From Superwoman to Slummy Mummy: A life of day to day extremes.


No matter how hard I try, my life seems to swing from one extreme to the other. I’m not talking about anything major; the big stuff is in place (house, job, enough money to feed and clothe my dependents, a really good network of amazing friends and family), but the day to day running of things tends to be either total chaos or complete calm.

Take this weekend, for example. On Saturday morning, after a week of messy house and chaos, I tidied the house, sorted out a small birthday lunch for my eldest daughter (the centrepiece of which was a delectable chocolate cake cooked by my dad, who’d also spent the week redecorating said daughter’s bedroom), had family over to eat the lunch, did all the washing, read the opening chapters of The Twits with daughter #1, cooked a decent dinner for The Husband and myself, watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier and managed a decent night’s sleep.

I awoke this morning to two children who’d stayed in their rooms until their clocks turned yellow. I then did the ironing, cooked Sunday lunch, purple penned the last chapters of Far From the Tree, cooked some dinner for the dog, made sandwiches for The Husband for his lunch tomorrow, put the recycling out, sent The Husband to bed to sleep off the late night he’d had (he has a tendency to stay up late on a Saturday evening every once in a while and is basically useless the next day), cleaned the kitchen, read some more of The Twits, lit the fire, put the clean washing away and I’m now taking a break from inputting the changes to FFTT to write this blog post. I am in control.

But this is in total contrast to the preceding few days. This week I’ve been up to my ears in marking, mainlining chocolate and caffeine just to stay awake and in despair at the state of my house. Apart from Friday evening, Daughter #1 hasn’t read her school reading book to me all week. Daughter #2 has had chicken pox (mildly and non-traumatically, thank goodness!), I had a parents’ evening where I had 28 appointments straight (but that was fine – I quite like the adrenaline rush of it, and most of the parents were lovely!), I was so tired I was in bed by 8.30 a couple of nights running, I left my bank card at home and only realised when I had nearly thirty quid’s worth of shopping in The Range to pay for, and I’ve generally not felt in control of anything.

The question is, why do I go from one extreme to the other? Why am I never just in the happy medium phase? I try not to be reactive, but parenthood, and my job as a teacher, tend to lend itself to that. I try to anticipate, to plan, but when one thing goes wrong, it seems everything else does, too. Perhaps it’s something to do with being a writer. I’ve always viewed life as a narrative, and perhaps that rise and fall of tension that drives prose is something I too readily apply to my own life. Perhaps, because I spend so much time in my own head, mapping out the traumas of people who don’t exist, I end up living my life like the scenes of my books; every scene in a novel needs an emotional focus, a point; perhaps I’m guilty of searching for that in everything I do outside of my head. It’s an interesting thought, and may well explain a lot.

So, as ever, I strive to maintain the calm, to head off the crises before they occur. But so often they creep up on me, like the tide of mess in my house, and before I know it I’m feeling overwhelmed again. One day I will learn to manage things in a less reactive way, I’m sure; to anticipate, plan and use time productively. But for the moment, it seems, I shall lurch from crisis to calm, enjoying the days when it all works, and dashing through the ones that don’t. And perhaps one day I’ll find that there are more calm days than crisis ones. Although, maybe without the madness, there would be no narrative…

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