I know I’m lucky. I don’t work, and that’s unusual for a mother these days. The extra money would be nice but a combination of lots of children, one of whom became very ill, and a paralysing lack of confidence in just what my marketable skills are after years of childbearing, have made working seem out of reach.

Once, I had a job. Before Steph and I got married, I worked in sales.  That was an accident.  I moved to London after graduating in French, and a recruitment agency put me forward for a position as a European sales rep.  For two years I sold Turkish polyester to industrial weavers across Europe.  I was 22, and had not the slightest enthusiasm for selling, but I had fun.  I suspect I got the job because my skirt was on the short side.  That’s not going to get me a job these days.

Not working (unless you count a tiny bit of paid writing) has meant spending a lot of time with my children.  That hasn’t always felt like an unadulteratedly good thing for me or for them. I’ve sometimes thought that I’d be a better mother if I had a life beyond the house, and I have worried about the example I’m setting my daughters.  Saz once told me half-jokingly that I needed to provide a positive female role model for the girls after she spent a night in hospital with Juliette.  In the morning, Saz kissed her goddaughter goodbye and said she needed to get to her office.  “Girls don’t work,” laughed Juliette, indulgent in her godmother’s delusion. “Only mens do.”

My own mother didn’t work or at least, not outside the home.  When school fees became too much of a burden, she opened our big, lovely but shabby house to guests.  Foreign language students we loved and welcomed into the family.  Bed and Breakfast visitors, less so.  A creative soul, she could have been an actress and has a beautiful singing voice, but she was never encouraged.  I did hope I’d be different.

My “failure” in the role of mother when Juliette died and the ensuing depression, blinded me. I felt useless, nothing more than my children’s unemployed carer, a benign yet passive shepherd with little influence. Worse, at times I’d become a malevolent instrument of hurt as the demons of depression took hold. I started to believe my children needed protection from me.

Therapy, blessed therapy, has made me value my role as their mother again.  Writing this blog now I feel somewhat shamefaced to admit that it’s more by accident than design that motherhood has been my career. I look at my children. In the past I’ve been surprised at what fabulous people they are.  This may sound falsely modest but I truly believed and goodness in them was a happy accident, nothing to do with input I’d had. Now I accept that I’ve had a hand in shaping them, but the clay is resolutely their own.

It’s seems a while since I’ve felt this way, but I’m loving the holidays. I usually appreciate not having to skitter out of bed to make packed lunches and chase after uniforms, but it’s more than that. The house is a tip, but rather than slip into my default (depressed) hysteria at the mess, I’m coping with it.  I’m just loving being around the children, and that’s making my heart sing. For me, the most terrifying aspect of depression is how disconnected you become from the people you love.  But the summer holidays loom long, and I feel like I’m getting to know and love my children all over again. It feels amazing. 

I’d had a bit of a break from therapy but I was back at the Priory on Monday. The timing wasn’t great with the holidays, but Elodie had enough energy to take charge at home and I reminded myself that they all need me to be well. I had an hour with my counsellor, then morning and afternoon groups. Unusually, I was the only person in each group, so it ended up being six hours of one-to-one therapy.  The whole day was about Elodie and her situation, which has been weighing very heavily on my mind.  There’s a lot more to her illness than anyone knew. 

When I got home, all four children were grinning from ear to ear.  They’d had a wonderful day, and had organised a “photo shoot” as a surprise for me. These are some of the pictures they took.

Despite our run of bad luck, I am still a believer in fate.  I struggle to imagine how we would have coped with our young family had I been working when Juliette was ill.  Less so how I would have grieved, and given each of them the support they needed. Now, Elodie needs some intensive love and what I’d be able to offer at the top and tail of the day just wouldn’t be enough, for either of us.  I’m a huge admirer of mothers who manage to juggle work and child rearing.  A big part of me feels they are more important, better people than me, but for our family so long as we can manage it, I’ll be at home. And if that means steering our way from one financial crisis to the next, then so be it.

8 thoughts on “Mother

  1. I don't think I'm qualified to make than a cliched comment about mothers staying at home (I largely agree with it but believe each situation is different – see? Cliche a go go!) so I'll just comment on what absolutely gorgeous children you have! It's like children from a gap commercial!! Forget you working, get them signed up fast!!Great post, by the way. Very affirming.

  2. I don't really know either, GK. I'm just making a virtue of the hand that's been dealt!Thank you for gorgeous children comment, I'm very proud. It's a pity I'm not more commercially-minded or perhaps they might have been funding their own Frosties by now..

  3. What a lovely post, Geves. Really lovely. And God, your kids, they are just beautiful and they look so happy. What made me a bit tearful (see you did it even in an upbeat post) is that they did it all for you! How lovely. You've made me realised that we are blessed with our children (Of course – I can see that more clearly at the moment as mine are with their dad!) So glad you're enjoying summer. Sending my love,Pxx

  4. Being a mum is the most important job in the world. You can be a good role model by either being a working or non working mum. I am pleased I had 13 months off work with Katie, and was happy to work three days a week after that – both worked for me. You have clearly done a fabulous job given firstly how beautiful and happy they look, and secondly that you've brought them up to be so sensitive and thoughtful as to do the photo shoot for you.xxxxxx

  5. GK – now there's an idea!SC – Thank you, I hope they are all happy. I do worry about my influence on them, how my moods affect them, but I guess we're all emotionally symbiotic as social humans. I guess all we can do is attempt to keep the balance positive. Lots of love to you for a happy summer, too. GxxxSally, I think you're absolutely right. I have longed for work in the past to keep me sane, and to set an example of what's possible for my children – it just hasn't happened, and perhaps it wasn't meant to. Katie had the best of you all round, and she loved her Mummy so much. That much shines out from every picture I've seen of her. xxxx

  6. Loving the photo shoot [and the wallpaper]. An alternative career coming up for Elodie there [check out Pierre, Raphy and Celeste's new looks].For me then, working was the norm [I didn't have children]. I was indeed a bit shocked by Juliette's comments. I recall pointing out that some of her doctors and nurses were working women [and possibly mothers too], even though I could think of none in her family at that time!Currently though, I am a stay-at-home mother of three, although I do have a strong desire to study or work again [and bring in some money], albeit something different from before. But today was a classic 'holiday at home' day here too – Tarik had to go to work at 5.45am, but we rose somewhat later and went to Frinton to meet school friends. Six youngsters playing by the sea for six hours and wanting more – cricket, swimming, digging vast trenches, discovering secret dens, finding 'treasure', 'seeing' mermaids, declarations of first love; hot chocolate in the hut to warm up after a rain shower, local ice cream 'just because'. I and my friend caught up on news over cups of tea and hanging out damp clothes. Not a cross word uttered or heard. Sharing whitebait and chips on a bench = perfect day [like Wrabness last week]. Keep on enjoying the holidays, and your gorgeous children.Sx

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