Author Archives: Something For Sadie

My Big Mistake and The Instinct Factor: You are the expert.

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In all my overzealous enthusiasm regarding the gym and shaking a tailfeather, I fear that I may have just made one very big parenting mistake.

 

You may have read earlier that I was feeling quite chuffed and accomplished in orientating Bella to the playroom at the gym (I still can’t say crèche) so that I could work up a sweat and lose the last bit of weight that has become quite a myopic focus of mine. Whilst Bella appeared to be happy and secure enough in her attachment to let me go, I have learnt one very big lesson today that has had me in tears all morning.

 

Over the course of about four weeks that we have been going to the playroom, Bella has seemed happy and well adjusted. Late last week though as I was moaning through my latest punishing exercise, a spin class, a staff member came to get me as they had found Bella to be inconsolable about half an hour after I left. “She was fine” they said, right up until something triggered her into being so upset, they felt the need to get me.

 

On my return, she took some time to settle but we happily played and read some books for another half hour before heading home. After blowing kisses and hugs with the staff, they advised me to bring her back and try again.

 

This time every week has become about so much more than sweating. If that was all it was about, I’d just run around the park with her for heaven’s sake. It has however, become my way of coping with what can only be described as small “adjustment complications” with motherhood. Never before have I had to deal with the confusion of loving someone (Bella) and loving something (stay-at-home-motherhood) whilst desperately wanting to run into the woods topless at the same time. Hence, the child free gym time obsession.

 

So off we went early this week to “try again”, pushing to the back of my mind her strange behaviour since we left last time; clingy koala-like anxiety. More happy kisses and waves ensued on my departure and I sighed with relief when I thought it was going to be ok. But before I knew it, a staff member was searching me out again just as the elated feeling was returning, to tell me Bella was upset again.

 

Whilst I should have gone to her at that point, right then, I didn’t. I kept circling on that machine and I didn’t go to her. “She’ll be ok” said the endless voices in my head, “she needs to get used to it” said some more helpful advice inside.

 

I should have gone to her. I didn’t.

 

I let it go for another fifteen minutes and when I arrived in the room she was asleep in a staff members arms.  Unsettled and full of anxiety from this strange behavior, I left her asleep and went again for another 15 minutes. When I returned I woke her and she was once again distraught by her surroundings.

 

Once again the staff told me that I should bring her back later this week and that she’d “get used to it” and no doubt she will. But today it has been playing on my mind as to why she would have fallen asleep only a few hours after she had woken for the day.

 

Once again, the psychology degree only serves to undermine me as a parent and even worse, my shrink on speed dial can have the same effect (who also happens to be a child psychiatrist, damn him). Nevertheless I saw him today and explained what had been happening, as well as describing our home life.

 

Despite my best efforts, constant analysis and sometimes crippling love for Bella, I have singlehandedly destabilized her at home (with various boring stresses) and at large by leaving her with people she didn’t know whilst tolerating persisting distress. Turns out, it’s most likely she wasn’t tired at all that day when she fell asleep in the playroom but that she turned herself off to deal with her surroundings. And oh, how I know THAT feeling so well. Sweet escape of sleep…

 

I should have gone to her. I didn’t.

 

And you know what? I just don’t know how to do this gig. I don’t know how to not hurt this little girl and stay sane in the meantime.

 

There seems to be a plethora of articles doing the rounds (social media of course) about Mummy Wars, judging less and lending a good ear to our fellow parent in times of need. It has become increasingly unfashionable to voice an opinion of any kind, lest you appear to be passing judgment.

 

But people who know me, know that I like to make a call on things. Things like…

 

Drug use and pregnancy: bad.

 

Spray tans and pregnancy: good.

 

Drink driving: bad.

 

Binge drinking at home: good.

 

Plastic surgery: bad.

 

Waxing: good.

 

See how easy that was? I’m usually sure of my convictions and will fight to the proverbial death to make my point heard (usually the loudest). My sister put all of our good training to use and became a lawyer. I’m just a very frustrating friend to have a hearty discussion with.

