Monthly Archives: March 2013

First World Problems and Maintaining Friendships

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Because it's all about Bella.

Because it’s all about Bella.

I really wish this was another one of those lovely letters mummy bloggers are fond of (and I’m quite partial to as well of course). You know the ones that start with Dear Bella and continue on to talk about how our little ones are the loves of our lives. Well before reading on, lets just assume that I heartbreakingly adore my child. And while we’re at it, lets also acknowledge that I’m about to go on a First World Problem rant and that I, nor my child is ill, we have food in the cupboard and small change in a porcelain pig on the night stand, placing us in the most blessed percentile on this known earth.

However……

I’ve been in the midst of a crisis of personal circumstance for a few weeks and I don’t think “the grass is always greener” argument is going to snap me out of it. It’s actually fair to say that after I physically recovered from having Bella, I’ve pretty much been stuck in a period of adjustment ever since. I have written about this before as I have tried to desperately explain to my friends how confusing it feels to love a child that well, sometimes you simply want to palm off for a night so you can go and pretend you still know what it feels like to be totally unencumbered from the weight of responsibility you were so totally unprepared for.

I know this sounds simple and I can hear a chorus of parents that have gone before me chanting, “suck it up, you can get back on the turps in a few years” but I feel like there are a few more layers on this.

You see, quite a few of my young silly years have been consumed with illness that you could say left me rather antisocial. Unfortunately, during a few of the years I really should have been spending my pay check on frivolous weekend drives to the beach, my then boyfriend (now husband) and I were worrying about my health. Yes, there were some great years but the time after we got married was devastating. I alienated myself from all of my friends, I gained over 35 kilos and most of our romantic encounters were spent playing cards on my bed in a psychiatric hospital. Even when I was well, it was always mostly the two of us.

I recovered from this as the lucky ones do and the past few years have been lovely. As soon as I lost the majority of the weight I gained and I finished the study which served to rehabilitate me into normal routines, I was pregnant with Bella.

Which was my choice.

Which was my blessing.

Which was my life long dream.

I just had never conceived that I would feel like I lost a part of my life and for some reason, it has started rearing its ugly head now. It could be because I am smaller or it could be because you want what you can’t have but I have other suspicions.

During those years, I lost a lot of friends. My fault. My disease. But having Bella gave me the real push to rekindle these friendships with girlfriends lost and it’s been great. Unfortunately for us, we have sort of missed each other in life timings. They don’t have kids. I do.

In the beginning I think I was kind of cool about it and really tried not to talk about Bella and asked about their dates or their boyfriends or their work but eventually I’m required to talk about myself and my contributions have become increasingly desperate as I try to convey the monumental change that occurred in our house, our relationship, our whole existence when we had Bella. Inevitably, I end up saying things like, “I need to go because if Belle falls asleep here, she wont nap later and I’ll be up all night which wont work cos’ we have music class in the morning”. And then I get in the car and I literally want to drive off a cliff because I AM THAT MOTHER.

Lately though, I’ve had a few conversations with some friends and people that frankly, I don’t even know that have left me retreating. Let me just say that I have NEVER said to anyone that is childless “you say that now but just wait till you have kids”. See, I know how patronising that is. How that makes you feel small. But I tell you what makes me feel small. Comments like,

“You really should just continue on living your life and take Bella with you”, or

“You need better role models to look up to that just take their kids everywhere”, or my favourite,

“You really need more couple time…to really connect”. Deep breath.

You know what peeps, please don’t even say “date night” around me. And I don’t really want to take my 15 month old out to a beautiful restaurant mid week. You know why? It’s got nothing to do with her, she’ll love it. She’ll throw food around, sleep all the way home and then party all night. But it will be a FRIGGIN NIGHTMARE for moi. And before you be helpful and suggest some “alone time”, now that our lifestyle has changed and the Toolman works rather gastly hours, I can’t really leave her at home during the week with him at all. I love that we live in a society where I can strap her to my back and bring her everywhere. I love that my friends think she’s really cute and never seems like trouble. I love that they love her.

And she’s not trouble and she’s not a burden. She’s just a child and as much as she is my everything, I’m not sure in hindsight that I had enough time to enjoy not being a sick person.  So I’m stuck in this limbo land where I need to get over what I feel I missed out on.

Most of all the point is that I have friends that for whatever reason like me and keep inviting me back and they’re the real friends you don’t often find that you can talk about horrible boils in horrible places with and not be the least bit embarrassed. I’m really lucky they’re there but unlucky they’re not there…you know, that place where you drive to each other’s house in your most glamorous track suit mid morning with a few kids in tow.

All in all, this isn’t about them, or Bella, or the Toolman. It might even be because I’m happy and in a good place I’m looking back over some of the years gone and thinking that sucked. It could even be that I have a child of my own now, I’m thinking more about myself when I was younger. That I could have been doing things that may have prepared me better for this time. Stories that I would have kept hidden from Bella; her mothers larrikin antics.

As I said, I wish I could have explained this in a loving letter but for whatever reason, I write it here instead for you all (mainly my mum lets be honest). One day she’ll understand how I struggled with early motherhood because I didn’t get drunk and silly enough in my early years.

And I’m guaranteeing that because I’ve been entrusted to raise her, that’ll make perfect sense….

