Fine, fine, I’m fine.

It’s such an alarm bell word isn’t it? Fine.

I’ve been ‘fine’ for some weeks now.

I mean, I’ve been over-joyed about Oscar’s recovery and that his schooling for the next six years being secured. I’ve been thrilled and exhilarated to see Chef move into a job and a workplace he is just loving and thriving in (“I butchered a lamb today!”). I’m stoked that next year two of my children will be at a primary school which prides itself on it’s inclusive culture and joy in learning. I’m relieved and excited that Grover has been offered a place in the 2-day group at our wonderful community kindergarten which has provided the environment that has seen Jasper blossom this year.

But I have been fine. Just fine.

There have been the mild anxiety attacks on first waking in the mornings.
The night sweats.
The chronic diarrhoea. (sorry)
The knuckle dragging sensational of day-in-day-out drudgery.
The erratic mood.
The quick to anger.
The complete lack of energy.
The loss of any motivation to do anything.
An increasing sentiment of simmering resentment.
The constant craving to retreat.
Withdraw.

I have been going through the functional components of my job as mother – the lunch making, the dinner preparation, the teeth-cleaning, bathing, showering, clothes washing, note signing, dropping off and picking up.

But on completion of those tasks my immediate thought and desire is to withdraw to my room.

I liken it to a light-switch – I’m not feeling overwhelmed or isolated or any of those other feelings that have normally presented themselves when I’m ‘fine’. I actually feel quite disassociated from it all. I know I’m doing a great job when I’m ‘doing my job’ but then can almost feel an internal switch shut it off and the shutters come clanging down.

I haven’t been particularly teary. I have been, and this phrase basically encapsulates it perfectly, fucking exhausted. On all levels, in all spheres of my life.

When I sat down with my (most awesome) psychiatrist on Wednesday I had made a decision not to do the whole ‘looking on the positive side/self-analysis’ approach I normally adopt but to just lay it all out for him to make of what he would.

I cried. Which I was really not expecting so in and of itself was quite a physical manifestation of where I was at.

We looked at what is my day to day reality and then the extraordinary events that this year as presented:
– finding a high school for Oscar
– Mum’s hip replacement
– in-laws being away for 7 weeks
– Oscar’s operations and recovery
– Chef changing jobs in a rather stressful thrust-upon-us way

He pointed out that what I had managed in the last three months was probably what many may experience over a five year period and probably not with four children. True.

He pointed out that prior to Oscar’s operation I was slowly building in some activities that were me-time. Crucial, he says, for anyone’s sanity but particularly women and especially mother’s looking after young children or children with special needs. Or both in my case. True.

He pointed out that all of that had been obliterated. True.

He pointed out that when a partner starts a new job it is a huge adjustment for everyone in the family and after an initial period of time you then have to review the homelife component and re-establish some processes that may or may not have been abandoned during that starting phase. True.

So what to do.

I had already just (as in the night before) implemented a strategy with the boys to get them more involved in helping out around the house. I know many of you will be shaking your heads at me and going, dude, you should have done that years ago and yes, yes I should. But life you know, has a funny thing of getting away from me from time to time.

Remember, the last two years constitute the first time I have solely been at home with no work-life balance to manage since Oscar was 14 months old. I have kind of relished feathering my nest so to speak. Yes yes, in doing so made a complete rod for my back but dudes, cut me some martyrdom slack.

So, welcome to the Chore Board boys!
Names are up, tasks are listed, financial reward associated.
Now listen, Chef was dubious about the cash reward scheme but I was all, dude, we’re talking about 12 and 10 year old boys (and indeed 4 and 3 year olds once they got wind of what was going on) nothing is going to motivate them to help more than money. Doing something from the goodness of their heart is not a currency that carries much incentive to that age bracket. This was only confirmed by my psych who pointed out the feeling good by doing something for others really only kicks in around 20 and while you might get glimpses of it earlier than that it is not a natural motivator. Besides, this is about making my life easier, not just creating a new battleground I have to negotiate. I win.

Can I say, and yes, it is only Day 3 of its implementation, but ZOMG what a winner. Pets are being fed, garbage is being taken out, towels are being hung up (talk about easy money!)

The hilarious component of this is the little boys burning desire to be a part of it.

Now don’t worry, I keep reminding about how this is also teaching them about what it takes to run a household and about being part of a team and blah blah blah yeah mum just hand over the cash.

Second component: Team Berry. This is Chef and my new code for surviving the evenings and getting to a nightly nirvana which for me involves limitless time on Twitter and Chef hoping for some Special Cuddles. From when Chef gets home until 8.30pm (when all offspring are in bed) it is Team Berry. There is absolutely no personal time during that period unless you want to experience death by 1,000 cuts. It is all about the family – reading stories, listening to reading, dinner, cleaning up from dinner, tidying up the loungeroom, baths, teeth cleaning and all the rest.

ZOMG2 – last night was the first night of this new regime and MY GOD – what a difference. I had been feeling bad about asking Chef to do anything in the evenings (this of course didn’t stop me asking but still, even that is emotionally loaded) and it was spiraling out of control.

Third component is rebuilding some things into my week and particularly the weekend when I have all four boys all weekend with no relief that are just for me, be they swimming or going for a walk or something.

We’re monitoring my mood for the next two and a half weeks and if if hasn’t markedly improved we’re looking at additional meds, something I would like to avoid.

But dudes, at least now I feel like there is a plan and that is half the battle.

Onward!

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