 

But bringing up Bella has turned me into a dithering, questioning, teary mess with only one thing to go on: instinct. I know that what my doctor was saying today was right. Bella may just not be ready to leave me and for now, that’s just going to have to be ok.

 

We will go back to the gym and I will sit with her for the whole time if she needs, time after time, and I will go to her if she want me, again and again. She may not be ready for months or years in which case, I may just end up running in circles in the park. It has been my biggest lesson and definitely not my last. My time is hers now and I’m last cab off the rank, so to speak.

 

And instinct tells me, that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Call of Motherhood

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My Best Sad Face: If you look closely you may spot some of those dinner chunks.

My Best Sad Face: If you look closely you may spot some of those dinner chunks.

Fake eyelashes at the ready. Freshly whipper-snippered legs ready to go-go. Boots sitting patiently at the door (recently Scotch guarded in case a pesky teenager spills a beer on them). Oh the delight … Mum’s a-goin’ out!

OK, last night was not good. I was up all night on the couch with Bella as she sent projectile vomit through all the pyjamas I own. I was glad to see this morning she was feeling  better and would be fine while the Toolman and I headed out.  I was just reflecting on how well we had managed through the long hours of the morning when I found my cleavage full of what was left of the contents of Bella’s stomach. And it’s a hefty cleavage, let me tell you.

It’s ok, I can still save this, I think to myself. A quick trip to the Dr and some Play School and Bob’s your uncle, we’ll have a healthy bouncing toddler again. The Toolman and I have waited nine months to see the wonderful Pink in concert who also appears to be the coolest and most attached celeb mum in the business.

*Cue diagnosis of ear infection and accompanying gastro*

Not to be disheartened, I negotiated a night out alone if I could find someone who might want to come with me (purchasing the spare ticket at the same time would be great).

*Cue nobody wants it*

After a couple of calls mainly just to family, I’m now too embarrassed to call anyone as it is becoming evident that my choice of music is less than favourable for everyone else except my husband….who can’t come…on account of the gastro riddled lady baby.

 

And as Bella lays on my chest sleeping, half sobbing “Mama”, I’m inclined to think that my place isn’t at that concert anyway. It’s with her. And just because I am an exceptionally slow learner, I’ve come to realise once again today that the days of doing what I want, when I want, are so far gone, they could slap me on the face and I wouldn’t recognise them.

*Cue unconditional love, mixed with a touch of resentment, mixed with guilt, mixed with love again*

The irony of the situation is that one of the songs I was looking forward to hearing tonight, “Good Old Days” has got me through many a challenging day at home. The lyrics urge you as you listen to look at the now and appreciate what you have in the moment. To treat today as the “good old days”.

Yeah, that could’ve worked dancing around the arena tonight but lying here with last nights dinner chunked in my hair…

*Cue. One. Big. Sigh.*

Finding Time For Charity: That’s Me!

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Just the two of us. (Image by Bibo Photography).

Just the two of us. (Image by Bibo Photography).

 

My absence of late has largely been due to an overwhelming insecurity (and let it be said envy of other mothering blogs), that my ramblings are both insignificant and tedious for those who actually follow my writing. But seeing as the only person for whom these entries will have a lasting impression is my daughter, I thought it apt that today I make a return to chronicle our rather harrowing morning.The past few months have been difficult for our little family. Nothing exciting, just what my own mother would probably describe as the “great tedium”. The Toolman is working hard and long, I’ve taken to helping him do a little bit of work from home, Bella is growing into a toddler, we’ve spent our weekends either working or fixing up our investment property for rental and money is, as it usually is, tight. Many families are in exactly the same position and I often just refer to this time as “our working years”. It’s normal to go for stretches of time like a rat on a wheel, reveling in the small patches of sunshine the day may bring; usually some delightful outburst from Bella.

