Friday, 14 October 2016

Who am I, now I'm a Mother?

I'm 36 years old and I'm having an existential crisis. I doubt I'm alone. I fear this happens to everyone at some point, but most definitely to Mothers. And Actors.

I've been out of work two weeks and I am, as my agent amusingly suggested, 'twitchy'. I had forgotten the neuroses of an actor. The lack of control. The waiting for the phone to ring. It's struck me that I find the admin of acting much like the admin of dating. I bloody hated first dates. When other people would tell me how exciting they found it, the 'will he, won't he like me/will I like him', the analysis of conversation and written communication after the event, the waiting, I hated it. Did I mention the waiting? And acting is much the same. Not the actual 'acting'. But everything else around it. It requires an ability to appear interested and engaged, but with no hint of need. To keep abreast of everything that is going on in the acting world so you can spot possible opportunities but without actually stalking anyone. Tricky. Twitch.

Now. So that's half of it. The other is being a Mum. Well, a parent, but I'm gonna go with Mum for now.

It strikes me that most Mums who do go back to work head back after 6 months plus. So they hit the 'Who am I, now I am a Mother' question pretty early on in the child's first year. I think somehow I've delayed that existential question. Until now. Because if you go back to work swiftly (15weeks) and it's different work, and it's all consuming work (as theatre really is), then you don't really have time to ponder the meaning of life.

Cut to today. I've been out of work for two weeks (after nearly 11 months), so I am, bar the auditions and the odd pockets of time for writing (his one a day nap or when his Dad takes him off for an afternoon for me), a stay at home Mum. And I'm not gonna lie folks, it's been hard. And I'm not even talking about the obvious stuff, like how knackering it all is when it looks like you've achieved nothing. I'm talking about the question of 'Who am I, now I am a Mum?'

I believe we have character and personality traits that are probably fairly embedded by 36yrs. But it's also true, I think, that we are what we do. We are who we hang out with...... So on some days, I am a hopping rabbit (I'm trying to be more energetic animals in an attempt to get fitter), who speaks, and points out what EVERY single object is, what colour it is, whether we've seen it before, a tired rabbit who has changed some nappies and wiped up (let's be honest, occasionally eaten) my child's regurgitated food, whilst breastfeeding and ordering the weekly food shop online and put some washing on and wondered just how demented my own Mother is when she keeps calling to tell me about this extra special kitchen top surface she's had put on, which is so brilliant you can't put anything hot on it (No. Me either. Sounds something like calico. Who designs a kitchen top that can't have hot shit on it???!!!), whilst also enquiring how long we can survive without me working, a zombie rabbit with high blood pressure. If that's not an oxymoron.

We had two nights out this weekend - dinner on our own, and a friend's wedding on our own. We barely socialised and spent much of the evening snogging in a corner. I felt a vestige of an earlier incarnation of me. Of us. Our early dating (the good bit, when we'd already established we liked each other). Our child-free days. I felt horny. Then we got home and I felt guilty for enjoying those feelings. I felt excited that our son was still awake and we could hang out with him. I felt disappointed that after that, we were both too knackered to act upon our earlier foreplay. This is parenthood. A fucking maelstrom of emotions. Often conflicting.

I rarely feel like the old me. I hang out with friends and we click right back in, but I'm always only 75% in the conversation because I have an eye on my child. Or on my phone if he isn't with me. I've also turned into someone I used to hate. Someone who used to utterly baffle me. The person who doesn't reply to emails or texts for days. Weeks. Months even. I never used to understand that person. But now I do. I've got them all. I know I need to contact them. I want to contact them. I just need time. And headspace. It's the headspace that's the thing. There's no room at the inn. It took me 6 months to send Thank you cards for Hector's 1st Christmas. We're knocking on the door of 3 months since his Birthday and I have yet to begin. To be fair, I haven't even spent all the birthday money he got yet. Lucky him!

I tell my husband I've become a version of me that I don't like. The nagging one. I mean, I nagged before, but now, boy can I nag. Because that chore I mentioned 3 weeks ago, and 2 weeks ago, and 1 week ago, is taking up precious headspace that I can't afford. He's getting better. I am doing more chores. Only fair. And necessary. Because a nagging wife ain't hot. And a nagging wife doesn't want sex because she is too irritated. And irritated is just a little too far away on the continuum from angry, for good angry sex.

And yet, I'm a good version of me overall, right? I'm looking after a whole other person (two, if you count the husband). Thinking for them. Organising for them. Loving them. And I'm working a bit: researching what theatre and tv is coming up, aka stalking everyone. I've even made a spreadsheet. That's how I roll. And I'm writing a web series with my friend. And I'm trying to write jokes for a new set. But the mechanics of joke construction and uncensored thought seem, on occasion, to be a pipe dream I can only wave at on my two free afternoons when my husband takes Hector to art class or to the park (he basically throws glitter at glue and then eats it from what I can gather). I'm a less fit version of me. I've managed 3 days of long walks and one online yoga class in two weeks. There's a long way to go. I carried a child and the stomach knows it. It displays it proudly as I resignedly hoik up my Asos leggings that have become staple clothing. That and the two nursing bras I am yet to replace. And yet I get to throw a ball with my child and sometimes not realise that an hour has passed as we laugh at each other.

So do I want to be the old me? Well, yes, sometimes. Do I want to be the new me? Sometimes. When I work out exactly who that is. If I work out who that is. I'm told I do a good impression of 'scary wife with a heart', and my friend referred to us both as middle aged last week, so at least I know my casting finally, if nothing else.

PS if I owe you a text, an email, a thank you card, a play date, a coffee.... I'm on it. By Christmas at least.

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