I wake up to hear the heavy smattering of rain on the window.
Even though I’m still stirring from my sleep, my head is racing ahead of me and I can feel the leaden weight of anxiety already straddling my chest. I’ve been feeling like this for a while and I can’t fathom why the ache of anxiety has returned. Unlike previous times, I haven’t been able to shake it. It seems intent on staying for a while and I’m wondering when it will finally leave again.
Laying in bed I can almost hear my heart beating, it feels like it’s going at a ferocious rate, trying to keep up with my brain that is already mentally preparing for the day ahead: the work that needs to be done, the deadlines I have to meet, the emails I still need to go through and reply to. But for now I try to lay still – I try to enjoy the stillness of the room. I desperately try to ignore the sound of my heart, which, in my mind, has now morphed into the Jaws theme tune and seems suddenly ominous. I feel fearful for what this day will bring.
I feel tired, my head feels muffled and I struggle to get out of bed. I remind myself that I am lucky, I run through a list of the reasons why I should be ridiculously happy. How the stress of last year has gone. How I have nothing to worry about. Yet, my chest still tightens and I feel like I can’t get my breath.
I open up the curtains to see that the whole of the island is enveloped in heavy fog. It rolled in when I was asleep and now it’s wrapped itself around the house, strangling us, trapping us. I can’t see or hear a thing. It’s like the whole island is smothered under this grey blanket. I miss the sun. The glorious summer we had now feels like a distant memory. As I stand looking out onto the murky landscape I feel like I’m drowning in fog.
I slowly pad downstairs and make myself a mug of coffee. I am aware that coffee is probably the last thing I should be drinking. However, I need to focus and get all of my work done. I settle at my desk and start on my work for the day. Just as I start to type I hear the children stir. I immediately quell the sense of panic that rises. How am I going to get my work done? It’s fine I tell myself. You can start again later.
I Am Lucky
I am incredibly lucky because I work from home. Yet, working from home when you have deadlines to meet can be challenging when you have children at home. They don’t understand that I work too. I’m not like their dad, I don’t leave the house, I don’t put on smart clothes. I work from home in the spare bedroom. My desk an old make-up table is in the corner of the room. I sometimes work in my pjs, not getting dressed until my work for the day has been completed, so it’s no wonder that they struggle with the concept of me working too.
I take the children downstairs and make them breakfast. Youngest insists on a bowl of dry cereal and Oldest insists on a large bowl of cereal drowned in milk. It’s predictable. This has been the morning routine for the last 4 weeks. I also know that Oldest won’t finish the cereal but she won’t be told. In ten minutes I will be stood at the bin scraping the sodden cereal into the bin and gently chiding her for wasting food, again. I also make myself another cup of coffee. I’m feeling very on edge and I really shouldn’t be adding more caffeine to the fire! I try to ignore my phone pinging with notifications. Every time I hear my phone ping my heart races. I realise that I’m tensing up, waiting for the phone to ping next, so in the end I silence my phone so that I can concentrate on the children.
We sit at the dining room table as the fog silently swarms outside. I feel like I’ve forgotten something and then I realise it’s probably the overflowing inbox and the work I need to get done niggling at me. It’s times like this that I miss working in an office or classroom. However, I know that the grass isn’t greener and I remind myself of why I left teaching. How I wanted to be there for the children.
But am I here for the children now?
I might be here physically, but mentally I’m not so sure. I realise that this holiday I’ve felt overwhelmed. Even when we went away for a couple of days I was working, or mentally thinking about when I could squeeze in my hours for the day. It occurs to me that it’s just another reminder of how we can’t have it all. When I worked in teaching I desperately missed the girls and felt guilty that I wasn’t there for them enough. Now I work from home and I feel guilty that I’m not doing my job to the best of my ability, I feel like I’m juggling my work and the children. Working from home has blurred the boundaries. I’m no longer sure when work ends and home life begins. I just have this constant niggling feeling that I’m failing at my job and at being a parent.
Working from home means that I am looking at the same 4 walls every single day. I communicate with my boss via email. There are no meetings, no work colleagues to gossip with around the photocopier, no proper lunch breaks. However, when the children are at school I relish the silence. I don’t miss office life but the last couple of months have changed that. The chaos of family life has seeped into my work life and I have found it hard to concentrate and to write. My email box is overflowing and I feel overwhelmed.
This summer has seen me juggling working from home with the children for the longest stretch yet. It’s been a steep learning curve and I have felt overwhelmed. Yet, now I realise that I am the only person who is responsible for this feeling. I need to take a moment. I need to stop beating myself up about everything. I need to get better at separating my work from my family life. The emails can wait. The work will get done at some point during the day. Right now it’s the summer holidays and I need to make the most of the time with my family. I need to get better at closing the door on my work.
This feeling will pass.