It’s all in your head

On Mother’s Day, my partner cooked me breakfast. My daughter gave me a gift that she had bought from a stall at school. She forgot about the card she had made, though, and no-one reminded her.

My sons were dragged out of bed for breakfast and both muttered “Happy mother’s day” before turning to their food and their usual bickering.

And I felt sad.

I mean, I appreciated the breakfast and all, but there was no hug. It was all very obligatory and not with any real appreciation. There was no message that this was because I am special. I try really hard not to indulge in “You should have…” statements, but there should have been. My partner should have made the boys give me a hug. He should have made them be more genuine in wishing me a happy mother’s day. He should have made my daughter give me the card she made. He should maybe even have made the boys buy me a card or something.

But he didn’t. Because it wouldn’t cross his mind to do that. He would not be able to see that the token gesture of a cooked breakfast with some muttered greetings from everyone is actually hurtful. Because there is no actual feeling in it.

Maybe one of these days I will tell him that. And he’ll say it was because the day before I had yelled at him and slammed doors because we didn’t go to lunch. Like the year when he did nothing for my birthday because the day before we had had an argument.

On Saturday, I needed to go and get my middle son some new dance shoes. I decided we would go to a place on the other side of the city where the shoes are handmade on the premises, they always have a lot of stock and there is a nice cafe nearby. We could all go and have a nice lunch together. By the time everyone got organised and ready, I thought to check the opening hours of the dance shop, only to discover we would not get there before they closed, so there was no point trekking all that way. I told my partner and we tried to come up with ideas for where we could go for lunch instead, but could not agree on anything. I had had a busy week last week and was so tired I could barely string together any coherent thoughts. I went upstairs to go to the bathroom and he went out to hang out some washing. I was waiting expectantly to see if he had come up with any ideas when he came back in and peremptorily asked everyone what they wanted for lunch, and started dragging things out of the freezer. I protested that we were meant to be going out to lunch, and he responded “I don’t want to go out to lunch just for the sake of going out to lunch.”

And this made me furious, because it speaks volumes to me. Naturally, I retorted with, “Well of course. Why would you want to spend any time with your family?”

And this is the nub of the matter. He doesn’t. His evenings at home are spent in front of the tv with a laptop. He watches tv whilst surfing the ‘net. I mean, we all do that, right? Sometimes he also has headphones on. I generally go to bed and read or whatever, but he does not come to bed until well after I have gone to sleep. Sometimes he has things he’s working on out in the garage and his time is spent out there. On weekends he works on the boat, on the car, on other stuff out in the garage.

He has little time for the kids, and definitely none for me. Saturdays and Sundays are now taken up with sailing. This is not a man who wants to spend time with me. I’ve said to him, so many times that he’s tired of hearing it, that I don’t think he likes me. He has not offered me a compliment for as long as I can remember.

It’s a relationship of obligation and convenience. There’s no companionship, no affection, no real love.

And this is why it hurts to hear my boys mutter “Happy mother’s day.” Obligation over, fuss made, let’s get on with eating. A minor inconvenience that must be observed before we can go back to our regular scheduled programming.

I don’t want to be dismissed this way. I bust my arse to make everyone else in the family feel special, and I think I have a right to expect the favour returned.

But I can’t do that in this environment. My children are getting the message that I am not important, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Yet if I mentioned all this to my partner, he would tell me it’s all in my head. I’m creating drama out of nothing.

And maybe he’s right. Maybe I am being a drama queen. But this crushing sense of grief in my chest doesn’t feel like nothing.

It feels like the end of something.

Belonging vs alienation

Over the weekend, I was looking into courses I could do to enhance my employability as an EA. I found a Grad Cert aimed at EAs that gave you a business qualification. It seemed like a reasonable choice to me, be ause I could build on the qualification in future, plus the subject matter is probable transferable to other qualifications in the future.

I showed it to my partner and asked his opinion, and was greeted with rolled eyes, pursed lips and sighs of exasperation. Which, you know, I get. He’s sick of my existential crisis. He thinks it’s a waste of time and probably stuff I already know.

