Thursday, 27 July 2017

Extract from The Mum's Diary

This is a short story I've written which is part of a bigger story. All characters are fictitious but might bare resemblance with some people.

Day 1
It’s 1 a.m. The kids have been asleep for a long time now. I should be too. I’ve been trying. I told myself it’s time to go to bed too but it’s been more than 2 hours since. The house is quiet as usual. It is the time of the day/night that I used to enjoy; the few hours where there’s no shouting, no fighting, no rush, no homework, no chores, the house is clean and quiet and when I could enjoy the sweet silence.

The same silence now that I dread; I wish it wasn’t night, I wish they didn’t have to go to sleep, I want to hear the shouts, the fights, the arguments. The silence is starting get eerie, it’s the sort of loud silence that you can hear even when there’s nothing to hear. 
I try to read a book, get past the first few lines and decided it wasn’t doing any good; I don’t care about whether the character wants to move somewhere else because the grass is greener. She’ll eventually figure out it’s not as green as she thought, then reality will hit her and throw her down once again, and she will have to start all over again and it won’t be heading anywhere as usual and if it does, it’s all fantasy as in real life nothing as such happens.

Anyway, the book was a bad idea to start with; so I move on to look for a good film to watch, nothing is good enough - there’s not a good horror, not a good thriller, I don’t like fantasy, the romcoms make me sick, the chickflicks are fake, just absolutely nothing interesting. Maybe I should go back to watching ‘Women who kill’ I thought, I used to enjoy that. So, instead I try to find a film that I used to enjoy before, put it on, but I already know all the scenes and even though I watched this a million times before and loved it, now it seems boring and I fast forward most of it. 

So far, it’s only 2 a.m. Nothing much has changed. So I get up and decide to pray a bit more, maybe God will listen to my prayers and bring some meaning to life. So I pray, and pray and pray. It’s only 3 a.m now. I’m tired of praying. I’m not sure if it’s just a physical tiredness or there’s more to it. But who cares!

I crawl back into my bed, the same bad I’ve been spending days and nights on that badly needs to be sorted, the bedding needs to be changed , there are creases all over, but I don’t care anymore; that just means additional work: more washing, more tidying up, more getting stress over why this side of the bedsheet is not being tucked properly and why it’s longer than the other side. I don’t want to do it, I refuse to contemplate about beddings and bedsheets.

It’s 4 a.m. now. I hear a muffled noise, it’s my own. How long have I been sniffling? I have no idea - time and day doesn’t matter anymore. We are passed that stage. Actually I don’t even remember what day it is anymore. I’ve started to wear my watch 24/7 so I do not lose the notion of time as well. I forgot too many times in the past few days what day and time it was - I was doing the wrong thing at the wrong time; I forgot it was time to pick up for school, I forgot it was swimming day for the kids, I forgot I had an appointment - forgetting seems to be the new black! I want to remember the little things that needs doing, not the things I have been trying to forget. But the old memories are like a stubborn old man, they are not ready to leave to make place for the new ones. It’s like, they made it a point to block any new ones from entering their territory - they rule and they will carry on ruling.

So now it’s actually 5 a.m, a ray of hope - the day is about to start. I’ll be so busy that it wouldn’t matter anymore. I won’t have any time to ponder over my uselessness. Just another 1.5 hours, and the kids should be up and there should be enough noise and mess in the house; which I will hate but which I will also love. It’s like having a bitter-sweet relationship. I hate the mess, I hate the noise, but maybe that’s what keeps me sane and give my sleepy and inactive brain something useful to do.
Tick Tock Tick Tock. Just waiting for the little voices now - anytime it will be there!

Finally, they are awake, I can hear them talking about coming into my room and discussing if it’s a good idea or not. They have to tread carefully at the moment, they have been walking on glass - any wrong movement from their side and they can end up in trouble even when they didn’t call for it.

A little knock on the door, ‘Can we come in?’ asked a little voice.

I have been waiting for this. ‘Yes’, I said but there was still no enthusiasm in my voice. Maybe I should fake it, and show them that I do want them around.