Bella has taken to pushing a small pram around the house yelling “Beep Beep, Go Go Go!” at the top of her voice which has me in stitches for much of the day. I even find it endearing how she’s taken to calling me “Cow”. But in our day to day lives, I seem to have lost a sense of who I am in all of this.

Two days ago I woke up with a thorn in my side and cried for most of the day. When the Toolman returned from work and saw my puffy eyes, he looked worried, half squinted with his head cocked to the side and told me, “If you go down, this ship will sink”. It made me laugh but I realised it was true. This was no time for sinking ships.

You see, that day in question, I had been to our local Aquatic Centre to look at the facilities, the gym classes and the child minding room. I saw that I could leave Bella there for up to an hour and a half while I took a class. After touring the place, we were only half way home when the waterworks started (from me) and didn’t stop.

So often a mother and wife can simply become the support team for everyone else. This is the role I have chosen and logistically it’s one that makes sense, I have the ovaries after all and after I last checked, the Toolman cannot grow children, so it’s logical that I put my efforts into growing our family. But it also means I long, LONG, for time that is about me. Mothers around the globe will nod their head I am sure when I tell you the delight that can be had from getting in the car (alone) to buy some milk (alone) at the supermarket (alone). At this point anything (alone) looks good as the overwhelm of being with a child 24/7 for weeks on end clouds over.

Acknowledging that this is an actual need of mine and not seeing another way to regularly book a time for myself with family or friends, the gym seemed like the most viable option. The fact that I am willing to lift a barbell in a choreographed fitness class most probably run by a Paris Hilton lookalike should be testament to the aforementioned need.

Did I deserve this time every week to go to gym? Would she be ok? Is 18 months too young? What if she needed me, would they find me? Would they feed her? All of these questions could be easily answered but the glaringly obvious anxiety that I couldn’t overcome was, what if “something” happened to her? Luckily for me I have a shrink on speed dial (I’d encourage everyone to hook themselves up with one of these. They have to listen to your neuroses, you pay them)!

Knowing that I will never be able to definitively answer any of these question, she might not be ok and yes, “something” might happen but choosing to tolerate the anxiety anyway, I took Bella today for a short play in the gym playroom today. We stayed for a while together and then I told her I was leaving and that was it, no tantrums or crying, she was easily distracted by her most beloved book after waving goodbye.

I on the other hand ran from the room crying and there began a schizophrenic hour of spying, crying, walking back and forth in front of the windows, tissue in hand and even ended up crying so much that snot was dripping uncontrollably from my nose. In short, we’re talking snot candles. Got the picture? I heard the women that have gone before me in my head, in their unsympathetic voices saying, “oh, don’t be silly, she’ll be ok”. I’m aiming a little higher than ok I want to scream at them!

On my return, Bella was playing in the sandpit, saw me and laughed, and moved on to the slide. Was this normal? What sort of attachment style was she exhibiting? Damn that psychology degree. We read and few books then headed for home after waving goodbye to the staff.

So she was fine and I was not. Mother guilt, check. Neurosis, check. Undermining voice telling me that I would be judged by other mothers, check. I was starting to resent my mothering hormones that had reduced me to THIS. I just know that I have to try the gym again.

The popular notion that on ones deathbed, one never regrets the work they never got to, the car they never had or the clients they didn’t see but rather, the time they didn’t spend with their family got me thinking about my own choices in life.

Being a martyr without a break for an hour and a half a week to avoid judgment from other mothers who WON’T be at my bedside during my last days would be in exchange for a happier mother, raising a happier daughter who will, I hope, be there.

And for me, right now, that’s my better than ok.

Dear Fat Me

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Celebrating a birthday, now almost four years ago. It's taken me this long and one toddler to get where I am now. So close.

Celebrating a birthday, now almost four years ago. It’s taken me this long and one toddler to get where I am now. So close.

 

Dear Fat Me,

No disrespect and I know you’ll take no offence at the name but I just felt it was time we had a little chat. We tend to have little conversations all through the day you and I, struggling to live together harmoniously but here, today I thought I would give you a little bit of time.

