‘You’re only as happy as your least happy child’. I recently read, then pondered this quote on my sunbed in deepest bluest Greece. A place of such beauty and wonder that nothing could upset the peace, calm and tranquility of the Ray Winstonesque ‘Sexy Beast’ cicada buzzing air. As I looked to my left, I could just see the rise and fall of His chest. A scan of His reddening Brit abroad body saw a tapping of the foot and a nod of a Beats clad head. Hmm, I thought, lost in the world of music. I turned, laboriously in the 40 plus heat, to my right. All the children were splashing away in the cool water of the pool. You snap the moment for comfort on s cold November day: laughter, splashing, shrieking…only that scream isn’t one of pure unadulterated joy, it’s because there’s trouble abrewing in the masses…
You see, it doesn’t matter what you do, where you go, how much effort you apply, it’s simply never enough to make them all happy. I sometimes wonder what I’m doing wrong? What essential ingredient am I missing in my recipe for motherhood? I sometimes feel like I live on a knife edge. If I don’t intervene I’m being a coward and watching a car crash in front of my eyes. Intervene and I’m the most hated woman on the earth. Both scenarios bring stress and tears. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t!
This week I heard in the news, that we spend two days – 48 hours, of our lives dealing with family problems. All I could think was – oh god is that all? I seem to live in a bad smell of child moodiness, which, for want of a more eloquent analogy, lingers like a bad fart in a room.
So why do we do it? Why do we put ourselves through such hell and damnation? The excruciating tension which emanates from a family on the edge. Him thinks it shouldn’t dominate. Him pleases himself and ignores it mostly. Tells them all to crack on and tells me to develop a thicker skin. I, on the other hand, pray for salvation and for it all to come good! I’m a fixer though and spend hours racking my brain to find equilibrium for the unit. I guess we do it to ourselves as we want the ones we love to be happy. Who takes cares of our own happiness though?
This is currently our hot topic for our usual over a bottle of (much needed sometimes) wine. My good friend tells me it’s the same for her. My other good friend seconds this. We constantly try to make everyone happy. If we open our big mouths to utter anything slightly negative we are ‘bitches’. Hated for, what seems like forever, but generally a day. We discussed stressed and snappy husbands, grumpy grandparents et al. All agreeing that we simply can’t solve everything. The constant worry of trying to get everyone to smile. Therefore extending from the children to the husband and assorted family members, it seems the opening quotation should be modified to ‘yours only as happy as your only as happy family member’.
So, as my tan developed and the heat got hotter, we decamped to the sea. A long, dusty, hot bus ride followed by a trek down a ‘Clash of the Titans’ style hill, was meant to refresh and reinvigorate – and that it did! The list of anxieties of suspected complaints (yes, it is in the job description of being a mum ‘customer service manager’) was pushed to the back of my filing cabinet labelled ‘Causes of Stress on a Family Trip’: walking back up the hill, too hot, sunbeds in incorrect position, needing copious amounts of drinks and food – or they’ll die (don’t understand cost and it being on par with Greece’s national debt) etc. Instead I focused on storing the good stuff and filing it at the front labelled ‘Happy Place’ I captured to cobbled steeets, took great breaths of the salty air, gazed up at the ancient architecture from the iridescent blue lagoon my friend and I were floating upon. I stored the children’s happiness and exhalations of praise to the Aegean. We counted fish, swan lengths and thought about nothing other than how lucky we all were to be sharing such beauty. We revelled in the lack of technology and relaxed knowing our bikini clad bodies were not being broadcast via snapchat. Him and Him’s right hand man swimming away into the open waters. Drinking it in, savouring the happiness for the dark times!
Sleeping (metaphorically) with one eye open? Knowing that for every amazing memory you create that there’ll be another ugly one to match it, is not necessarily the way to survive. Finding a way to survive family holidays and life is an acceptable solution though. So yes, I savour stuff and store it up. Recalling in quiet moments whilst running, walking, cooking, anything really that gives me time to breathe. You see we need to breathe and we forget that of each other. I’ve lost count of the amount of times these holidays that I’ve been demanded whilst I’m having a quick wee. The constant sound of a fridge being opened (depending on time of day this can be the grazing/emptying aspect of fridge-life, or can be semaphore for ‘I’m hungry why are you cooking?’). Set to the backdrop of trail of items strewn across the house as ‘it’s ok as she’s not at work and needs something to do’ Whatever the setting it requires me to be ‘food and beverage manager’ and ‘head housekeeper’ – an industry I haven’t been near as a paid member of staff since my early twenties.
The solution? I don’t know. Until a magic wand is created (and as a consequence would ruin the world) or I become a Stepford wife, it’s not easy. Like I say, I many others have ways of coping. One friend has a technique she uses which she took from a hypnotherapy session. She turns to it when times get tough. One brave lady advised that she:
‘I get in a big bath and suit myself for a couple of hours. Locking myself in the bathroom with music on loud and a scented candle cam block it out’. Wise words – block it out!
Whatever works is what I say. Inner peace and calm needs to be found so we can deal with ‘the unhappiest family member at the time’. It’s not in us to abandon those we love is it? It’s not in the job title.
Final words: enjoy and embrace the last week of the holidays. We will look back and savour the memories of these ‘carefree days’ when deeply entrenched in the mundanity of school life. Happy Bank Holiday!
Keep smiling xx