So it’s been a while since I updated my blog, 2 months in fact, and it’s fair to say that it’s been a busy ol’ time.
January was a write off. I spent every minute I could with Logan and just enjoyed his company. Honestly, he’s such a character and genuinely makes me laugh.
I didn’t want to go back to work at the start of February but with bills to pay, it was an unfortunate necessity. It was suggested that maybe I stop working and be a stay at home mum.
Now, firstly I enjoy working. I enjoy showing my son that I’m a strong, independent woman who can hold down a high-pressure job with responsibility but secondly, how on earth would we pay the mortgage and bills??? Long gone are the days where the average family can afford for one person to be at home. It’s a sad day when your parenting is judged by the older generation and you’re not deemed ‘good enough’ because you have to return to work and put your child in nursery. Especially when this generation were the ones to preach about ‘hearth and home’ ‘marriage before children’ and always spoke of having a good work ethic. Well I did that. I’ve worked full-time since I was 16 (through A levels too) and had a mortgage since I was 21. I bought (with hubby) my second house at 26 and rent that to family at 20% below market rate and don’t make a profit from it (the house is a future investment and not there for us to profit from nor take advantage of our tenants). We watch our pennies and don’t live on credit. We buy second-hand clothes and furniture and we always put Logan and our family first. We did everything the ‘right way’ and because of that, I have to work full-time to maintain the income and pay the mortgage. Our house is modestly sized. It is not tiny, it is not large. The mortgage on our main house is £760 a month and £200 cheaper than renting something of the same size. I often speak to family and friends about finances, and I’m candid about the fact we don’t have a lot of spare cash. Nursery is £640 a month (£50 for a full day). If I was to drop a day a week, I would lose £500 a month from my wages. Nursery is the *only* viable option as John’s employment cannot accommodate part time working.
Do you not think I’d love to spend more time with my son? Of course I would! I am however a modern woman (proud of that!) living in the 21st century, a time when house prices are over 10x the annual income of one person. A time when everything has a higher cost than before.
Reading this back, it could be viewed that I lament those that have children younger, or who don’t have large mortgages, or those who receive assistance. Not. At. All. I am privileged. I know this. I am extraordinarily luckily to have what I have and who I have in my life. I am merely ranting against the generation that on one hand tell me I’m a bad person for returning to work so soon and then on the other tell me that I should ensure I do things ‘the right way’, the way that has meant I am financially dependent on returning to work – else there would be no ‘hearth and home’. This doesn’t make sense.
I struggle with the lack of logic and often confusion of it all. The same when I think about the mechanics of families and how they work, and mine in particular.
My family has a history of depression and mental health illnesses. It’s no secret that several close members of my family suffer. What makes me mad is when a family member with depression criticises the actions of another family member who also has depression. It’s almost as though they feel that because they don’t act that way themselves, it can’t be right.
Mental health conditions are not a ‘one size fits all’ with symptoms and behaviours. Depression (for example) effects people in different ways. Let me tell you a story and put some context on it…
Some people close down and appear to isolate themselves and appear hostile to other parties, especially if they are having a particularly bad day and their personal life is being negatively commented on by someone who has previously shown them little or no concern. They are not ‘nasty pieces of work’ or ‘immature’. They are protecting themselves from future harm. Imagine growing up in a household where you’re taught appearances are everything and you’re criticised for the colour of your hair, your weight, your teeth, your lack of smiling, your height – all this by your mother. Then you get to school where it happens again and again. Your mother, having lost her oldest daughter for the same behaviour, tries to win your affection by buying you gifts but really, all you want is some honest interaction and love. You don’t want false declarations. You want consistent support and someone who will always care for you. You accept the gifts because otherwise you’re an ‘ungrateful bitch’. Sometimes, you like the attention you get because for just a few minutes you get a glimpse of a normal parent, but as quickly as it comes, it goes again with the next glass of wine and insult.
A person can only take so much until they close down and, outwardly, they appear sullen and ‘moody’. You escape that situation and you’re practically alone. You don’t want to trust anyone. They’ll betray you, hurt you, not love you. A few years later, a sibling escapes and they are instantly surrounded by extended family. Family who never reached out and asked ‘are you ok?’ and instead left you. Your sibling escaped under a cloud of controversy, you escaped because you were physically abused. How is this fair? Short answer: it’s not.
It doesn’t matter if what I have written is factually accurate (it is), but it doesn’t matter. Why? Because this is what the person feels and sees. This is their understanding of the situation. A lifetime of criticism, neglect and rejection that comes back each time they see or hear about visits, comments, posts and similar. They are unwanted. Their sibling is wanted. They are called names. Their sibling is an ‘adopted daughter’. If all you ever do is criticise and hurt someone then they are going to show you their prickly hedgehog exterior.
