The week from hell

It has been a hell of a week, and not in a good way.

My daughter has been really unsettled by the move, and so dropping her off at nursery has led to hysterics and she clings to me screaming as the staff try to prise her off me.

It’s very distressing for all of us, and given all the upheaval of the move I decided she needed some extra reassurance so I asked nursery if I can come in for a little while in the mornings to settle her in (we are not normally allowed inside the nursery at all ever since Covid happened). They agreed, and I spent a lot of time convincing her that even though the house has changed, everything else is the same, and mummy will always be there no matter what, and I’ll still pick her up at the same time, etc etc.

On Friday last week I stayed with her for 30 mins, in the morning and she still screamed hysterically when I had to leave, but on Monday she was a bit calmer, still upset but not so much, so it was clearly working.

On Monday evening, something happened that I wasn’t expecting.

We used to walk to and from nursery, which was a nice bit of exercise and fresh air for me and only 15 mins each way. Now we have to go in the car as we are further away so the first week or so we were leaving early trying to suss out the traffic. It’s been mostly ok and usually takes around 15-20 mins in the car, so on Monday afternoon I left the house at 4.25pm and then got stuck in the most horrendous traffic imaginable.

I just sat there, not moving, for an hour.

I called the nursery at 5pm (when they usually close) to say I was stuck and would be there soon, and as the minutes ticked by I got more and more anxious and stressed out.

In the old days I could have nipped down about 3 different roads to go different ways, but they’ve installed LTNs (Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – aka massive wooden planters in the roads to stop people driving down residential streets) so every road was a dead end and there was literally nowhere to go.

By 5.30pm I was going out of my mind with stress – I was ready to abandon my car in the road and just run, because I couldn’t get to my baby, and she was sat there, all alone, scared and freaked out because after all the big changes MUMMY DIDN’T COME TO GET HER.

Honestly I was practically weeping with frustration.

I finally got there and literally ran across the park in a state. Another mum spotted me and called out “Why didn’t you call me?” and of course if I hadn’t been climbing up the walls with tension I might have thought of that. Next time I would ring round the mums who live near the park and ask someone to go and get her.

Tuesday morning the same thing happened again, it took us over an hour to get to nursery, the roads were solid and we didn’t arrive til 9.30am. I had an appointment at 10am I needed to get to, so couldn’t stay and settle her in, and so she once again screamed hysterically and had to be prised off me. I just couldn’t bear to leave her like that again so I offered to come back SUPER early as a compromise and have dinner with her at the nursery, at which the nursery manager looked at me sharply and reminded me not to promise things I can’t deliver on as it would only make it worse. I SWORE I would be there even if it meant leaving the house at 3pm to do it.

I felt horrible about it all and the guilt only added to the mounting tension. What with all the house disasters and the stress of the move I’ve been under so much pressure that it was starting to feel insurmountable and overwhelming.

I made it to my appointment with minutes to spare, and didn’t get home until 11am to start my working day. I sank into my desk, and stared blankly at all my emails and then burst into tears. I was only going to be able to get 4 hours work done before I would have to leave to keep my promise to my distraught daughter, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything work-related as I was mentally and emotionally exhausted.

So I did the only thing I could do and told my boss I wasn’t well and took the day off. If I’d had something physical like a headache or migraine or diarrhea or vomiting I wouldn’t have thought twice about taking some time off work to get well, but we just don’t seem to consider our mental health with the same level of seriousness. I knew I needed some time off to rest and recover and sort myself out, so I just did it.

There is a myth about working parents “doing it all” and I suddenly realised I wasn’t doing it all, I wasn’t even doing it half. I was flailing around, failing my daughter who needed me to be there for her, and spending every waking moment trying to speak to electricians, builders, plumbers, order light fittings or put up curtain rails, strip wallpaper and hold down a full time job, and something had to give.

I collapsed onto the sofa and napped intermittently between ordering curtain poles, and looking up taps, and then left at 3pm. I decided to walk to the nursery to be sure that nothing could stop me from getting there on time, and it was nice to get a bit of fresh air and blow the cobwebs away.

I realised part of the reason my daughter has been so stressed is because she feeds off my emotions, and I can’t calm her down when I’m in a near-constant state of panic. If I’m a mess, then she’s a mess. Kids are funny like that.

So for the rest of the week we left a bit earlier in the mornings to drop off on time, and I stayed to settle her, but she got a bit less clingy each day, and each afternoon I left the house at 4pm to walk down to pick her up and we get the bus back home. I’m sure I’ll regret it when winter kicks in and it’s wet and cold and grim, but for now it’s a nice 45min walk for me and the bus is enough of a novelty that the kid is happy so it works. I’ll need to do extra work in the evenings to make up for leaving earlier in the day, and it’ll make it harder to have calls with the Americas team due to the time difference, but at the moment if it helps my daughter settle then that’s what I need to do.

Obviously it has it’s downsides. We are not getting home until 6pm (we used to get home at 5.15pm) so now I don’t have enough time to cook dinner and eat before I do bath and bedtime, and by the time she’s asleep I’m ravenous so can’t wait long enough to cook something proper. Have been eating a LOT of junk this week to fill in the gaps and it’s not great, but we will work it all out eventually.

