Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Self-sufficiency vs Parenting

It has been a little while since posting, with various half-written things on the boil, and I've decided that I'd best start back by addressing the somewhat alarming fact that the Pickled Pear has inadvertantly become yet another "parenting blog".  My apologies to all non-parent readers (and indeed parent readers who might actually want a break from thinking about parenting), but it cannot be helped: I have a blog, and now I have children (well, one child and one brewing), so here we are.  I may yet write about other things, but I cannot guarantee it.  Meanwhile, it occurred to me that this new phase is more than a little removed from my original topic of 'self-sufficiency'.  Indeed, the two notions are entirely incompatible.

The idea of self-sufficiency that I had in mind - ie. my own desire to be as autonomous from other humans as possible - doesn't really fit with parenting.  This parenting gig turns out to be rather involved with other humans!  My fond little hope of getting to a state of independence has been completely stolen by the new focus on my children.  I don't even miss it - I'm too filled with love (and, perhaps more to the point, exhaustion) to give much of a care for my own identity.  I am aware that the kids will grow and leave and I will need to re-claim more of my independence, again find my primary satisfactions outside of meeting their needs, but for now I don't have much choice but to be all about 'them'.

I have also had to accept that aiming for self-sufficiency is not particularly important when engaged in raising children - indeed, trying to do so would not only be madness, but potentially negligent.  What matters is the end result - giving them the best life possible - not the method.  Accepting as much help as possible is a really positive thing to do.  I have felt guilty for how much help I get from my husband, aware that most 'primary care-givers' have a lot less input from their partner (even when they have one), but I soon realised that this guilt was absurd.  Anyone would LOVE to have such an involved partner: I should not berate myself for not doing enough on my own, I should just be thankful.  This is not the time for pride, for insistence on proving my mettle as a full-time mother - this is the time for doing whatever it takes to do the best for the children.  The fact is, I am not a full-time mother.  I am a part-time mother, part-time paid employee, and occasional independent person; the rest of child's full-time needs are taken up by his father, his grandmother, some help from other rellies and friends, and regular time with paid-carers.  Indeed our child often has several of us caring for him at once. I like to think of our life as offering the Capitalist version of 'the village' ideal for raising children, and I know our child is benefiting as a result of all the different people in his life.

Finally, I have discovered to my occasional horror and frequent exhaustion, that I will never be emotionally self-sufficient again.  It turns out that even part-time physical parenthood still comes with a perpetual inner-state.  I'm not a worrier by nature, motherhood didn't instantly turn me into the pessimist my own mother can be (thank goodness!), but I find that whatever I am actually doing, this parenting thing is still... there.  Even when I have time away from my child, when I feel completely confident that he is safe and well and happy, and I have no pressing deadlines or demands on my time, 'relaxation' is simply not quite what it used to be.  I do manage to un-wind to an extent, I have a pleasant time and get enough of a recharge to face it all again, but there is still... something.

That 'something', is simply an awareness, under the surface of even the greatest relaxation, that there is a person in the world dependent on me.  Because he exists, I will never be truly alone again.  Not in my heart.  In my heart, for the rest of my existence, I will be a mother.