And I was annoyed at that. Not just because he clearly doesn’t want to be bothered with my crap, but also because he’s foiled another of my escape plans.

Because everything for me, when it boils down to it, is just another escape plan. Don’t like my job? Then I will invest a huge amount of mental energy in researching something different and better!! Only this time (and I’ve been on this rollercoaster before) I’d decided I should look at staying put. I would become the Best EA the World has Ever Seen!!!

After going to bed feeling a little dejected last night, and wishing my partner was more of the talk-things-out type as opposed to the I-have-spoken-now-stop-bothering-me-with-your-shit-I’m-watching-tv type, this morning I have woken with the realisation that it’s all about belonging.

I don’t belong anywhere. I am constantly skirting the edge of all of these communities in my life, never fully part of any one group. I don’t have other “mummy” friends in my neighbourhood. Not particularly friendly with the neighbours. Certainly not friends with my partner, who seems to want me to function solely as a housekeeper and little else. I’m friendly at work but have not actually made any friends – no-one to lunch with or anything. I rarely go out socially.

So I guess I’m desperate to feel like I belong. If I can prove myself by working in a job I enjoy and excel in, maybe I will feel like I’ve found my place?

For now, I guess, I just keep drifting along in my shade-like existence.

180

I find myself having performed a psychological 180 degree turn this weekend.

This past week has been crazy busy. The other EA was absent this week on leave, so it was arranged that I would work full-time to cover her absence. As a result I was supporting my boss and my boss’s boss (which I have kind of been doing previously, as the other EA also works part-time, so I cover for her on the day’s she’s not there).

And I did a great job. I would even go so far as to say a fantastic job. I had feedback from others to say that they had never seen A, my boss’s boss, so organised. I felt like I moved into a great working relationship with him. He’s quite quirky but we established a kind of give-and-take dynamic very quickly and it really worked well. I drafted some correspondence for him and he was very impressed at my writing abilities. At the end of the week I gave him a rundown on what he had coming up (appointments and tasks I had scheduled for him) and he asked me not to hand those items back to his regular EA, but instead keep carriage of them. Other people in our department commented to me that there was a very different work environment at play when I was there as opposed to the other EA; that it was more dynamic, comfortable and easygoing. I achieved a lot.

And it was busy. I have been on a bit of a high from the adrenaline of working in a fast-paced environment. And I loved it. I loved my job, the busy-ness, achieving goals for an exec and knowing that I was keeping him – and my usual boss – both on track. Getting feedback to that effect was great. I even loved being there full-time as I was able to get a feel for the day-to-day rhythm of the work environment, which is not something that happens when you miss 2 workdays every week, as priorities and events can change so much in that short amount of time.

So this just adds to my confusion. Maybe I *am* on the right path for me. 2 weeks ago if you had asked me “Does your job allow you to use your best talents and abilities?”, I would have given a resounding “No.” I felt like a fish out of water – in the wrong place at the wrong time. After this past week, my answer would be almost the complete opposite. I was using my best abilities. And, from what I can surmise, the work environment seemed to be influenced by me.

And now the opportunist in me is hard at work. I can learn a lot from this industry, and while not directly related, I can leverage my bachelor degree to my advantage in choosing a postgraduate course that could possibly give me some grounds for advancement in the future. Not now – in a year or two.

I’m still on a high this morning from my week of full-time work. I don’t think that happens in a job you hate, right?

The antisocial set

I don’t know what the seating arrangements are on trains in the rest of the world, but where I live, we have double-decker carriages, with a smallish vestibule area where you get on and off the train. In the upsgairs and downstairs bits, the majority of the carriage is five seats across, with a central pathway down the middle of the carriage, so each row consists of a 3 seater and a 2 seater.

Except the very front and rear of the carriage where there are stairs to th3 vestibule area, where there are 2 single seats facing one another.

Now, I’m not sure what goes on upstairs, but downstairs, this single seat arrangement is hot property. In the mornings, I see people in my vicinity on my platform scanning the 2 carriages nearest us, conducting a split second assessment of the seating arrangements: is it available? Should I go to the back or front of the carriage? Should I move to the next carriage instead.