Of course sometime next year when I have my second kid it will all get more complicated when I have to factor in a school run to a school even further away but that’s next year’s problem. I did briefly think about moving my daughter to a nursery closer to our new house, but honestly I think it would take months to settle her with total strangers if it’s this hard to settle her with staff and kids she knows really well, and there’s no way any local nurseries would have a full-time slot available 5 days a week – they’ve all got long waiting lists! She’s going to have enough upheaval dealing with a new house and soon a new addition to the family so best to leave her at a nursery she knows and loves for now.

On Thursday the electricians finally showed up to start work, and a team of 3 started ripping up carpets and floorboards and drilling holes in the ceilings to re-wire various things and they found some even scarier things than the ones we knew about. The quote for the electrical work was originally £1500, but after they investigated all the oddities it swiftly doubled and then some (final quote was for £3300). It was painful but necessary, as we needed the house to be safe, so on they went.

Some of the plug sockets fell off the wall, some had wires wrapped in parcel tape behind the face plates, and the scariest one, behind my bed, right where I sleep, inside the face plate it was all brown and burned and melty where it had been burning away with an unearthed wire, overheating and moments away from an electrical fire….

So thankfully they fixed all that, as expensive as it was, I will sleep better knowing it’s all safe again. Then on Friday the guy finally showed up to fix my washing machine. He discovered the original pipes run uphill, hence the issue, and he did some clever pipe work to connect it to the sink drainage instead, but the machine won’t go back into the space, as the MDF wooden panels have swelled up where we had the flood, and it’s too small now, so he’ll have to come back next week and cut up the units to get it back in place.

They had to cut a hole in the unit at the back, as the previous owner had boxed in the water main behind the units so the isolation valve wasn’t accessible or visible to say, me, or a surveyor…

They took a picture of it and showed me what was worrying them….

The pipe is badly corroded and doesn’t have a stopcock – it appears to have broken off, so there is no way to turn off the mains water in the case of a leak or burst pipe.

The guy was concerned as given the state of it, it’s likely to blow at some point. When it does blow, the water will be pumping into our house at fairly high pressure, and will continue to flood the house until we can get hold of someone at Thames Water to come and turn off the mains water out in the street which definitely won’t be fast. However to fix the pipes they’ll need to rip out my kitchen, and he said they might be able to save the units but I’d need new counter tops and a new sink, and they’d have to smash through the floor tiles etc so it’s not going to be a cheap or easy fix.

I’m glad the electrics are fixed but now of course I know about the pipe and am going to be worried about when it’s going to blow, but it’s not something I can afford to fix right now. Luckily this is why I have home insurance so if it blows, it blows, and I’ll need to claim to replace some of my stuff. Stuff is just stuff, a flood would suck, but it’s not life-threatening, unlike my bed catching fire in the middle of the night while I sleep….

The good news is I now have lights that work, safe plug sockets, and a functioning washing machine – I have never been happier to do a squilliion loads of laundry in my life!

By Saturday we were in much better shape, with all the electrics fixed, washing machine going full speed, and i’ve got a builder booked in for October to fix all the broken windows and make sure we have radiators that work ready for winter etc.

On Sunday morning we had her swimming lesson. She’s only been going for a few weeks so it’s still quite new and she doesn’t know the teacher very well as it keeps changing. I usually go in the pool with her, but today the teacher was annoyed and told me to go and leave her, as she’d be fine and she clearly thought I was being a helicopter parent who just couldn’t let go.

I knew that it wasn’t going to work, especially after the week that we’ve had, but I am very bad at standing up to authority figures in the moment so I meekly ducked under the rope and swam around nearby. Within seconds my daughter was hysterical and distraught, refusing to go with the teacher and clinging to the side of the pool utterly terrified crying and screaming. I lasted about 3 mins before I came back under the rope and she clung to me for dear life while shrieking hysterically.

The swimming teacher looked at me with such disdain for caving in, and I didn’t have the energy to explain that my daughter is only 3, and she has been through a hell of a lot this week and she just needs her mummy not to abandon her anywhere else.

I told the teacher that I just don’t want her to be terrfied and refuse to go swimming at all (because she loves swimming) and she needs to take her time and get used to it all.

However getting glared at by the irate swimming teacher put me in a terrible mood and I then got annoyed with my daughter for not behaving and it all got a bit stressful. I drove us home in silence and needed a bit of time to decompress again once we got home. There is so much going on at the moment and it’s hard not to feel a failure constantly. I feel like I’m failing my daughter every time I walk away from her when she’s screaming and crying and devastated, and every time I lose my temper and yell at her, when I know she’s acting up because she’s terrified and scared and confused. I feel like a failure every time I have to call my family and ask to borrow yet more money to help me fix the disaster of a house I naively bought like an idiot. I feel like a failure when I barely get anything done at work because I’m exhausted and phoning it in.

It’s a lot to have sitting on your shoulders when you’re trying to hold it all together and still be a good parent, to work full time and do a good job, to fix all the things that are broken, to deal with the mountain of laundry that no-one else is going to magically do for you, to pay all the bills and get everything sorted out. Something’s gotta give, and usually it’s my sanity….

People often say things to me like “I just don’t know how you do it all on your own” and the truth is, mostly we bumble along and we manage, but sometimes we don’t. Sometimes it just all falls apart spectacularly and there’s nothing to do but sift through the rubble and cry.

It’s been a hell of a bad week and I am SO glad that it’s finally over.

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