Honesty and transparency.
I found going back to work hard. Grappling with the idea that things weren’t going to be quite as imagined, pregnant delusions of just being at home with my daughter, getting by and budgeting weren’t going to cut it. So, I packed up Eilish and me in the car, a box full of baby led weaning for an entire two days, and went back to work.
It didn’t work.
Eilish was too sad, two babies was too hard, it hurt my heart too much. I’ve looked after children, maybe a hundred or so, but having my own plus another was unimaginably harder. I wanted to cry every time they both did, wrecked with job responsibility and pure maternal instinct vying for attention inside me each time. And so I left.
I moved onto another, an afterschool pick up. I packed Eilish and me up in the car, dinner and a highchair, and tried again.
That didn’t work either.
A crawling baby in house of older children was terrifying, but we got by. I missed bedtime but she was fine with her dad. But then the summer holidays came, and I was no longer needed. Six whole weeks penny-less stretched before me, we couldn’t do that. And so I left.
But needs must, and this time I zipped up my uniform, packed myself up in the car, left Eilish at home with her dad and went to work.
For two evenings a week and a bit of Saturday, I am the friendly face at the till, the one who scans your shopping through, passes you a receipt and sends you on your merry way. Toby comes in the door at 5:15, and I walk out of it at 5:30. It’s late, Eilish doesn’t sleep all that well the nights I head off and I’m usually a bit shattered by Wednesday, but I earn money for our family.
Sometimes, I’ve since realised, it’s not about a whole, but instead its the tiny moments made up of those motherhood dreams. And sometimes those rely on moments that are a little less pretty and perhaps lit by fluorescent lights.
Sometimes, we are being led by assumptions that we place on others. Actually, I’m not ok with that one.
I find honesty a good and important quality. It’s one I hope I often share on here, in splashing messy emotions and feelings across pages like these, laying out stories in sparseness and truth. It’s something I value in others, and something that cuts to the quick when it comes to mothering. It’s a confusing place, where you are surrounded by those laying bare big and small truths if you can find them, yet immersed in a world in which people still shroud elements in mystery, sometimes afraid to share in case you’re the only one still breastfeeding, the only one bottle feeding or not sleeping.
But transparency, I find that an almost entirely different concept. You can be utterly honest without it, but in its essence it is far more raw.
Transparency is allowing people to see through the defences, the stories we tidy up the ends of, the house that we finished cleaning two minutes before they arrived. Transparency is a new level of vulnerability. If honesty is like ripping off a plaster every now and again, then transparency is peeling off a layer of skin to allow those to view what really lies beneath. It’s hard, and no one can do it all the time.
We do need our defences. They can be a nice cosy place to crawl into every now and again, a nook you yourself have built to hide in. Being indefensible can feel awful, and bare, and vulnerable in the wrong places. But it can be good in the right ones too. It can feel good, it can open up conversations with others that may otherwise have never happened. It can allow you to find a home for yourself in others, it can create a safe space for others in your own transparent self. It can be freeing.
We need more transparency because what is the use in hiding those things just for the fear of being unwelcome, when actually the person across from you may well carry that same truth. Connections could be made, but divisions are being harboured instead. Being open in our own lives could feasibly save another’s.
There is no shame in my little supermarket job, there is no shame in earning my family a little bit of money because we need it. It shouldn’t harm my self-worth, and it doesn’t. But I’ve not mentioned it, anywhere. Now why did I do that?