“I played with some kindy kids at recess and lunch today,” she casually told me after school recently. “It was their first day and some of them looked lonely so I thought I would ask my friends if we should go play with them.” And they did. I asked her why she did that and she said because she remembered what it was like walking around not knowing anyone, that she didn’t like feeling left out. “And maybe,” she continued, “if I do this for the kindy kids, they will do this for the new kindy kids next year and no one will ever have to feel left out.”
Read more of my article over at Essential Kids
I’ve spent the last few years living in three different countries, two in which I had my children, and the third one in which I now live. It’s meant being on a constant revolving-door journey of making friends and then having to say goodbye, again and again. When I moved back to Sydney, even though I grew up here, most of my friends were based in another part of the city and/or didn’t have kids. Plus we had that ten years of me being away – which is a lot in the land of friendships. So there I was having to make friends all over again.
I’m lucky in a way I’ve met a few women I like to be around, not just because we have kids of a similar age but because I find them interesting. And then I was thinking – what was it about these women that made me think I want to be friends with you. With my friend N it was because the first time we met she said to me “Sometimes I hate the person I am as a mother.” It was such a brutally honest sentence, one that no one would have the guts to normally utter and I agreed with her 100%. N just had given birth to her 3rd child and was finding herself with limited patience with her other two. I had just moved countries with a 2 year old and a 6 week old and I felt very much that I was fraying at the edges.
Another friend of mine K revealed as we stuffed our babies into prams how she had a horrible labour at a very expensive private hospital with her first child ago 3 years ago and she still was suffering as a result of it. I loved her honesty.
I love when women, mothers especially are honest. We are desperate to try and convey that we are perfect in every conceivable way, but somehow that perfection comes across as being impenetrable. Then there are other mothers who carry the weariness of bringing up children as some kind of defence mechanism – they appear either angry or stand-offish. I have to admit I quite often look like these mothers. But they are very hard to approach, much less befriend.
It’s hard making friends at a certain age, much less after we have children. But I feel we need these friendships in our lives, no matter how fleeting they may be. We all need someone to moan about how hard it is to be completely responsible for the tiny beings that want everything from us, leaving often at times, very little for us that’s left to share.
Last night I had dinner with a couple of mums who work full-time in high-powered jobs in finance, they were complaining about various stresses at work – deadlines, colleagues, interview candidates – and I told them I had spent the day looking after 3 kids under 5 (two mine and a friend’s daughter) and was exhausted. They both laughed. “How did you spend time before you had kids?” They asked. “Were you ever busy?” I don’t know why this riled me. I suddenly felt that because I didn’t spend five days a week toiling in an office that somehow what I did was of less importance. “I lived a very full life before having kids…” I started. I travelled the world exploring all continents except Antartica and South America. I had a play on at the Edinburgh fringe festival. I wrote scripts for a BBC drama series for five years. I had plays on in theatres around London. I worked with under-privileged kids to help them discover the love of story writing. I was a writer in residence at the Soho Theatre and the Hampstead theatre. I got a degree in Economics. I worked as a web producer for many big organisations. I worked for a few tech start-ups. I spent my twenties living a very full life. And then when I got pregnant at 31 I made a choice.
My choice was to spend the first few years of my children’s lives focussing on them. And the reason I did this was because my own mother was, and still is a very high-powered, career-focussed woman. No joke, the woman is a Professor of Neuroscience. My friends and I talked about how our own parenting choices are influenced so greatly by the way we were parented. As the daughter of a highly career-focussed woman I, very selfishly of course, didn’t feel she was there when I needed her. I felt that for much of my childhood my own needs were neglected. My mum continued to chase her career objectives and still does, which means in the last 12 years I’ve seen her once or twice a year. I thought becoming a grandmother would change her objectives in life but they didn’t, and really why should they?
In contrast my friend’s mother had been a full-time stay at home mother. But even though her mother was physically there, my friend felt emotionally her mum wasn’t available to her. It was seeing the shell of her mother, always talking about the life she once had before having kids that influenced my friend to make the choice to work full-time – she did not want to end up like her own mother.
We all agreed that no matter what choice we made in regards to our kids, one day there’ll come a time when they turn around and blame us for these choices, blame us for the problems they are incurring, and most probably go through a period of hating us. But that’s OK. I’m fully expecting that day. In the meantime, I, like my friends, am trying to make the choices I feel are right for me and my family. At the same time I’m trying not to judge those who make choices different to me, just like I hope they try not to judge me.
I’ve been writing since I was given a pink book by my father to write in at the age of 8. I had chickenpox. I filled the book with poems. Until recently I had the book in my possession but in amongst my many moves across countries, continents, it has gone missing somewhere. I wrote in that book till I was 15. The poems take an unnerving turn somewhere around the age of 12. They become scary. If I ever found this book I’d be a little scared to read these poems. I would never want my kids to read them. The ones of me at 8 are cute. I won a poetry competition with one of the poems I wrote in the book.
When I went to university I started my very own poetry group. Unsurprisingly the group wasn’t that popular. Maybe 5 or so people joined. They also ended up becoming some of my best friends (at the time). We were a little bit intense.
I stopped writing poetry around the time I finished university. Poetry for me required a lot of emotional effort. By the time I was working in a corporate office all the emotion seemed to have been sucked out of me. I would cry on trains going to work. My ankle would randomly give way and I would fall all the time. I thought to myself this was no way to live. So at the age of 22 I decided to opt out of corporate life. I strapped on a backpack and went to Europe. I loved to travel. I discovered a lot about myself when travelling on my own. I feel everyone should travel on their own. The world would be a better place. I also met my husband during my travels. The rest I should say, is history.
It’s not though. It’s still the present. I went from poems to short stories to novels that were incredibly wrenching and heartbreaking to write and lead to nothing. I wrote plays that were more successful and radio plays that got aired on the BBC. I wrote scripts for a BBC radio drama series. I lived in London for eight years, Dubai for one and then moved back to Sydney where I currently reside. I’ve put my creative efforts to the side for now and juggle raising two kids with writing articles some of which you will find on here.