In the back of your mind you always know that your family is more than the sum of it’s parts. A family isn’t just five people of varying sizes living under one roof, it’s more than that, it’s a unit, an entity all of its own. But knowing in the back of your mind and seeing it put to the test are two different things. For us, this month has been the toughest since I went back to work full time. My job has always had the occasional “rocket launch’ moments, when working every minute of every hour of every day (sometimes literally) starts to become all you’ve ever known, but it’s been a while since I was at the forefront, and even then I was cushioned a little by only working three days a week. It’s been hard work. Good work though, the kind of work that I want to be doing and to build my career with, but even when you know that something has long term payoffs it can make you tired to the point of speechlessness.
I’m, if not exactly used to, at least aware of the impact that has on me, but it’s the impact on us as a whole family that has been so both perfectly logical and completely surprising. In an ideal world you’d think hardworking breadwinner has to up the ante so supportive spouse pulls out all the stops, healthy nourishing suppers, encouraging notes sneaked into the pack lunch, children entertained during rare moments of downtime so that you can get all the rest you can find. But it doesn’t work like that. Poor old supportive spouse is left parenting without any meaningful break, without the chance for adult interaction of an evening, without really knowing whether they’re coming or going because little mrs breadwinner is at the beck and call of other people, and with three small children who thrive on a rhythmn that has been shaken out and upended.
It isn’t a yin and yang situation, if I’m stretched thin, so is H, and not only can the children sense the exhaustion, but they’re discombobulated too. Pip can’t work out where Mama has gone, but only knows that he wants her back, he wants her now and he’s not prepared to let her out of his sight, or be put down, even when soundly asleep (which only lengthens a late night working into the early hours), Kitty looked crushed when I said that I couldn’t do the school run, and Elma quickly got overtired by staying up late to make sure that I came home.
It’s such an odd balance to be making; on the one hand this is good for me professionally, and that in turn is good for the whole family, but in the short term we all feel the strain as the pressure bites down. And thankfully this last week I snatched an afternoon to work from home and collect Kitty from school, I was home on time-ish (I was late but it was the train’s fault not mine) on Friday and there’s just a glimmering of blue sky and calmer days ahead. We didn’t snap, but oh am I glad to be walking away from the moments when it felt like we might.
And so this month’s portrait of the five of us is brought to you by Failure to Prepare (I forgot to bring the tripod) and The Eleventh Hour (taken yesterday). Our heads are half chopped off because the camera slipped, everyone except me seems to be playing one of those “guess whether I’m smiling or not” games, and to be frank, H and I look properly shattered. But I’ve never regretted making the effort to take a Me and Mine photo, never once looked back and thought I’d be better having not bothered, and I’m not planning on starting now. It is us, holding on to the rollercoaster that’s been January and still together as my little family of five:
And I can’t go without showing you just one more photo – while H and Kitty were at the opticians, Elma, Pip and I had a picnic snack at the park, and thought we’d dummy run a set up for our family photos – Peekaboo world!