There are times when I love being a Mum. Then there are the times when I find it utterly soul destroying. I'm fairly sure that the highs and lows I feel as a parent are no different to the highs and lows I felt with my normal mood swings in my "former life". Sometimes these were hormonal, sometimes they were triggered by events, and it's no different now, although interestingly, in some respects, I find motherhood has actually evened my mood swings out a bit. Essentially, my mood now is mostly a kind of perma-knackered, so I don't have the time or energy to really reflect and feel melancholy in the way I did before Duckling, but then nor do I have the time and energy to really relish life either. When I do get a bit down though, it takes a lot less to tip me over into tears, because exhaustion means I'm usually quite close to them most of the time already.
The thing I find hardest is the total lack of a decent break. I've whinged a good few times on here about Drake being away all week, and how tough it is being a single Mum on weekdays (though I am acutely aware that it's nowhere near as tough as being a single Mum ALL the time). Sometimes I feel like my record on this matter is so broken it doesn't make any kind of meaningful, recognisable sounds any more. Nevertheless, the need for a break never goes away. Sometimes it's just a mild niggling itch in the background. Other times it's all I can do to stop myself screaming "I NEED A BREAK" at my fellow Sainsbury's shoppers before I drop to the floor and sob. This week, things have been in the latter category. Duckling's been ill again so I've spent a lot of time trying to work from home with him asleep on my lap / coughing his lungs up down the phone to my colleagues. Drake's been ill too and had to fly out at 4.30 am this morning (Sunday) because his project is going live. Essentially therefore, I had a couple of hours on Friday night off (I went out with friends and it was amazing, though Duckling was already screaming for me by the time I returned and then wouldn't go back to sleep), and a few loo trips and a shower on Saturday when I wasn't directly responsible for Duckling (Drake was packing and ironing and sorting car rentals and flights and doing the washing that I seem incapable of finding the time for, and watching football, and pissing about on his iPhone for whole strings of minutes at a time) and that was it. No more respite / sharing the load (bar the time I'm in work) now until next weekend. And now I'm ill too.
Boo hoo hoo, poor me, I want to cry in a sarcastic snarl. I really don't know how lucky I am, do I, with my beautiful son and caring husband and a nice house and a nice life. And it's true. I am lucky and I have no right to complain. That doesn't mean I'm not going to though, because I am still completely, bone achingly knackered. Duckling has not slept through the night, 7 pm to 7 am, ONCE since birth (5 am is the closest we've come). We're not talking one wake up a night. We're talking minimum three if made to stay in his cot all night, and that's if we can actually get him to go back to sleep, which is mostly an impossibility after wake up no. 2. Co-sleeping thus remains a necessity - easier than constantly leaping out of bed, but still less than comfortable or conducive to a decent night's sleep. I'm not going to go into a rant again about sleep training and how totally bloody ineffective it is as a long-term measure for instilling good sleep habits (the slightest cold or teething issues and we're back to square one, time and time again). I have largely just accepted that Duckling is just not a sleepy baby, and we'll just have to wait for him to sleep through in his own time, probably when I pluck up the courage to survive the screaming that will come with total breastfeeding withdrawal. Sometimes though, when I think about the fact that I haven't had a single full night's sleep since I was about 6 months' pregnant (so, December 2013 - nearly two years ago), I want to weep. Going out with my three friends on Friday, who all have younger babies, and were all shocked that Duckling still doesn't sleep through, rather rubbed this in.
Lack of sleep, lack of a break and illness are pretty much the triumvirate when it comes to parental burn out, and I am definitely in that zone today. Right now, I would give anything for someone to say "we're going to clone you, and let your clone look after your son for 24 hours while you sleep, have a bath, go for a run and watch a couple of box sets." Because that is the only possible scenario in which I know I could actually relax. And herein lies the root of why I feel so stressed right now. With Duckling under the weather, he is ultra, ultra clingy at the moment, so nobody - not Drake, not my Mum, not his childminder - will do except me. He may tolerate them for a few minutes, maybe even an hour or two if I'm not in easy reach, but that's it. After that, he just wants me. And that's lovely, but it's also incredibly draining because as much as I love to be loved, I also need space and the ability to make a sodding piece of toast without a toddler trying to scale my leg to get to my boobies. Yet I wouldn't be happy leaving him with someone else for purely selfish, relaxation reasons, when I know he will be distraught, and they'll then get stressed too. So I can't win. There is no solution to how I feel right now. There is nobody who can clone me, or more realistically, be a surrogate Mummy for a day. Furthermore, I already feel like a palm him off too much on others, given my work schedule. I will have to leave him with my Mum tomorrow, as I have to go into work for an afternoon meeting (I don't usually work on Mondays), and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday he'll be back at the childminder's all day provided he's well again. This will give me some headspace, admittedly, but work doesn't really quite count as relaxation, especially since I've been promoted. So, all I can do is keep going. Keep crashing along, bleary eyed and grumpy, in the knowledge that the need to be separate, sleep, have some space and regain some sanity will fade into a dull itch again eventually. Hopefully before I have a nervous breakdown.