There is a certain sub-set of the commuting population for whom obtaining this seat is either the best start or crowning glory of their day. I’ve seen people move from perfectly comfortable double or triple seats to sit in the single seat.

I’ve mentioned my joy at “winning” The Antisocial Seat on Facebook before, and from the responses I’ve received, I’m not alone.

I’ve dubbed it “The Antisocial Seat”, because it seems the object of getting that prize is that you don’t have to deal with other people squishing you, brushing their bums and/or bags past your face, invading your personal space with their unnecessarily large handbags, elbows or widely-spread legs. And vice versa. You have your own space and can travel along oblivious to those around you, which is nice if you’re an introvert and, like me, not your best first thing in the morning.

The Antisocial Seat. For the Antisocial Set.

Opportunist

It’s possible that I’m not made to be one of those people who finds a career that gives them joy, passion and all that stuff. Maybe I’m just made to go through life having a series of jobs. And I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that I’m not sure I want to wander through life starting over all the time.

If you know what I mean.

I think everyone wants to find something that they feel they excel at, and spend their time doing that, and not just be muddling from one thing to the next. You want to feel like you’re making something of yourself.

And I want to be one of those people who makes something of themselves. Not that I want to be wildly successful, or rich, or anything like that. I just want to feel like I’m making a difference, somehow. So it’s frustrating, then, when I’ve reached a point where I feel like I’m ready for a change. Ready to move on. And then ambivalence sets in. I suddenly decide that, hey, you know, this job isn’t really that bad.

And my current job isn’t. It really isn’t. It pays well, for an admin job. My immediate coworkers are not too bad. Some of the work is fairly interesting. It’s tolerable.

And then last week, I heard that they (as in, some of the leadership team) were getting together to look at the possibility of establishing a management traineeship targeted at admin staff. A rotating roster system where they will spend time in different business areas. So of course, the opportunist in me kicks in, thinking, “Well, I could do that.”

Maybe my problem is just that I don’t have any opportunities to exploit at the moment, rather than it being the workplace itself. I mean, I guess I’m just acknowledging that I no longer want to be just the dogsbody any more (and I apologise to my fellow admins and anyone who values their admin staff, but that is just the bald reality, I’m afraid). But once you’re an EA, there really isn’t anywhere much to go after that, other than Something Else Entirely Different.

I guess all I can do is bide my time and see if anything actuates from this proposed initiative. And in the meantime, keep plugging away to see if I can figure out some kind of alternative path. Make my own opportunities.

Golden child

I have just had my mother stay overnight on her way down south to a family reunion. She has taken my middle boy with her. They left last night and already I miss him – it’s like there is a hole in my life, even though I am going about my day and doing things that wouldn’t normally involve him anyway. His absence is still noticeable.

I’m sorry to say that even for that brief, overnight stay, my mother drove me nuts. I mean, I love her and all, and I worry about her, but still.

80% of my mother’s conversation is focused on my eldest sister and her 3 children, and how wonderful, brilliant and clever they are. Now, I’ve always known that this sister was far and abive mum’s favourite child, and generally I tolerate her constant extolling of their respective virtues pretty well, but yesterday it got to the point where I just wanted to tell her to shut the eff up about it.

There wasn’t a subject that couldn’t be related back to C and her brilliant brood. At one point, our other visitor (mum had invited her cousin to lunch with us yesterday as well) commented favourably on the fact that 2 of my kids had settled down to a game of chess together. Instead of complimenting my kids (since I was in earshot, after all, as were they), mum’s response was, “Oh, C’s children play chess. Yes, they all do. They’ll frequently sit down and have a game.”

*sigh*

And I accept, if course, that I (and the rest of my siblings) will always be the lesser child(ren). So what is my beef, you may ask? I don’t really know. I guess it puts me on offside because I’ve never had the security of unconditional love the way my older sister has. I have always felt less than; not good enough. I’ve felt inferior as a person all my life and as a mother since becoming a parent, which has had a big impact not just on me but also my kids, since I am constantly second-guessing my choices.

I guess this is another thing I need to let go, and that’s what I’m doing here. Letting it rankle for a while so I can put it aside. It doesn’t serve me, nor my kids.

So