At a recent job interview I was asked to give a series of one word descriptions of myself. Always a joy. ‘How would your friends / peers / former bosses describe you?’ they asked me. I racked my brain for positive one word answers that wouldn’t make me come across like a complete nutjob. Then came the final cruel twist…how would your husband describe you? Hmmm let me think. In the end I blurted out a rather pathetic yet safe response like caring, when what I really wanted to say was – unhinged!
I haven’t always been unhinged. Emotional, yes. But when did I become this Jekyll and Hyde version of my former easygoing self? Was it when I was catapulted into the realms of parenthood? Or later after a year of sleeping to the sound of a hoover? Most likely it can be traced back to the moment we inadvertently decided to have number three. Yes, three tipped the balance – taking me from marginal hysteria to full on crazy-ville.
At the weekend I also realised I’ve become one of those mums who is source of entertainment for other more stable family units and the childfree contingent. It appears my unhinged antics make for primetime viewing. After I’d survived a two hour solo parenting bike ride up the mother of all hills and through tracks of sludgy mud, I hustled the boys into a cafe. Why is beyond me. But to get them to the finish line I’d naively promised hot chocolates all round. The cafe was teeming with people. And boy did we put on a magnificent display for them all. Trays were dropped, crisps and chocolate buttons were cascaded across the room and surprise-surprise the hot chocolate was spilt, oozing over all our belongings. I was mindful of keeping my cool in front of the disapproving looks from nearby tables. Instead I saved my meltdown for halfway up the A3. Then the monster was unleashed. It was the kind that does actually silence the boys – not because they are remorseful though but because they fear mummy has finally lost the plot.
There are many things that contribute to my current mental fragility. Having three boys is a recipe for noise, mess and general mayhem. Mix it all up and it’s enough to make the most angelic of people yell from the rooftops. Some days I manage to hold it together, just. On others I’m barking rebukes as I emerge from my sleep, one eye still closed. Then there is the school admin. Since our return to the UK I’ve been gobsmacked at the sheer volume of school to-dos. What with mufty-tufty days and requests for shoe-boxes (I use wine-boxes) and exotic fruit, I feel like I need to hire a full-time PA to keep me in check and off the blacklist.
Right now it’s the run up to the festive period that’s messing with my mind. I found myself panic filling my amazon basket at 4am on Black Friday only to empty it in the cold light of day, realising all I’d chosen was pointless plastic tat. The diary is jam-packed with grotto visits and nativity plays. All lovely admittedly, but I’m trying not to drop any baubles as I plough on through to the 25th. Then the husband’s 40th birthday celebrations or commiserations begin. There’s barely enough time to inhale a mince pie or two.
Watching the BBC series Motherland I found myself being irritated by the lead character’s cynicism and the way she flaps around and moans about parenting. Then like a slap to the face I saw myself in her. I recognised that mad glare in her eyes. Reality check. Time to address my mothering mood-swings I think. Time to tame the monster. It’s OK to be slightly unhinged – I think most of us are to an extent. Just some are better at keeping it hidden. Maybe a silent scream into a pillow now and again is acceptable. Not big dramatic tears at the dinner table unhinged or wanting to check into a hotel alone unhinged.
So in an effort to locate that elusive inner peace or at least to maintain a certain composure, I’ve downloaded a mindfulness app (!), put the gin to the back of the cupboard and written a comprehensive to-do list. Here’s hoping at the next interview that one word will be zen, or patient, or unflappable even. Might be a tad ambitious.
I might be stuck with unhinged. But can I also have incredibly grateful as well? I should be allowed two right? For it’s always about balance.
What one word would your nearest and dearest choose to describe you?