Pale and listless...

>> Sunday, 2 December 2007

The other day, I was going about my daily business and caught myself feeling - almost - happy. You could even say, content. This shouldn't be news-worthy, should it? But it is. Of course, I've had normal ups and downs like everyone does, and with one or two exceptions I haven't felt suicidal, but since I stopped working at the end of 2005 and was thrown into the fast-flowing torrent of full-time motherhood, I have struggled. A little. Well, quite a lot, at times. I can put it down to any number of things;

  • A second baby who needed an awful lot of care and attention for the first year of his life.
  • A first child who wanted a lot of that very same care and attention (don't they all).
  • A Husband who can't be there that much during the week as he travels internationally, a lot. (For example, our flights to Mauritius recently were on air-miles. That's a lot of flying. And if we had the time, we could do that twice a year. Business class. That's really a lot of flying. And don't get me started on carbon footprints...)
  • Having walked away from a job I loved but knew I could no longer commit to.
  • Living in an area where one-upmanship is a compulsory sport, and keeping up with the Jones's / Schmidts / Chirac's etc etc is impossible because not only are they in a different stratosphere financially but frankly, you wouldn't want their trappings of wealth even if you could afford it (I didn't have kids to hand them over to a nanny whilst I devote myself to looking 25 again, for example. Although I wouldn't mind it - looking 25 again, I mean).
  • Post-natal depression.

And so on.

Now I'm aware that plenty of people might look at a lot of that list and say to themselves 'I should have your problems', and I have to say that on the surface I would agree. (Must be that Catholic Guilt coming through - you can take a girl out of the convent...). But knowing that didn't make any difference - I still felt like a fish out of water, knowing this should be something I loved to do, but just not making the right connections.

So what's changed?

Can you believe it? It's so simple, I'm embarrassed. Lists, that's what.

When I worked, I lived by lists. I was famous for them. It was the only way I could keep track of the myriad projects I was running simultaneously. I had lists of lists. My lists had sub-lists. The single action of making a squiggly line through a completed job, or putting a bold tick through a block of actions could make a day worth-while. (Yes, I was also famous for being a little bit of a control freak. But I like to think that's what made me good at my job. And anyone who disagrees probably got dropped from one of my lists...).

When I walked away from the job, though, I also walked away from my day book. And I think that, ultimately, is what did for me. Now, I know that in the fog of new-babyhood, the last thing you want to be doing is sitting writing lists. I mean, for the first few weeks, what would be on it?

  • Remember to change baby
  • Remember to sterilise bottles
  • Remember to do laundry
  • Remember to buy nappies
  • Remember to bath baby
  • Oh, and remember to bath yourself (this one can get left off for days if you're not careful)
  • Remember your name

Not a very exciting list, is it? Who on earth would want to be reminded that that is what their life (admittedly, temporarily) consists of? Not me, certainly. So, I got out of the habit. And it's only recently that I've got back into it. But, oh, now I have; how could I have left it for so long? The wicked pleasure of checking your list and seeing almost everything ticked off... priceless.

Of course, I have ' stayers' on my list. Those jobs that get put off until next week. And then put off again. And then shelved again because really, they're not actually that exciting and - oh, you know what I'm talking about. But overall, things are actually getting done around here, for the first time in ages. Last Monday I even took the car in to get the wheels balanced - a very boring job I've been forgetting to get round to since August. But I put it on my list 10 days ago and, bam! It's done. Don't get me wrong - it's not that I want to spend my life ticking boxes or writing lists, but finally I seem to be getting a handle on things and taking back some control of my life. It's about time.

I think I may have found the secret of (my) happiness. 'Listless' is a word, isn't it?

I have been listless too long.


Omega Mum 4 December 2007 at 19:12  

Start the lists again and e-mail them to your husband. If he realises how much you do already, it'll reinforce his good opinion of you. And if he doesn't, he should.

Frog in the Field 5 December 2007 at 06:18  

Dear Potty Mummy,
that's a very personal insight to your life, you sound low.
I had to 'retire' at the grand age of 25 owing to ill health and I felt I would never have a list to write again, I completely understand where you're coming from. And having children is such a lonely thing, only you go through the preganancy and feeding, no matter how fab the father is, it's your body that changes and feels exhausted.
I am so grateful for my husband being so family orientated. He's been doing all the cooking the last two weeks because I'm either too busy or too exhausted. But, saying that, Mauristau...hell, I've got up far too early! I mean that lovely island you went to sounds very nice....
It'll soon change, my 1st baby is almost 13, I wear her jeans, she's almost an adult, the years have flown!

Potty Mummy 5 December 2007 at 09:21  

Hi Frog, good to see you back! Was planning on e-mailing you today to check for proof of life, but have just assuming that you are so busy with your orders that blogging has gone to the bottom of very long list...

I'm actually fine, it was one of those self indulgent blogs you post and then think... hmmm.

The Rotten Correspondent 5 December 2007 at 16:39  

I love lists more than almost anything. As a matter of fact when I make a list I put one thing on it that I've already done so I can tick it off immediately and feel very virtuous.

Good for you getting back to it. From one control freak to (a blog confessed) control freak - there's nothing like them.

Potty Mummy 5 December 2007 at 20:03  

Power to the lists, RC! And yes, secretly I do the same thing - include one either pre-done task or one very easy win. Nothing worse than an list with no ticks, don't you agree?

Tracey 5 December 2007 at 23:43  

(Hi just came over from Beta Mum's and found that my instincts about the 'potty' stage weren't completely off the mark anyway!)

Don't know that it helps, but I can relate to having little ones and a husband travelling away too much. After 10 years of it (with kids now 14, 12 and 9) we finally hit critical mass earlier this year, and the travel has been curtailed. In hindsight I'm not sure how I managed through those hardest years, but you just do. Sometimes I think it's because I had no system that he could "upset" when he was home, but I think that you have hit on being 'listless' as a contributing factor to feeling out of control and depressed. I do do lists, but very erratically (and then I forget them, etc!).. Sounds like you can really make them work for you though!!

Potty Mummy 6 December 2007 at 11:02  

Hi Tracey, thanks for the visit - and the encouragement! I know that Husband's travel can't go on for ever - but whilst it does, you're right, you just get through it. Have given up trying to explain to family and friends though - they just don't realise that unfortunately, if you dance with the devil you have to pay the price. Oh well - onwards and upwards!

Iota 6 December 2007 at 18:18  

Have you ever written something on a list that you have already done, just so you could cross it off straightaway? I worried about myself when I did that. (I've just scrolled down and seen that Rotten Corres and you confess to the same thing - so nice not to be the only one who does these things!)

I think the competitive mothering thing must be exhausting. Can you find yourself one or two non-competitive friends to laugh about it all with?

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