A summer of feeling conflicted…
Read the books they said. Join a group (or six) they said. Follow this person on social media they said. So much well meaning, kindly intended advice was the order of business when I became a parent. I was SWIMMING in the stuff. Do you know what I didn’t hear people talk about though? The (sometimes) constant air of feeling conflicted.
Feeling conflicted is a phrase many of us would use at some point regardless of our parental status, but having kids has taken it in a whole new direction for me. When I shared some of this on my insta stories recently my DMs were full of solidarity and ‘thank you for saying this out loud’ type messages. So here we go – I’m going to share in a bit more depth what the last couple of months have felt like.
Sometimes I struggle to articulate what feeling conflicted looks like clearly and I think (if I can sound potentially dramatic for a second) it’s because it can be all consuming. It’s something that has always been in the background but it’s currently in sharp focus.
I know some of what I’m about to share will resonate with you, but there will no doubt be your own specific situations and intersectionalities that shape your own story too – and I’d love to hear them if you want to share.
So here we go…
I’m going to dive straight in with childcare arrangements. If I could sum up the thoughts that roamed rent free in my head over the summer holidays it would go something like this:
I want to be with my kids but I also want to work (x 1000 on repeat).
I know it doesn’t have to be me looking after the girls (I’m way past that stage!). However, at the same time I enjoy being with them (most of the time). Aren’t I meant to be the flex point of the family? Surely that means I should be able to contort myself into all sorts of routines? My husband also started a new job over summer so I didn’t want to put ‘it should be 50/50’ pressure on. That may well divide opinion but I’m a believer in managing the imbalance rather than equal balance all of the time. (The Four Burner theory can be helpful with this outlook too)
It meant that the summer was a big reduction in the my usual jobs list. Social media and LinkedIn posts were put down. Emails were checked more sporadically and my auto responder set out some clear boundaries to manage expectations. Some days felt pinched but in the main it felt good. I had the belief that I could do it all, but not at the same time. There was probably a bit of re-defining what ‘all’ meant to me as well. It’s easy to fall into whopping great big holes where you compare and think you’re not enough. Time away from social media definitely helped with that along with muting a few WhatsApp groups!
Privilege comes to play…
I know that having the option to send them to a holiday club for a few days and to have some family help comes with privilege on a few levels. That also created some conflict – if you can do it or if you have the offer of support, what are you whinging about? It all felt a bit ‘my diamond shoes are too tight’ at one point. It wasn’t 24/7 help by any stretch and I’d found a total unicorn of a holiday club for three days that was great value (can you hear me justifying it?!) but I still wanted to check myself.
This particular part of feeling conflicted is something I’m still reflecting on and working through. To be honest I need to come back to you on it, but it felt like there was space to start sharing.
And in the end…
We made it through the summer holiday – all still talking to each other and with a business in tact. Feeling conflicted featured more than I’d have liked, there’s no denying that. I reckon we’re living in a world where we’re being served up content asking us to shortcut a lot. Including our emotions and feelings.
So where does the narrative end? Is there an answer? It goes round in circles constantly to be honest and the volume fluctuates. The answer I’m looking for isn’t a formulaic one or something that can be classed as wrong or right. It’s how we make it work as a family, and specifically to me what I can feel comfortable with.
My expectation isn’t that I totally remove this conflict…
Instead I want to be in charge of my relationship with it. It’s similar to my feelings around guilt to be honest (this Parent Support Hub video will explain). What’s important to me (and maybe to you too) is to listen and respond kindly to myself. I want and need to work. I want and need to be with the girls. Both things are true and there’s no rule book I need to follow.