Kisses and cuddles, just what I needed and the little ‘I love yous’. There’s something magical about a child telling you they love you - because you know that they are the only people who really mean it. Kids are not scared to show their emotions, and being able to experience a child’s love is an amazing blessing that I should be thankful for. But I’m not.  I’m just an ungrateful being who can only see the negatives in everything. 

So they hop into the bed and start to fight about wanting me to be right by their side or which side of the bed I should be facing. Now, I’ve had enough. I don’t even want them in the room anymore. It’s getting too loud and I’m missing the silence of the night. So I shoo them off to their room telling them I’ve had enough of them arguing over everything and to leave me alone! 

Alone! - a word that means nothing yet everything.

The morning has started, so I will keep busy, there’s breakfast time, washing, getting ready etc. There’s no time to waste. We have to get there on time. We need to rush through everything even though we are actually early. I’m just looking for a reason to shout at them now. Why are your shoes still not on? Where’s your hair clip? Any excuse is good for me to have a go at them at this point. 

‘I’ve told you to get your school bag, didn’t I?’ I shouted
‘But you never took it out of the car!’ the older child says.

Indeed I haven’t. When was the last time I actually did some work with her or listen to her reading books? I couldn’t remember - all I know is it’s been a while. What do I even do when I’m home? 

I’ve told her to read a book to her younger sibling everyday and she does - so I don’t even need to keep an eye on her reading. All I have to do is make sure the are fed, they quite like cereals anyway so that does the job some days. But I’ve been trying lately to cook different dishes, to re-invent myself - maybe If I make good enough food, it will turn into some sort of hobby and skill. But other days, I can’t be bothered to even get the cereal box out.

So I drop them off to school. The rest of the day is easy, being spent between doing some actual work and staring at the ceiling. Maybe I should do something interesting, like go running - but it’s raining as usual. How about making new furniture with the pallets - this is something I enjoyed before, not a really good idea since it’s raining outside and working inside means more mess and more cleaning.

It’s almost pick up from school time, but I forgot cos I was too busy staring at an empty ceiling, so now i’m running late. But I end up there just a few minutes later.

So we set off for home. 
‘Where are you going?’ asks the children.
‘Home, where else?’ I replied. 
‘But it’s Wednesday today.’ says the older one.
‘Damn it! I forgot again!’

So a quick U-turn, one of many nowadays and back to where I should be heading.

Finally home and dinner time. I dish the food - I sit down and eat with them, they are busy telling the things that they did today and I have no idea what they are talking about- it seems like they are so far away , all I can see is their mouths moving but no sound coming out.

‘Is that right mummy?’ the little one asks.
‘What is right?’ I ask.

So she starts all over again, and I still can’t hear it. I’m gone now, I’m very far in my mind.

‘Is it right?’ she asks again. ‘Mummy!’ now she is getting annoyed.
‘Yes, it’s right,’ I say. I don’t really care, it probably is wrong but who cares what’s right or wrong. They’ll figure out as they grow up. I am not always right and I don’t know everything so whatever answer I give yes or no it wouldn’t make a difference to them.

‘You said we can have ice-cream today.’ says the older one.
‘Did I?’ I try to remember but it’s pointless, I can’t remember most conversation nowadays cos I’m not even participating in them.

Anyway, they can have ice-cream if that makes them happy and they don’t expect anything else from me.

‘Can we watch something?’ they ask.

Of course they can, that’s what they have been doing every day now - wasting their time watching useless stuff cos I can’t be arsed to acknowledge their presence, I might as well buy a TV and a tablet like all those parent who use them as babysitters!

So they watch until it’s bed time. But I want to do something different today, so I choose a film we can all watch together - I’ve been told it’s a good film. It’s about this little girl that is super intelligent and is being raised by her uncle after her mum passed away. Something which according my twisted mind is suitable for little kids to watch. But I forgot how sensitive my eldest is, she’ll cry at anything even a cartoon - so there she was in tears when the girl gets taken away and put in a foster family. So I cry along with her - not sure what i’m crying for. Maybe I’m sad for my child, maybe I’m sad for the little girl in the film, maybe i’m sad for the uncle for losing his ‘daughter’, maybe I’m sad because I just happened to be a sad person. I’m not sure but it felt good to hug her and cry.