Call to the Church: A Mothers decision not to Baptise

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Having been raised a Catholic or as my Grandfather always insisted, a Roman Catholic, it has been a very considered decision that I have come to in choosing not to Christen Bella. One of the biggest misconceptions about me is that having turned my back on religion, I too have turned my back on spirituality. In actuality, I take them both very seriously. For this reason, I can’t in good faith (sorry, couldn’t help it), christen Bella knowing that I wasn’t 100% convinced it was the right path for our family.

In the past couple of days I have found myself thinking about this more and more as the new Pope is elected in Rome. Despite the fact that I no longer intellectually identify as a Catholic, the ceremonious grandeur of the robes and the smoke and St Peter’s Basilica has had me yearning that just like Santa, I still believed. I’ve even had a sudden urge to ring my family and ask them about it.

It’s a hot button topic, I’ll give you that. I too feel the sting of criticism when it’s not coming out of my own mouth when aimed at the Catholic Church. Unfortunately for me my own religious education was entrenched in so many misunderstandings, rules and anxieties about not knowing “the next line” in church that I’m pretty sure I missed the point. Ritual after ritual we were asked to complete, knowing little apart from the fact that we all “loved God”.

And that’s nice in a way because it makes you feel closer with those around you and it’s lovely to be part of an in-group where everyone knows the same language (think Hail Mary). I was even an Alter Girl which was fun I suppose but had to give it away because I couldn’t get my head around when to ring the bell. Especially because I was the type of little girl who wanted to get all these things right, I’ll admit this probably caused more anxiety in me than others. But still…

So about ten years ago, I decided the church wasn’t for me and stopped thinking about it. I got married (civil ceremony) and carried on with my life. But then a funny thing happened. I started coming back and talking with people who identified as being Christian. More and more, this idea attracted me. My husband and I tried a few different churches of different denominations with the main theme being Jesus himself. This appealed to both of us.

Being a Catholic and a Christian can go together…or they cannot. Certainly not all Catholics are Christians and vice versa. When the child sex abuse stories started leaking one after the other and I began talking with people who had been abused in the church, I pretty much closed the door. It’s very difficult for people to hear what I am going to say next because as Catholics you have invested your whole life in this religious belief or practice but I truly believe that the abuse within the church of young people has been systemic and that if the same practices occurred in any other organisation, it would be likened to a cult. This is especially upsetting and sad for the dear Christians who have dedicated their life to the Vatican.

Having this all pretty clear in my mind it surprised me that after having Bella the old beast started raising its head.  At one point I actually wondered whether Bella would go to hell if she wasn’t baptized? The Toolman and I started seriously talking about a baptism. Therefore, we were also considering what it would be like to go to Church regularly. And for Bella to attend a religious school. If one thing was made up in our minds, if we were going to do it, we were going to do it. No fair weather Catholics in this house, otherwise what the hell (sorry again) is the point?!

Well the point for many is that the Catholic Primary schools are often the best, have the most opportunity and are notoriously better than their state counterparts. The idea has even been introduced to me that I should just get over it and christen Bella so I can give her a superior education. This really concerned me. Of course I want the best education for her. Maybe we should just do it.

And then Tim said something that hit me sideways. Out of the blue he said, “If Bella isn’t a Catholic, can she go to a Catholic school?” (Bless his hippy socks)!

“Umm, no honey”.

“Doesn’t seem very Christian to me. I don’t want her to go to a school where all kids aren’t allowed to go. Doesn’t seem like a Jesus thing to do” he remarked casually.

I think it’s fair for a group of people who share religious beliefs to want to be educated under the same roof but my husband was making a good point and one I couldn’t ignore. As much as I want to want it for Bella, want her to feel the same as her cousins (because what kid wants to be different?!), and some Italian Roman Catholic part of me wants to put her in her Holy Communion dress, it still doesn’t mean that the Catholic ethos is right for our family.

And most of all I don’t want to be a Catholic simply when it suits me. For some it suits them in the night when they have a chat to God and it suits them at the dinner table when they talk to their family about Him. Or for some, it’s just because they want to be Catholic. Who knows? But we’re not really prepared to do any of that, so lets face it, it would just be about the school.

It needs to be said it has been difficult coming to this conclusion. There’s a psychological idea referred to as cognitive dissonance. Basically, it occurs when you hold two opposing beliefs, values or ideas that oppose each other. Often this is obvious when someone has held a belief all their life and in old age, when they have to face a new idea or reality, they become angry and just continue on with the old idea without examining it.

This is how I often think about religion. I truly want to be part of the group but I can’t put the abuse, the anti-same sex marriage and the dogma to the side to suit my desire to be part of an old tradition for traditions sake. And if Bella ever asked me about all this I’d find it too hard to explain away.

For these reasons, I truly resent it when people just brush my spirituality aside. My relationship with the church is complex and most importantly considered. I’m a Christian but no longer feel Catholic so am not really sure wher to turn? Who knows, I may return to it and sometimes, I even attend (always an Anglican church though) because we are all still searching for something. At the moment, as a family we are watching from afar.

Bella doesn’t mind. Tim doesn’t mind. And I’m convinved neither God and certainly not His Son would turn any of us down at the gates of Heaven. It’s the little Catholic girl in me that’s scared and imagining rows of women yelling Mia Colpa at the shiny gates.

Some habits die very hard.