March Madness (a.k.a More Weight…)

March was a maelstrom of bus accidents and celebration days and Omnishambles trying to set itself on fire.

If you’ve read the Traumatic Thursday and Gotcha Day posts I don’t need to go over them. March was mainly about planning. And disasters. And feeling utterly overwhelmed and exhausted.

Firstly: Planning.

Planning my re-mortgage application, (filling in endless forms and scanning paperwork), planning and booking a camping trip in the summer, planning and booking holiday camps for the kids (more planning than booking as I haven’t saved up enough money to book anything yet). And planning for our big trip to Australia!

I am making endless lists of who will be feeding the cats, and who needs to have keys, (and do I have enough keys or need to get extras cut?), and remember to turn the heating off completely while we’re away, and unplug everything, and water the plants, and thinking of things to bring on the plane to keep the kids busy, and snacks, and planning the actual holiday and who we’re going to see and what we’re going to do when we get there. And showing the girls YouTube videos of what it’s like to go on a plane to help them feel less worried about their first flight. And then turning off YouTube when it immediately goes on to show videos about plane crashes…

Secondly: Disasters

Out of the blue one day my gas hob started clicking and trying to self-ignite and blew all the fuses in the house (also apparently killed A’s little ipod nano and blew the bulb in my lamp and killed a few others things in the power surge). So one very expensive electrician call-out later, I was informed I needed to buy a new hob immediately as this one keeps trying to light itself for no good reason, and that I can’t use the hob OR the oven until the new one is installed as they are on the same fuse/circuit/something. So after taking out an emergency overdraft to pay for the new hob and paying extra to get it installed as fast as humanly possible I then had to plan a good 5 days of meals for me and the girls that didn’t involve using the oven or the hob (and before you suggest takeaway I refer you to the aforementioned emergency overdraft! Although I did end up caving and getting the girls a McDonald’s about 3 days in).

So we got creative with the microwave, toastie maker and my vast array of batch-cooked freezer meals. Plus my kind neighbour let me pop over and cook a load of rice and pasta at their house that we could reheat later…. And my very generous parents once again stepped in to help me clear the emergency overdraft as fast as humanly possible so I didn’t have to blow all the holiday and mortgage fee money on the new hob!

Then the new hob arrived and things got worse… (Omnishambles strikes again).

I have now accepted that I am clearly living in some sort of farce that is hilarious from the outside but less fun on the inside. If there is some sort of celestial architect overlord presiding over the lives of humans, I suspect it’s the Chuckle Brothers.

The nice men from Curry’s delivered my shiny new, very expensive hob.

But OF COURSE they couldn’t actually install it because it turns out the original hob was wired up illegally into the same circuit as the oven and they aren’t allowed to connect it like that, and there’s no other plug to attach it to.

So it turns out I need an electrician first to install a new plug socket in the correct place, and then they can come back and install the hob legally and safely.

But I only had 2 weeks to achieve these things before we go away on holiday so it’s very unlikely to be feasible.

They cheerfully asked if I’ll sign to take delivery of the shiny new expensive hob, which is now squatting smugly in it’s cardboard box in my dining room, of absolutely no use to anyone over there.

On the way out, he casually calls over his shoulder, “Oh and you knew you had a gas leak, right?”

No, Derek, I did not know that. Could you possibly elaborate a tiny bit more?

“Not to worry, you can’t smell any gas so you’ll be fine, no need to lose any sleep over it”

Well thank fuck for that Derek, I’ll take it off my ever-growing list of things I am losing sleep over….

Fuck my life.

March was busy at work trying to get everything wrapped up and handed over before I disappeared on leave for 3 weeks. Though I didn’t manage to get much work done as I’d hoped because I was spending so much time calling every electrician in the phone book to see if any of them could do a rush job etc. And then there were 2 lots of parent’s evenings to book in, and by the way it turns out A isn’t meeting her learning goals for the year because I’m not doing enough to support her at home, and then there’s more paperwork for the mortgage, and remembering to buy presents for S’s birthday before we leave, and flipping teacher’s strikes so trying to organise playdates for the kids so I could still go to work, and laundry and cat food and cleaning up the cat shit and 50 million other things overloading my brain.

