For as long as I can remember, I have been a ‘burn the candle at both ends’ kind of gal. Work hard, party harder in my teens and 20s. Work hard, mother hard in my 30s. For most of my adult life, I have had more than one job at any one time. I have run and contributed to online publications. I have done additional qualifications whilst working. To date, my qualifications include numerous GCSEs and A Levels, a BA (HONS) in journalism, a management NVQ, a qualification in residential lettings, an OU diploma in creative writing.
In January, I start a BA & Higher Apprenticeship in Business Leadership and Management, whilst working two jobs and bringing up a 4 year old and a 2 year old. This isn’t me bragging. None of those things has actually got me anything of substance. No flashy car, no posh house. It just seems to be what I feel I have to I do. Endlessly filling the time that I never have with a kind of inverse synergy, where the output is somehow less than the sum of the parts. I am going wrong somewhere, clearly.
I have lived my life, doing things because “that’s what you do.” I went to University because “that’s what you do.” I got a job because “that’s what you do.” I got married and had two children before I was 35 because “that’s what you do.” I have aimed to live in a “decent area” with “decent” schools and give my children childhoods full of iPads, children’s parties, soft play, holidays to Florida, swimming lessons, football (FYI, I absolutely do not and cannot give my boys all of those things. At all)
Often, I do things out of duty, because I feel I should. Because life is an endless compromise, where we have to fulfill the needs of others, whilst also satisfying ourselves. As women, we are supposed to be loving, nurturing, feminine, maternal. But not frumpy.
We are also meant to be sexy, coquettish. But not slutty or promiscuous. A cook in the kitchen, a maid in the parlor and a whore in the bedroom. We are supposed to be body positive and embrace our curves but we should be healthy and lean and toned. We are supposed to work, be independent and pay our way. But we cannot emasculate men and it should be us doing the ironing. It is like spinning plates, I am trying to please everyone, be all things to all people because as Rogers and Hammerstein once put it “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” (And isn’t that song just another example of it all? Slut shaming at its finest!)
Do you know whose fault this is?
Chaka Bleeding Khan. Look, Chaka, and Whitney too, I am not every woman. It is not all in me. I’ll be honest; I’m a traitor to my gender. Multitasking is a no. I am unable to text and talk at the same time. I can’t serve more than one customer at once. Bathing the kids and cooking the tea simultaneously means that someone or something will drown or get burned. I cannot get the boys ready for school and leave the house looking like I have just stepped out of a salon. Even with all the help in the world, clothes will not be ironed when I do 18-hour days at work. It is not possible to have the bedroom en fuego every night when you work so much that brushing your hair is making an effort, never mind re-enacting 50 Shades.
I cannot have name brand clothes and spend £1000s on my family at Christmas without getting up to my eyes in debt. Which is where I am now. Keeping up with the Jones’s has left me in this stupid mess, socially, emotionally and financially. I just cannot do this anymore. Trying to measure up to everyone’s standards is exhausting. I am fatigued and at the point where I do not even know what my own standards are, or what pleases me.
On Remembrance Sunday this year, I had my first tonic clonic (grand mal) EPILEPTIC seizure. It was horrible. Of course, it happened at a 5 year old’s birthday party in a soft play centre. Of course it did. Of course I had turned up hung over like the resident scummy mummy. And of course it happened in front of all the other mums, who all knew I was as rough as a badger’s arse, after I threw up upon arriving. Keeping it classy. That is me!
If you want to stop your kids being invited to parties, go for the seizure for the win! It was an awful experience but luckily, the other mums were absolutely amazing. Just so kind. One woman, who I really wish I knew so I could thank properly, was a nurse. She took control of the situation, called an ambulance and stayed with me. She was incredible.
I can’t describe what happened, one minute I was suffering a hang over cotton wool head, chatting to a mum, drinking coffee, the next I was lying on the floor, surrounded by concerned parents with the most searing headache. It was like an axe was lodged in my skull. I cannot describe how horrible it felt. I had seizured for around two minutes before being out cold for ten minutes. I spent the rest of the day in A&E. I have now lost my driving license for the next 12 months, which is devastating.
Since 1995, my mild absence epilepsy has been under control with medication. I was discharged from a neurologist in 2001. To say this has all come out of the blue is an understatement. So what caused it? What has changed? If I am honest, I don’t think there is one reason. The stars have just happened to align that way. Or more like, the symptoms of my ridiculous life style have aligned. Stress and exhaustion, two jobs and two kids, financial problems (all my own fault), marital difficulties that are bound to come from the fact our lives are purely functional. You can only go on for so long. I have no doubt that the bottle (and a bit!) of Jammy Red Roo from the night before did not help.
I have been on sertraline for anxiety for the last six months, which may have interacted. I am also wondering whether I am perimenopausal and those hormonal changes may have contributed. The main reason, however, is the constant treadmill of life. The constant, duty bound need to do the right thing, whatever that may be. The relentless marathon of being a mum, a woman.
I am overwhelmed by what has happened. I am fearful of having another seizure, especially if I am on my own with the boys. I am devastated at losing my license. My naff Nissan Note was my freedom. I am the only one in my house that drives. It has meant altering my hours at work, more after school clubs. The impact on my day-to-day routine has been enormous. However, there is nothing quite as sobering as being drenched in coffee, face down on the floor of a children’s play centre after spasming for 120 seconds. Nothing tells you that life needs to change like lying in a hospital bed next to fragile old people who have had falls when you are just 35.
The positives I have to take from this are that I wasn’t driving when it happened. I was not in the car with my family. No one died. (Anyone worried about the psychological trauma for children at the party, need not be. Several kids just tried to jump over me, un-phased, as I was KO’d, apparently). It is right for me not to drive now because, whilst I am not controlled, I pose a danger to both my life and that of others. I also take away that it has given me a chance to reassess what is important to me. I am still figuring it out but I am slowly realising that those standards that other people set mean nothing. My health and what I can bring to the lives of my children are all that matter. There is always someone richer, prettier, cleverer. But there is only one me.
So screw Chaka Khan and Whitney. It is time to slow down and think about myself, look after my physical and mental health. I advise that, whoever you are, whatever your measures are, whatever your circumstances, you do the same too.
photo credit: Giuseppe Milo (www.pixael.com) Walking alone – Howth, Ireland – Black and white street photography via photopin (license)
Jemma Anglesea is a 30-something mum of two young boys, James and Joseph. After the birth of her youngest son in 2016, Jemma started blogging as a way of relieving the struggles of parenthood and sharing her experience with others. Jemma has a passion for mental health and infant loss awareness. She is also passionate about cake (eating not baking) and her celebrity crushes, comedian Greg Davies and tv doctor, Xand Van Tulleken. Bryony Gordon, Katie Kirby, Sara Pascoe and Stevie Nicks make her ‘girl crush’ list. Jemma originally studied as a journalist, graduating for UCLAN in 2004 but currently juggles two job, by day working for a high street bank and by night, pulling pints at her local pub. Jemma lives in Liverpool with her children and her husband, Rob.