Not that kind?

So today I’ve decided that Mondays are somehow not hideous enough already and that instead, what I really need to do is lay down in a potential viper pit of a subject – parenthood.

UnsplashSebastian Pichler

Unsplash / Sebastian Pichler

Not parenting, because I know bugger all about that, but parenthood, as in, is it for me?
Not that my life is spilling over with options, but just lately I’ve become more aware of the big four zero being just a couple of years away.
Not that I’m expecting to launch into menopause on the big day itself, but it feels like a milestone year in that department.

But, despite being closer than ever to running out of choices and time, I feel less enthusiastic about the idea of sproglets than I ever have.
A few years ago, I was making jokes about my aching womb playing up every time I saw a newborn. Now, I make all the right socially acceptable (and expected) noises and have a cuddle and sniff their baby-shampoo hair, but if I’m honest, there’s literally nothing going on internally.
The only thought process (other than how adorable their hair smells) is: “yep, you’re really cute and it’s nice to snuggle, but I’ll be ready to give you back in approximately two minutes.”
And then, nothing.

I have three nephews and a god-daughter and I love them all, truly and deeply. A calendar of their grinning faces sits on my desk and I’m running out of fridge space for their paintings, and usually when I see them they end up squirming to get down because I’ve hugged them too long.
And when I get a text from a sister asking when I’m next popping round because the small ones keep looking for me out the window because they want to play, it’s lovely.
I go and we play and we laugh and their funny questions pluck my heartstrings so much I swear they can hear it.
And then they get tired and grumpy and fight with each other or drop their food or won’t eat it and then the sis takes over and it all just looks like crowd control and hard work and nobody’s having any fun and frankly I want to go home.

Families on beaches make me think the same thing – all you seem to hear is “no, don’t eat that” “no, you’ve had one” “in a minute” “don’t do that to your brother” “say sorry, right now!” and a million other things. Every time a parent sits down, they’re up again in seconds, removing sand from mouths or shells from ears or parting warring siblings. That book they’ve optimistically brought never gets read, their holiday appears to just be an extended version of the work of home life, but with fewer props and the perpetual fear of someone drowning.

A male friend said to me a while back, “I’ve seen it, and it just looks like endless drudge”.
I wouldn’t go quite so far, but it has made me ask a lot of questions about whether I’m the parenting type.
A colleague is due back from maternity leave in a couple of weeks and popped in to the office the other day. Another colleague asked her how she felt about coming back after a year away and she instantly said “I can’t wait. I can’t do, do, this, endlessly.”
Everyone else cooed over the baby and I smiled vaguely and chatted a bit, but really, I was just wondering when it would be polite to turn back to my work and crack on.

I can’t help but wonder what it is that makes people choose to go down the baby route.
Obviously once you have them they become the most important part of your life.
But I mean before that, long before there are any real human beings, long before there’s a name or a personality or nappies or love – way before that.
What’s the thing that goes ‘ping’ in your head and makes you decide that’s what you want?
And I ask without judgement – it’s a genuine question.
Because there is no pinging going on over here, literally nothing. It’s like that part of me has flatlined and there’s zero reaction to cute baby pictures, zero pull to meet a man I’d start a family with – just, nothing.

Animals breed out of instinct, but why do people? We have choices, so what governs how we make them?
Has evolution created a species that also breeds out of instinct but doesn’t realise it or thinks we’re too clever for that?
Are humans hardwired to want to create new life? Even though we can look around and see that booming populations don’t actually need any new additions?
Do some of us lose that hardwiring?

Facebook is always a fascinating showcase of family life. Endless pictures of family trips to the seaside or baby’s first puke or new school uniforms.
And then you catch up with friends and their smile isn’t nearly so broad (until they capture your catch up for social sharing) and the children aren’t nearly so darling.
Nobody ever posts a Facebook album entitled Little Johnny’s Top Ten Tantrums or That Day I Was So Tired I Hated Everybody.
Why do we only ever see the sanitised version?
It’s a bit like the rest of life I guess. I’ve never posted an album entitled That Weekend The Only Conversation Was From The Cat.

There seems to be a real divide amongst parents. There are those who chirrup endlessly about the best days of your life, the endless happiness, the perfect days of gazing into your baby’s eyes.
But there are also those who are brave enough to be a bit more honest. Who tell it like it is, knackered warts and all. And those are the ones I believe, because frankly it looks knackering.
You only have to do a quick Google search to find all the blogs devoted to telling you how it really is – and I believe them!
Which brings me back to why do people do it? And why don’t I want to? Of the children I know, I like the little dudes, I pass zero judgement on other people’s choices and I ask them not to pass judgement on me.

