geared up to host my new series of women’s circles starting this January – watch this space for more info. (If you would like to attend and haven’t yet signed up, let me know by replying to this email!)

And in the meantime, I’m sending love and strength to all of those parenting pioneers out there who are battling it out on the flu frontline. We will get through it. Hang on in there. It just might take 6 times as long as if we didn’t have kids…

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