So it gets to bed time again and the eerie silent night starts all over again.

Day 2 
Repeat of Day 1

Days 3 
Repeat of Day 1

And so on

The end.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Single mums battling stress and depression

I have never met any single mum who hasn’t had to battle with depression at one point or another in life. It’s a free gift that comes along with single parenthood. This is not my story but the story of single parents in general and of a lot of other categories of people.

As single parents, we have become accustomed to solely rely on ourselves, partly due to having been let down and partly due to pride. It’s having this constant pressure to prove to ourselves rather than others that we do not need anyone and we are more than capable to do everything by ourselves; that we have everything under control and all is well.

Let’s be honest, nobody has all their shit together, we try our best, but we are bound to fail at times or the other. We know it, and we understand it. We know we have good days and bad days like other people, but sometimes the bad can be overwhelming, it can makes us feel like we are failing in every aspect of life. We know in reality it’s not true. We know that we are not complete failures but unfortunately we have set high standards for ourselves, standard which when we fail to meet at times can feel like having devastating effects on ourselves ad those around us, in particular the people we love and care about the most, mainly our children.

Everyone deal with problems differently, some withdraw as a mean to find strength within, some are able to ask for help and find support in others. We are all different, and our reaction to stress tends to be different depending on our personality and experience. Dealing with stress is not the main issue, it’s when this stress take over your life, in particular your family life. 

From observing and discussing with single mums, I realised  a lot of suffer find comfort to suffer in silence as we are not used to asking for help or relying on others; when we find ourselves in a place where support is offered, we start to have doubts whether it’s genuine, it’s a show or it’s pity.

One thing we really have a hard time to accept is the fact that often we are made to feel consciously or unconsciously as this pitiful creature, with a ‘horrific’ past that needs to be saved and supported because life has been too hard on us. We are not looking for pity and the last thing you can offer us is this ‘I feel so sorry for you’. We do not need that, we’ve made it without you feeling sorry for us, we would rather you just offer us your companionship than support; we are more than capable of supporting ourselves and we have done a good job so far without your pity. Sometimes, all we need is knowing we can talk to you about anything, without you throwing your sympathy in our face. 

We are the role models for our children, and when things start to go haywire, our first reaction is how are the kids processing it. For example, when we are dealing with stress or depression, we might have the best of everything in life, yet it feels like we have achieved nothing-  our children may be doing everything in the world that makes us prude of them, and we genuinely are but somewhere in our mind, we have a battle going on about the other things we are not able to give them; those little pleasures they are seeking, when are unable to provide it make us feel like failures.

One of my friends kids have recently started asking a lot of questions about their absent father. This can be quite stressful if you do not hold the answers to certain question, especially as she explained that her children were now trying to find father figures in other people; linking her to men they think will make their family complete, and even asking people to marry their mum. As a single mum myself, I can understand how frustrating that is, it adds pressure on her to find someone to give her children a ‘normal’ family life - something she knows she cannot do by herself - she would never be able to fit in the shoes of a father no matter how hard she tries. She is bound to fail in this area. Moreover, marrying single mums is another subject in itself- how many men are actually whole-heartedly ready to step up and foot the bill of a ready-made family? Little things like that, which is not in our control can add on to the already ongoing emotional, physical and financial pressure we face on a daily basis.

I wish we could have a support system in place for Muslim single mums, where some of the pressure can be taken off them. Certain things are not always practical, such as going for counselling, it’s additional pressure, who looks after the kids when you go? Or suggestions such as go to the gym, really? when does she get to do that unless she can afford to pay for the creche.  It’s easy to tell her make me time for yourself, but how is she supposed to do that? Only other single parents understand this and unfortunately the pressure is so high on each of them that at times it becomes difficult to support each other.

I cannot offer any practical advice to any single mum in that position but I’d just like to remind you, you have been there before, many a times and you will be here again many a times - just remember that whatever you are doing, someone else is completely relying on you and you need to be physically and emotionally available and strong for them.