And in amongst that we had a few grumpy weekends with tired and stroppy children (who are also stressed and worried about our upcoming holiday) and a REALLY tired and stroppy mama. After one particularly brutal weekend of getting yelled at by both girls pretty much for an entire weekend I basically just burst into tears and cried for about 48 hours. And no, I’m not sleeping so well these days, mostly just lying in bed at 3am thinking about what we need to pack, and do I need to order any prescriptions before we go, and are our visas still valid, and when the fuck am I supposed to find the time to teach A to read and swim and ride a bike, and holy shit did I forget to renew the house insurance or did I do it and forget I’d done it? And then waking up at 5am bleary-eyed and foggy-headed and very, very stressed.

I was exhausted and overwhelmed and suddenly there were too many balls in the air and I was dropping all of them at once and they were smacking me in the face on the way down. Last month I was feeling lonely and a bit isolated. This month I felt crushed under the weight of responsibility. Sometimes having to do literally everything all the time on your own is just so relentless and exhausting that it’s hard to keep going.

I’ve recently seen the play The Crucible (which was really excellent by the way), and I felt a lot like Giles Corey, being pressed under those huge stones, with the universe crying out “More Weight”.

Or to use another analogy, I was thinking to myself, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, keep your head above water, keep going, it’s just a load of laundry, you can find an electrician, you can think of more meals to make in the microwave, it’s just a bit of cat shit, you can look for a new deal on your home insurance and get it sorted out before it expires, she’ll learn to read eventually, you’ve got this” and then suddenly I looked back at the shore and realised I was too far out the whole time, not waving, but drowning.

It felt like if we ever actually made it on holiday we’d be exhausted, stressed out wrecks by the time we get there. And the thought of spending 24 trapped on a plane with two stressed out grumpy anxious children was making me feel physically ill. I was already so tired I could barely function and adding a 24-hour plane journey into the mix was daunting to say the least.

In the end I called in the cavalry and my mum came down to help us for a few days so I could get some proper rest and she could help shoulder a bit of the burden for a while. And it was wonderful. I hadn’t realised how badly I needed some help until I reached a point of total collapse, and suddenly having another grown up in the house who could take charge, and feed the children and take them to school and play wth them and help me clean up cat shit was AMAZING. I slept so well the first night, knowing I didn’t have to get up and do anything for once, and felt so rested. And it’s not just about having someone there to do the physical things like the washing up and the laundry, or find me some cheap quotes for insurance, but having another grown up here really lifted the emotional and mental load I was carrying, having someone there I could talk to, feeling less lonely and alone and overwhelmed.

We had a really lovely few days, the kids were on best behaviour because Grandma was there, and everyone relaxed a bit, and I felt rested and supported and able to cope once again. We finally found an electrician to come round to fix the plug situation, and the hob is due to be re-installed the day before we leave (fingers crossed!). I managed to find 2 actual friends who were free on Friday night and went to the pub and drank far too much wine while mum babysat, which was so much fun and much-needed. We had a lovely relaxed Mother’s day together, and the day after I drove my mum and my sister to my uncle’s funeral in Kent, which was sad but also lovely and a really nice memorial for him.

My mum also had a rather brilliant brainwave to help with S’s spiralling anxiety about the trip. Poor girl was getting so stressed and worked up about the holiday and meeting new people and the flight and everything (she’s never been on a plane before or left the country before, and has to meet all these new people at once), and her anxiety was causing a lot of fights and meltdowns all over the place. My mum suggested that if it was all too much for her, she just didn’t have to go. Mum said she would happily look after her over the holidays while me and A went on our own. It had genuinely never occurred to me to leave a child behind and half the reason we are going is because everyone wants to meet my new daughter, but actually if it was causing her that much stress, it isn’t worth it. So we floated the idea to S that if it was all too much she just doesn’t have to go. And suddenly, instead of being anxious and worried about the holiday, she was rather upset at the idea of being left out of all the fun we might have without her and did a complete 180 and started getting really excited about how fun it was going to be and how she didn’t want to miss out on that!

Now I’m on the final countdown of packing and organising and arranging cat feeding and I can’t wait to just get there and BE ON HOLIDAY! I am feeling reinvigorated and ready to tackle the loooooooong flight, and can’t wait to flop and do absolutely NOTHING when I get there apart from occasionally lift a cold glass of wine to my lips….

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