Trouble in paradise

Last week it was a school holiday, and we spent it in a holiday resort in Crete. Fantastic place, perfect scenery, excellent service. But. There is always a but when you’re a grown-up. LittleOne had an allergic reaction, started before we left home. It was a itching, and later developed into a rush on his shoulders and chest. Part of the good service of the resort was  a doctor who came in every lunch time. It was not a paediatrician but got a taxi for us and an immediate appointment with a paediatrician in the nearby town (private, the next public hospital was 20 Km away). The doctor said it could be an allergic reaction and gave us antihistamines and a diet free of common allergens (from milk to strawberries, nuts, seafood etc.). And obviously LittleOne couldn’t go the pools with a rush – even if it wasn’t contagious, the other parents wouldn’t approve of it.

And so it was that we arrived on Sunday and I went swimming for the first time on Wednesday and only for a few minutes while he slept in the buggy. Luckily the choice in the restaurants was excellent and I could always find something to eat for LittleOne. It was stressful, but it was also the best place to be in that condition…

LittleOne gradually improved, and the last day we were able to go to the pool with him. It was such a joy to see his face when he played with the water! We had taken him to the sea a couple of times as well, but it was too cold and he couldn’t stay more than a couple of minutes in the water. He had a good time overall, I think. He was with me all the time, he could run around (he started walking in the last month or so and can’t be stopped now), and loved the food.

Pallino had the best holiday. He could go to the pools, to the miniclub and had entertainment after dinner. It was the paradise of 5 year old children. For them there is no but, just fun.

For me? Well, I loved the place. I didn’t have most of the responsibilities and things to do at home, and LittleOne’s diet was easily managed without having to cook and buy food, so it was certainly a holiday from that point of view. But there were so many things I would have liked to do and couldn’t do. And I worried for LittleOne most of the time.

We still don’t know what he’s allergic to. He had a blood test more than two weeks ago (so before the holiday), and we haven’t had the results yet. It is likely to be a food allergy: we consulted a paediatric gastroenterologist and he prescribed the blood test for caeliac and various allergies, and said that if his constipation continued, we had to try a milk free diet – we started when the rush appeared and it seems to be working. It is such a bad feeling, to think that something I’m feeding my child is hurting him. Now we’ve removed most common allergens from his diet, so probably we’re not doing it anymore, but right now his diet is not nutritionally balanced, although that’s the lesser evil for the time being. He used to love his milk so much… I’m checking my emails for the results of the blood test like a teenager waiting for a text from someone she fancies.

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Contradiction

Contradiction. The signature of motherhood is contradiction. I’m 38, I have two boys, 4 and 1 year old, and a husband, I’m an engineer. This morning I woke up at 6, I prepared to leave, I gave a cuddle to my children, and I ran to catch the 7.36 train to London Bridge. I missed the train and got onto the next one to London, and now I’m on the train, writing and reflecting on motherhood. Have I changed since having children? No, I don’t think so. Do the children define me? I don’t think so. But they put additional constraints on whatever I do. Every day there are super sweet and funny moments, and really bad times when I just want to be somewhere else and I plan an escape route for a weekend, I look up flight tickets.

Yesterday I spend half an hour coding with my oldest. We had a few Lego blocks and a mini figure, and he had to write the code to make the figure pass through a door. I would then “execute” the code, by moving the figure following his instructions. We had so much fun! Then he went to bed and woke up in the middle of the night screaming and wet and I had to change him and wash him while he was still screaming, and it was horrible. I could tell you a great moment and a bad moment for every day. The smile of my little one when he first sees me at the nursery in the afternoon, how his face relaxes when he’s tired and I take him in my arms and he’s finally and completely peaceful. How amazing is to be so utterly peaceful? When is the last time one feels like that? Every phase of their development leaves me in awe. At exactly the same time, I, as an individual, feel I have to press the snooze button once again in my life. Like when I was at uni and I had to wait until I got a job. Like when I was still living with my parents and waiting until I had my own place. We spend so much of our life in the waiting place. One day maybe I’ll be able to go out with my friends without planning it three months in advance. I will travel at the weekend, I will visit new places every month. I will be an accomplished professional. My spirit yearns for freedom beyond my reach, while my body needs to enjoy the present moment. This is true even without children, but being a parent makes the walls thicker, puts physical boundaries around us (time, money, energy). Contradiction is the signature of life.