Not all of this behaviour is intentional. It is entirely natural for people to gravitate towards those that are open, bubbly and chatty, and to those that have a similar personality and disposition. If you are naturally quiet and an introvert then it is difficult for extroverts or those that don’t know you to understand that you are not rude, you are simply someone who doesn’t want the grandiose declarations and who finds idle conversation exhausting. It doesn’t help if you both have differing views on the world and politics, and with the world of social media and memes, a lot of inaccurate rubbish can be regurgitated and manipulated (I admire a person who challenges something that is clearly incorrect, even when that show of strength is utterly terrifying to them. I will show solidarity when needed. I will challenge when needed.).
But the behaviour does, sometimes, become intentional. When the hedgehog continues to curl up for protection and prick you, you start to view it as personal. ‘They’re nasty’, ‘they’re selfish’, ‘they’re rude’. These comments are batted around and misinterpretation becomes a warped perception and a personal truth – magnified by unwarranted comments from other people who haven’t spoken to the hedgehog in years or indeed do not even know them. You forget their troubles, you forget that they are suffering, and instead you see what people tell you. This isn’t fair. It isn’t right. But it happens.
I go back to my musing (and this isn’t directed at anyone in particular) – depression is a cruel creature. It doesn’t behave how you expect. Someone who appears happy, who appears confident, often isn’t. Abuse effects each person differently and to different levels. Show compassion and understanding and if you just can’t understand, no matter how hard you try, don’t call that person weak. Don’t dismiss their depression or their reasons for being depressed.
We have the capability (and capacity) to learn, to grow, to admit when we’re wrong, and to mature – a lot of this comes with experience and age, and so I do expect the older generation to be more understanding and forgiving than the younger generation. Is that right of me? I don’t know…I genuinely don’t. You tell me.
God knows I’ve done a heck of a lot of growing in the last few years and I’ve reflected on past comments and opinions with shame, but instead of thinking ‘I was an awful piece of shit’. I now think ‘I’ve grown. I’ve changed and I’m not that person anymore’.
Families, they’re hard work. No doubt. Quite often I’m told I’m too soft and I should be more forceful or speak my mind a little more, but instead I brush things away or don’t comment at all. Not everyone has the same opinion or political belief. People raise children differently, people view pets differently, people sell and buy online, people go to shops still and refuse to use Amazon and the ilk. So what? That’s life. It’s only when I passionately feel that something is wrong or doesn’t sit comfortably with me do I have to comment (or write a blog post). I’m not sure if the people I’m writing about will read this, and so I don’t view it as passive aggressive attempt at voicing my distaste, but instead a sad reflection of what I feel is miscommunication and a lack of understanding – something I have been guilty of on many, many occasions.
I don’t expect these people to have a relationship, but I do hope that future comments about someone’s ‘nastiness’ and ‘immaturity’ are instead challenged and perhaps viewed with a different mindset and outlook.
That nasty and immature person was abused, neglected, depressed, suffering multiple health problems (inc recovering from the loss of an unborn baby and told they had a tumour) bullied at work and financially struggling. If (big if) anything they said was nasty, if their behaviour (deleting from a social media account) was a proverbial ‘slap to the face’, perhaps instead of resorting to social media to air a disagreement and obtain social group validation for your own personal feel good factor, a gentle ‘are you ok?’ would have been better. We are not perfect creatures. We are moulded by our experiences and relationships and we learn from mistakes. Be kind, always. Take time to sit back and assess the situation before responding.
^ I know that someone might read this and think ‘but the older person has depression and anxiety, they’re not seeing things clearly either’ – and you’re absolutely right. They do and they might not be, but this isn’t a personal attack on them. This is a reflection on the way every person who commented on a particular social media thread behaved. The group mentality that, instead of showing compassion and understanding, instead found it easier to bad-mouth and name call, was wrong, utterly wrong and should have been stopped. I have suffered with anxiety, and I still have this crippling need for everyone to like me otherwise I feel worthless. I’m disappointed in myself for not challenging the thread when I first saw it. I should have. I was wrong and I’m happy to admit that.
It took years for my sister to open up to me and realise I wasn’t going to abandon her. I won’t let her down now.
Same for my other sister and my brothers, I am always here and always will be. You might not talk to each other and not get along with one another but that’s fine. We don’t have to talk about your gripes and dislikes with each other. Let’s be adult and civil.