I’m sure we all have our stories to tell about what help we get, what help we don’t get, what we want, what we need, who we trust, who we don’t… it’s all about the cycle of life. And some how we feel envious of what others have, and terribly sorry for what some can go through. So here are just a few dilemmas some have told me that they are going through at the moment…
Friend number one, had her children later in life and in someways is very protective of her children, but in other ways, very liberating with her children allowing them to spend days on end at the beach, ride their bike at the age of 3. etc. She is very strict on routine, especially bed time and going to bed late is something she will not tolerate for her kids. Her latest dilemma is that her and her husband’s parents are getting old and can’t look after her children when she wants to go out. Her husband’s father is approaching his 90s, his mother only 75, but their health is getting overwhelming for them to look after her children. Whereas her own mother is enjoying life and her social life dominates her time, therefore the hours available for babysitting, especially at night, are becoming limited, even though she lives just around the corner. For the almost eight years of motherhood she has gone through, she’s never had to pay for a babysitter, never had her children stay at someone’s house, never paid for childcare and her children have only gone to scheduled kindergarten and school sessions with the occasional playgroup or extra-curricular activity. She has rarely had them out of her own care and never relied on anyone else but family. But she needs to take the plunge… and do some letting go because she is physically exhausted being 24/7 mum in her mid 40s.
Friend Number Two has recently moved over to Australia from the United States where she had her mum at her beckon call. Her mum would look after her children at least once a week so she could be an ‘adult’ – have golf nights, have date night with her husband, have a weekend away – just have fun. Since arriving here about 9 months ago, her mum has been over here twice and her sister with her family once, and they plan to go back for a month in December. But while she’s here, she has no family to rely on and has been lucky to have found a babysitter in her street that charges $7 an hour and is available most nights. But she’s not used to having her children around her all the time (except when they are at school) and as she isn’t involved in any social groups here, she doesn’t have her regular golf nights and is desperate just to have a weekend away while her husband takes care of the kids.
Both friend Number One and friend Number Two seem to have a high disposable income to rely on, as they are both still married to husbands with well-paid jobs.
Friend Number Three is possibly the most tragic. She recently met up with her first boyfriend, the man who always had her heart. It was friendship to start with, while she was married, but somehow their feelings for each other were always there and they started something. Her marriage ended amicably and they are still financially together, however she moved out, her husband sees her boys regularly and she now enjoys a life with her long-lost-love. However, her parents are disgusted by her actions and refuse to help her in any way, taking the side of her ex-husband. They invite him over for dinner when they know he’s lonely, they look after the boys on his shift, but never hers. She thought she would have her parents support through all of this, especially when they knew that her first boyfriend was always her greatest love. She’s had to go back to work and is studying. She has no help, except for when her husband takes her boys twice a week… at least she has that.
My story is a combination of them all. My parents live 40 kilometres away and have an active social life, almost like it’s to spite their four daughters as they will constantly admit that they have raised their children, implying that they don’t want to be raising grandchildren. Occasionally they will have my boys over in school holidays for a couple of nights, but it was only my most recent trip overseas that they agreed to take care of them for the two weekends I had away, while school friends took them in the school week. My ex-husband only has them 7 hours a month, with no overnight stays as he has a small one bedroom flat with no space for them. His parents are even more self-absorbed than my parents and neither my ex husband nor I trust his mother, so that’s a closed book. I’ve always had to pay for babysitters, but it adds another expense to a cheap night out, so it’s rare. So, unless I take off for a week or two to further my writing career, I have my kids 24/7, 99% of the month and he pays me only $270 a month for child support, so I have to provide the rest. I am lucky that I have raised them to look after themselves if I need to go out for a couple of hours, and they are content being in the house by themselves with a stocked-up pantry, the TV and their Nintendo DSs, but nights make it hard and there is no way I could do an overnighter. It reduces the opportunity for me to have an at-home love life, a social life – a life outside work and home. If I do have a ‘social life’ it’s generally inviting friends over for dinner, so the boys can do their thing, as I entertain in the kitchen or outside. So now you can understand why I have my internet lover, and he keeps me happy with adult conversation that takes me away from being a mum and a provider.
I’d love to hear anyone else’s stories of how you cope, what parental freedoms you have, what makes life hard, etc. We all have different stories to tell, sometimes it’s best to put it out in the open than bottling it up…