Tuesday, 30 May 2017

When Failure Comes Knocking...

You know those days as a mum, when everything just goes exactly to plan?

When you wake up on time, you made the kids lunches the night before so they're all sorted, you actually have a moment to enjoy your coffee while it's still hot, and everybody leaves the house with all of their socks on, tummies full of a nutritious breakfast that wasn't thrown at the wall, happy and harmonious,  off on their merry way, ready for whatever the day might throw at them?

No...neither do I.

And today could not have been any further from that illusive image if it tried.

Today I am not the Mary Poppins of Motherhood I imagined myself being all those years ago.

Today I am a failure.

And not in a "I fed them a Tracker bar for breakfast, and shouted a bit...aren't I a rubbish Mummy...please give me sympathy and make me feel better about myself" sort of way.

I mean  a genuine, complete and utter failure.

It dawned on me today, as I laid cuddled up in bed with my eldest child,  the duvet pulled up around our ears to keep us warm because the emergency reserve had run out on the electric meter and I didn't have any money to top it up, that I am not the mother I wanted to be.

I'm not even close to it.

Not because they sometimes have fish fingers for dinner 3 times a week, or because they're allowed to have a  Happy Meal or some chocolate sometimes, or because I occasionally forget and swear when they're in earshot ...

No...I am a failure because today I am playing games with my children to keep them running around and active, or keep them snuggled down hidden under blankets - "Come on kids, let's pretend we're camping under this quilt! Come on, let's be lions in the jungle and chase each other!" - not because I'm a super creative and hands-on Mummy -  but in an attempt to keep them warm while I figure out how the hell I'm going to get any money to top up the electricity meter.

Because I'm £500 overdrawn and I can't get my hands on a single penny right now.

So that I don't feel the shame and the stinging tears at my eyes when they say to me "It's cold Mummy, can we turn the heaters on?"

I am a failure today because it took me 10 minutes to heat up the babies milk while he was crying for it, looking at me in desperation, clearly wondering "What's taking you so long woman?!"...because the microwave chose today of all days to pack up and stop working, and how am I supposed to replace it with no money in my account? (This was before the electricity went off, obviously...)

I am a failure today because I hid my kids in the living room and told them it was a game, that I was going to go and count to 20 and they had to stay as quiet as they could until Mummy came back to find them...  - when in reality I was at the front door dealing with a bailiff who had turned up out of the blue to collect a debt.

A few weeks ago I was in Disneyland, taking photographs and making memories and feeling like I didn't have a care in the world.

And this week I'm that mother - standing embarrassed at the front door, hoping that the neighbours don't notice that this guy is a bailiff, hoping they don't see me crying as I explain to him that I don't have anything to give to him.

And maybe it's not my fault - the debt isn't actually mine, or one I even knew anything about.

And it's not like I can control when the microwave breaks.

And it's not my fault that our electricity is costing more than £10 a day at the moment, and that my payments just aren't coming in fast enough to cover it all.

I'm working hard...I work hard every day, for 10 hours or more, until 3 or 4 in the morning - EVERY DAY. 7 days a week.  I'm always trying to get more work in , I'm always hustling.

I earn a decent living...my rate per hour is far above and beyond what I could earn in a conventional job, and it takes away the need to pay extortionate childcare costs too.

The amount of work that I do should see us in a comfortable life style where we don't need to struggle for simple things like electricity, let alone have debt collectors knocking at the door.

But this is the problem with freelancing and self employment, your life is one big cycle of endlessly chasing the payments you're owed....of being promised "It will be paid on Friday lovely!" only for Friday to roll around and be told "...Oh but it won't actually clear until Monday"

And the thing I don't like to let people know, the thing that makes everything so much harder right now, is that I am the sole breadwinner for this family.

 And I have been for some time.

And that is a lot to be responsible for when I have so many other hats to wear - mother, home maker, supportive partner.

So today, with the cold setting in and the bailiff hounding me to magically produce £600 out of thin air before he marches in and takes the TV and toys from under my kids noses...today I feel like I have failed at life.

Because this isn't what good mothers live like.

A good mother would have seen this coming. Would have cancelled the holiday and used the money to pay off the debts. Would have known what to do when the bailiffs knocked...in fact no, would never have had them knocking at all.

A good mother can turn the bloody heating on without doing silent arithmetic as she tries to work out how long she has left until the electric goes off again, how long she has to try and chase yet another overdue payment to be able to top it up again...

I don't want to be this mother.

It's not like I bring it on myself by running up debts that I can't afford to pay - we don't even have any credit cards, I've never had one.  I won't take a thing out on higher purchase...I never have done. I won't get new cars or extravagant designer bags.

 I might spend a bit too much on kids clothes and toys, but other than that I'd say I'm pretty sensible - we don't go out every night. We don't even go out once a month! We don't drink, we don't smoke...our money is spent on bills, food, rent and the kids with the occasional holiday thrown in.

And the money coming in should more than cover it, but somehow it's always an endless game of catch up.

And how is it ever going to get any better?

Maybe it's not my fault...but maybe it is.

Today, as I'm sitting here looking at the innocent faces of my children - who are playing here in front of me blissfully unaware of what's going on around them, I feel as though I have let them down massively.

Because no matter how much I am doing to keep everything afloat, it isn't enough.

I wish I was the sort of grown up that I thought my mum was when I was a kid, the kind who always has it all together and always has the answers.

But then the realisation dawns on me that my Mum was probably never one of those grown ups either, she was just pretending to be one in front of us...just like I'm doing right now.

And it makes me wonder, how many of the "proper mummys and daddys" I look to as shining examples of how to be a real grown up ACTUALLY have their shit together.

And how many of them are looking at me thinking the same thing?

Life isn't always sunshine and roses, and it certainly isn't always easy - there are some things that an Instagram filter just doesn't fix.

**Note: This post was written 6 months ago as a therapeutic exercise. I decided to publish it as things are much more stable now, and I wanted to share my experience for anyone else going through a similar time...to let you know that a lot of people struggle, even if you can't tell it from their social media accounts**

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