 

School holidays

The schools here have a 2-week break for Easter, and L and I decided to split our time with Pallino: this week I’m working and L is with him, and next week I’ll take holidays and stay home. To make things a bit more interesting, though, we went to visit some friends for the long Easter weekend, then L and the children went to visit the grandparents, while I returned home. It makes perfect sense, but I didn’t expect it would be so hard for me to leave them! LittleOne had a high fever over Easter. It turns out it was nothing bad, maybe his teeth, maybe the vaccination he had a couple of weeks ago, but we’ve been worried, especially as we were away from home and L had to travel with both of them by himself. It’s going well, LittleOne is recovering well, and I can work as planned. The house is so silent. And I miss my cuddles before going to bed. Well, I can watch a movie/play the piano/read/write/make a phone call in the evening. And sleep until the alarm clock actually comes off. Tomorrow I’ll work AND go shopping. And before they return, I promise I’ll go to a yoga class. Promise.

P.S.: by the way, if you ever have to travel without your kids, DO NOT watch the movie Manchester by the sea on the plane. Just don’t.

Things get busier and more complicated

I had a busy week, working on an interesting project. I’m not entirely happy about how a few things were managed in that project, including the fact that I was asked to support the team at the last minute and with a very strict deadline, which then appeared to be quite loose (it didn’t really matter if the documents weren’t ready that day)… I don’t like having pressure put on me for no reason, life is hard enough without creating unnecessary stress. Anyway, I did enjoy the work I was doing and the days passed faster. Also, I got my first salary after being on mat leave and that is quite a relief! Will I have work to do next week?

Pallino is having some problem at school. His teacher called me a few times, saying that there have been several episodes when he was rude or aggressive to other children. What is going on? I know he can be difficult, and that happens usually when he’s tired. But he’s sleeping well, and I don’t know what I can do. Especially when L is busy at work and most of the day to day life is on me, for me it’s an achievement if we’re all fed and warm and alive at night. We’re trying to be informed and careful and positive parents. But we’re also busy, alone and under pressure. So, how can I help him? There will be a meeting next week at school, I’m hoping we’ll be able to help each other.

 

 

Blue January

I was anxious but also keen to return to work. I didn’t expect there would be nothing for me to do. Yet, this is what I found on my return – and I’m spending my days begging my colleagues to give me something to do. With some result, but mostly very boring tasks that could be done without thinking. And I don’t like that. Not one little bit. Now I’m worried that if things don’t improve, I risk losing my job (again).

On the plus side (my Pollyanna side says) my working hours are working well. I have time to drop off/pick up the kids and work 6 hours without rushing (we pay the after school club and nursery, so I have to pick them up by 6pm). While £1500 fly out of the window to pay for their childcare.

However mornings are not working. I end up being incredibly stressed out every day, because L doesn’t think about what time Pallino has to be at school and is always late. And I end up stepping in and doing most of the work myself even when he’s dropping them off. So, when I get to the office I’ve already worked hard for around 2.5 hours (in case you don’t have children and don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s changing nappies and clothes, making breakfast, make sure everyone has their teeth/face/hands clean including me, preparing everyone’s school bag and put everyone in the car. All the while with a wriggly baby and an active 4yo who don’t want to collaborate because they don’t want to change their clothes, get ready or go out). And when I finish work, if I have to pick them up and put them to bed, that’s around 2.5 hours of work (see above, in reverse order, but with overtired children i.e. even less willing to collaborate). Which makes a total of about 11 hours of work per day, 6 of which spent worrying about losing it, and the remaining 5 forcing someone to do what they don’t want to do. Plus being on call every night. And some people tell me “you’re lucky” when I say that I work “only” 6 hours per day. How hard is to understand that I sacrifice a fifth of my salary because I have to, not because I want to work less. Still, in a way, I’m lucky that my employer allows it.

And just to clarify, what I’m saying applies to every parent/carer, working outside or not – the total working hours don’t change, only the setting, maybe the area of the brain that worries about work. Also, I’m not saying that I don’t like spending those hours with the children, or that it’s always a nightmare. I find ways to make things fun, and we do have good times together. But even playing or finding ways to make it fun requires a conscious effort, physical and mental.

I’m tracking my mood and I’ve recorded quite a few “bad” days, since I started working. My situation at work is a huge contributor, as I know that I feel much better when I’m busy, when I feel useful. I hope that my efforts to speak with my colleagues and make them aware that I’m available to help brings results. In the meantime, let this Blue January go to hell.