Which is why it’s a true question – is there some hardwiring I short-circuited? Or am I not as alone in the ‘not-for-me’ camp as I sometimes feel?

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Back to school

Unsplash / Lizzy Gadd

Unsplash / Lizzy Gadd

I may be 30-ahem-something and schooldays may be a fading memory, but even now, the looming arrival of September always feels more like the start of a new year than January 1st does.

The start of a new school term was always such a major event of the year and brought noticeable and tangible change, from those early primary school days in your brand new uniform, to the spotty teenage years, all the way through to your first move away from home and arrival at university.
The limp, cold and hungover arrival of new years day still seems mediocre in comparison.

I decided to take a summer holiday from blogging, not because I’d been at it so long or so prolifically that I was in need of a break, but because I’d begun to wonder if it was doing me much good.
Writing posts, sharing your thoughts and receiving friendly feedback is often a tonic.
But, I had found that I was starting to think about many things in a way I hadn’t for a while.
Writing blog posts about my single status was making me feel both comforted and like I was finding kindred spirits out there, at the same time as drilling down into emotions that weren’t especially fun.
There were times when I felt worse having expressed or admitted to something than I did before I started. Perhaps the need to keep reviewing my world to generate content meant I was thinking deeper or focusing on things in a way that wasn’t always helpful.

So, I’ve had summer off, I’ve been to parties, I’ve drunk a bit too much, a friend and I enjoyed a jaunt around Italy for a couple of weeks, I’ve survived being the single-girl at a wedding and I’ve had a bit of a mental and emotional ‘regroup’.

And so now, with the arrival of a new school term, and what feels like the start of a new year, I can’t think of a better time to re-connect with the blogging habit and start exploring a new way of writing, or thinking or exploring my world.

I wanted to blog as a positive action, not to moan or feel sorry for myself and whilst I think I have so far largely avoided those pitfalls, I was perhaps in danger of falling into them.
A holiday has been good, but I’m feeling ready to break out into a new term and crack open the digital pencil case.

So, hello, again.

Finding a direction

So it’s now been a couple of weeks since I started this blog and whilst I’ve been going through the process of setting it up, thinking about what to write about etc, I’ve found myself getting somewhat confused about my identity.

Where to tread?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve discovered a huge community of bloggers that I hadn’t known would be there, I’ve discovered the absolutely vast range of things people write about and the world suddenly seems so much bigger than it did before!

I wanted to blog about life as a single-woman in her mid-thirties, because it’s the element of my life that makes me feel the most like the odd-one-out, or ‘different’ to the people around me in my life, it’s the element of my life I feel so very aware of.
Being single at my age isn’t necessarily an awful thing, and I’m by no means miserable, but it does feel like there’s a spotlight shining on the fact there’s nobody at my side.

Setting up my blog Twitter account (@shelfblog) felt like something I had to do, but in doing so, I’ve found myself getting more confused and less sure of who I am, what I think or what I want to be writing about or saying.
For example, I’ve selected to follow quite a few feminist twitter accounts, like Vagenda magazine, Everyday Sexism etc. And I previously blogged about the No More Page 3 campaign which I believe strongly in.

Except now I wonder whether instead of navel-gazing about my own life and what it’s like to go through life alone, should I instead be lifting up my sword and going into battle alongside campaigners?
These are people who are campaigning for the good of my fellow women, and when I read about the level of abuse hurled at them just for doing do, I realise they are brave as well as outspoken.
Twitter led me to an article about a woman who had received the most disgusting threats and abuse, just for being a feminist, just for speaking out about equality. I read it and cried.
Twitter suddenly seems like an online portal for bullying and nastiness.

It has really made me wonder about my own approach, and whether I should (or am even able to) be as strong and outspoken as these women.
I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist, but I’ve never been a campaigner.

How far do you have to go in standing up for what you believe in? Is just believing in equality enough? Or if you’re not actively joining in the fight, are you just paying it lip-service?
But do I abandon all the thoughts and feelings that originally led me to want to blog? Because they aren’t going to go away any time soon.

I have signed up for the next Blogging U challenge and want to devote more time to exploring other blogs, discovering how other writers find their voice, set the tone for their site, discover who they are through their writing and stay on course and on topic to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

I hope that through this I will find my way through some of the fog that seems to have descended and left me feeling a bit like I can’t see the wood for the trees.

I would, of course, absolutely love to hear from any more experienced bloggers with insight to share.