For every lovely moment there's ten of these: offhand rudeness, selfishness, kicking Nellie in the face, biting and hitting to see if she can hurt me, anger, tempers, cruelty. My daughter can scare me and she sometimes breaks my heart.
The hardest part of walking away in the morning is the sense of betrayal. I've got two hours of frustration, rush and sometimes ugliness before I'm out the door. I have some time to myself as I walk into town and travel out to work on the bus and then I sit in my office and deal with relatively civilised adults who are more less polite. Al gets a whole day of negotiating with a two year and settling a baby. There's no break, no down time, no space. When I'm home, we're in the trenches together; when I shut the front door at 7am each morning and jam the headphones into my ears I feel like I've left a comrade behind enemy lines.
Some days I feel like my family is falling apart. Yesterday, after two time outs before 6.30 am, I left the house to go to work and cried all the way down my street, around the corner, across the park, past the hospital and the cafes, by the fountain, at the bus stop, on the bus, up the stairs and in my office in front of the computer. I think it is fair to say that yesterday I broke apart. Yesterday, I didn't think any of us could be fixed.
So I talked to my boss, spilled it all amid tears and tissues, asked for leave so we could try to get some equilibrium back. Instead, he has given me leeway to organise my work in anyway I need so that I spend time with the girls and Al gets time off. He found some support services, told me some of his own struggles with his family, and asked how the organisation could help Al. Could you estimate how many such managers exist in Australia? Less than ten, I'd wager. The crunch so many of us feel as mothers and fathers and workers can only be changed through dramatic structural and ideological shifts but some days, an individual can make all the difference.
I ended my working day crying, telling Al what we'd been given. Today, I still can't believe my luck. I wish everyone had a boss like mine, I really do.
Today, I planted some seeds, we went to the duck park and I played with the girls while Al did some things that had been piling up. The girls were happy(-ish), Lucy was so much more relaxed, and they are both sleeping well. We realise both Nell and Lu have been stressed, maybe by our own stress, maybe by my absence, probably a bit of both. In the long run we'll have to re-visit how we manage our life and my work but for the moment there's some calm in our home.