The thing is, you’re fading away. Slowly but surely you are shrinking and whilst I jump joyously every time I see that a little bit more of you is gone I feel like you are fighting for your life and demanding some respect from the woman you have lived with for so long now. Like last night when you convinced me to try some of the chocolate cake I had made for the Toolmans birthday. “Just a little bit” was your campaign after everybody else was in bed. But today on the scales, nonetheless, I saw another 2 kilos of you gone, which makes it over 30kilos gone now since this all began.

But just in case you thought I really  didn’t care, I just wanted to say this…

Even when you are gone for good which I am hoping is only a few more months away, I will always remember how you protected me and kept me company when I had nowhere else to turn. What a good but toxic friend you have been to me. In the depths of depression, you made me feel ok for the five minutes I was eating my sadness away. When I was overcome with memories, like any other drug, the food I would medicate myself with took everything away. Chew, chew, swallow.

Few people understand this.

And when I was pregnant and the world was a happy place and I regained the weight I had lost simply because I couldn’t put the biscuits down , you were always good company to have around in front of the T.V. You’ve never once asked me if “I should be eating that” and you certainly never talk about “carbs” and “protein”. You are simply all about the party.

The thing is, I know how sad you are. How you look at yourself in the mirror and cry. How you admire your sister for her beautiful legs and taught stomach. How you’ve forever felt you were simply “the fat one”. How you hide from you husband in case he sees you in the shower. Fat Me, you are so ashamed and so sad ALL THE TIME about the way you look, I quite simply have had to step in and rescue you.

We’ve got Bella now and there’s no way on this good earth  I will see her write a schizophrenic letter to her fatter self in 28 years, no way. Which is why you’ve got to go and the crazy needs to stop here. Well maybe not the crazy, just the fat letters.

I’ve been afraid to write this letter because simply put, I always suspected you would win. But now, with less than 10 kilos to go, I’ve started having some new suspicions; that I may just get to the finish line before you. I’ve even started doing more than suspecting it; I do believe I now know it. I’m happy for us to team up and simply become the round ones, the plump ones, the curvaceous ones, as long as we are the healthy ones. And we are nearly there, right at the pointy end now, so if you don’t mind I need you to jump on board the gravy train (I’m just teasing you now aren’t I?) and either join me or die completely.

I truly hold so much love and affection for you because of what you have done for me over the years. I’ll think of you eating cheese and quince paste in heaven.

My warmest affections,

Shrinking Me.

The Work in Question

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Because I'm not yet sick of this.

Because I’m not yet sick of this.

 

My old boss and I are in regular contact as we share a mentor-mentee relationship and have done so for some time. I called her today to discuss a small matter which I had volunteered to do some months ago, only taking a couple of hours of my time. In talking this small task over with her, along with the resignation of another staff member, she decided to offer me a day of work a week. She joked that it was my fault; that I was convincing her through our conversation that she needed me on her team for the next six months to help organise a conference in the organisations name coming up in October.

I’ve been offered work a couple of times since I went on “maternity leave”, which later turned into “your position no longer exists in the organisation”. Whilst I wasn’t happy that I seemed to singlehandedly close a whole state branch of this important foundation during my lead up to leaving, I was glad that I never had to have an awkward conversation with my mentor, telling her I didn’t want to go back to work.

Both times I was offered something in the past, there was no way I could have possibly even contemplated it. But today, the offer of a day a week, for reasonable pay, doing something that I could feasibly achieve seemed tempting. Having talked this whole matter over with the Toolman, I’ve come to realise the temptation has a rather sad genesis.

You see, the modern mother likes nothing more than to ruminate on her choices, her parenting style, how and why she’s chosen a particular enrichment class for her child and how every little move she makes has the potential to completely ruin her child for life. This is delicious fodder for her contemporaries of course whom, depending on their nature, may or may not use all this as an emotional weapon.

In the last few weeks, I have become so excruciatingly self-conscious about these choices and have seemed to find myself in the emotional firing line for “not working”, I’m tempted to take the work simply so I can feel more comfortable in social situations.

