Those cups of tea that we ought to be drinking together

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I made a choice a while ago to go back to studying. I dedicate two to three days per week to my academic work and four full days to looking after my son. Two days per week he is at the nursery. When people tell you that as soon as a child starts the nursery, they pick up everything going, they tell the truth. And so the first months of my studies have been quite intimidating and draining… it’s been a physical as much as a mental trial…

First, what I didn’t expect was that my child’s string of colds would last for as long as five months. You just don’t predict that you will often spend your nights in a sitting position with a coughing child clinging to your chest… that you won’t often sleep at night because you’ll be checking on them, changing clothes and sheets wet with sweat and saliva, measuring doses of medicine that will often end up on the bed or on the floor because your hands are just too shaky at five in the morning to do it right. What you are not mentally prepared for is that you’ll often get flu and colds yourself and you’ll won’t be able to shake them off for weeks because your body is shattered and cannot be bothered to fight. What you don’t hope for is that when things are just looking bright your husband will all of a sudden come back earlier from work with a pale and sad looking child and that as soon as you take the little one to cuddle him … you’ll understand why they look so miserable… because before you know it you’ll be standing there in a warm and slimy puddle of vomit… wearing a handful of it and holding a share of in your hand too. What people don’t tell you about are the visits to hospital when the child’s temperature turns dangerously high, they don’t tell you about the hours that you’ll spend there feeling frightened and inadequate… because your child is sick (again) and you haven’t figured out how to make mothering work properly yet.

It was a phase. A hard, trying and tiresome phase. And it passed, I hope… but it would have been much easier if some things did not happen, if words did not happen, wretched words that sadly come from directions that you least expect. Careless criticisms of your choices. Doesn’t matter what that choice is? Just a different and independent choice. That you study. That you don’t study. That you work part-time. That you work full-time. That you don’t work. That you cook, that you don’t cook. That you buy, that you don’t buy. That you look after yourself, that you don’t look after yourself. That you stand straight and that you don’t squat. And all this happens precisely at the time when you need support and encouragement most and it feels so unfair and so ridiculous. It feels stupid and uncaring.

And I wonder now… have I done it myself? Have I made a comment to any of my friend-mums that made them feel uncomfortable? Have I been too blind to see that they needed support and a listening ear? Have I tried to understand their values and their choices? Did I give them a good word? Was I a sister?

I’ve never given up a dream of women gathering to chat and cook together. I know that it’s difficult because we are busy and our routines and schedules are different. But I think having a cup of tea together is still possible and still needed because motherhood is hard work and our experiences, the good and the bad, should be shared, appreciated and understood. I think it takes as much as a barrel of tea drunk together to learn about and to understand another mother’s circumstances, problems and capabilities… This tea and a good word is often what it takes to show support… nothing else…

I’ll have my kettle ready for the next visit.

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