Now that Bella is approaching 16 months, it seems I am out of the comfortable timeframe where simply being with her is acceptable. I’ve heard it all in the past few weeks, from the innocent “What do you do with your days” (picture the high rising tone and head tilted to the side), the angry “some of us have to work you know”, to the assertion that any woman staying home with her kids is “coping out” from the real world and hard work (yes, I nearly choked too).

Most of these types of pieces written end in a line about how we are all simply doing our best, how the sisterhood is dying, how we should really just support each other and ultimately leaves you wanting to run topless into a hairy arm pitted group hug….for about 3.5 seconds. The only problem being, these one liners are NOT WORKING. We’re all insecure, most of us have retractable claws ready to launch and most tantalising, are usually re-enacting the most violent Tanantino in our minds driving home from these encounters.

I’m not actually considering this job because I want the stimulation. Quite frankly, who works for an hour a day? We all know that won’t happen. It’ll turn into three or four and becasue I know my old boss it will become a few days a week. I’ll be bouncing Bella on my knee while she plays with my iPhone so I can draft an email to someone I don’t know. I don’t want to do this more than I want Bella to have my attention.

Now I know what you’re thinking. I can see those claws stretching the skin on the backs of your hands already ladies. Yes, I have the luxury of not having to work. I do, I’m very lucky. But just as a side note, if you want to see our camping holiday plans and my weekly food budget which sees me travel to no less than four outlets for my shop to save $50, I’m more than happy to share it with you. So the choice for us, which is a good choice I admit, is how much we want to enjoy all that requires monetary resources I could bring in and how much we want Bella to stay at home with me. We have found something that works for us, right now, in this stage of our life.

Everybody weighs this up in the end. For some families, all people in their family have to work to get even the basics and this must be really, really hard. Many people I know only need one person to work to get the basics plus a little luxury. And there’s a lot of people I know who have families where both parents work because they require a lot of luxury. And there are even some families where everyone works just because they darn well want too. I take issue with wrapping all of these into the “we have to work” bundle and “you don’t” scenario, resulting in those at home feeling like they have to somehow apologise for their good fortune but also their sacrifices.

But because it’s a tricky balance and we’re all working for different things, I have long despised the implication that mothers who stay at home with their children may not sacrifice their own creature comforts, like a haircut, to be with their children. And obviously I see red when it is implied it’s a cop out!

It’s for all of these reasons, I considered taking the job. I’ve considered it so I feel I have more social currency, so that I can feel part of the gang, so that I have a story about my day that means something to everyone else and not just me (I’m now fully aware that Bella mastering the art of climbing the couch has a negative value on everyone else’s radar), so that I have something else to write about here for heavens sake. I’ve considered it all night, fuelled by the feeling that I should be ashamed to be at home with my daughter, not proud that it’s possible. Embarrassed that I “don’t want more” and defeated when people comment that “your husband can afford it”, like I’m a silent witness to our financial success or failures. In a culture that celebrates being “busy” and equates this with being fulfilled and successful, it feels as if being at home is a failure.

But if I’ve learnt anything over the years, it’s this: Nobody makes YOU feel anything. If it’s in there somewhere, it’ll come out if someone tickles the right spot. Maybe it’s time I acknowledged that a part of this does embarrass me; that I enjoy my days and for the most part, don’t have to worry. Perhaps I could feel more comfortable if I was struggling, if I was trying to juggle work and my daughter.

And then I had a thought about the women who truly have no choice in the matter. That are working their elbows to the bone while their kids are in care because they have no one to help them and have an overdue electricity account. Given the choice, I wonder what they would choose? I’m embarrassed to think…

No doubt I’ll continue to think about it all night. To glorify the “busy” life and appreciate the quiet one. I’ll be thinking of the women who said you can have it all and its fabulous, and those that said you can have it all but not at the same time.

Most of all, I’ll be thinking of Bella and these years, these ‘good old days’ that I’m in right now and what I’ll want to remember most.

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.