Angry Birds - Why it's Easy as a Parent to Feel the Rage
It's almost embarrassing - and yet very commonplace - to admit that sometimes your partner is the most annoying person in the world. Y'know, you got married in a big expensive flurry, you've decided to make tiny people together, you think they are your best friend and your champion all rolled into one... and all of a sudden there is less confetti and giggles and more anger and rage. It seemed to arrive with the first baby, and in both of our cases, hasn’t left since. (And let’s be honest, since Trump got voted in, lots of us have got even angrier, knowing that across the pond, women’s rights just became a bit less important.)
Some excellent, and equally angry, columnists have written far better takedowns of Trump than I ever could (although he seems very angry too – I wonder, if like my toddler, he’s just hangry, and would be happier with a sandwich.) I’ve written a lot about the unfairness of being a parent in today’s 9-6 corporate world and how frustrated it makes me, so I won’t repeat myself or my pleas for flexible working. And getting angry because I shrunk my merino sweater seems pointless, and it’ll fit the kids now anyway.
The rage I am ashamed of is the rage I feel towards my husband, the one I am closest to, the one who does the most for me, for us as a family. He is a great dad and a very decent partner, although his taste in music is awful and he has an unhealthy obsession with Lego. But oh my god, sometimes, when both the kids are screaming and he is stuck at work I hate him. When my eldest did a dirty protest in his bedroom (a potty training accident, but it felt like mutiny) and of course The Husband was out for a run and I wanted to cry but had to Dettol the walls. When I was on maternity leave and covering the nights, the baby once threw up on 5 sets of sheets (we don’t even have that many sets – I had to improvise with towels) and I was on clear up and laundry duty because I was at home. It seemed so unfair to be wrist deep in puke whilst he had a hot coffee and a pee with the door shut. Another time he was invited on a business trip to Miami, and I had to do a weekend alone with the kids whilst he swigged Grey Goose on rooftop bars. I hated him with a passion that scared me. (Note how NONE of this is his fault. Nobody ever said anger had to be rational! But his talent for avoiding shit-mageddon is incredible.)
I thought it would get better with my return to work, but I’ve had broken sleep for 3 years and am trying to balance life and work and kids. My fuse is incredibly short and rather flammable. And I feel hugely guilty because this wonderful man doesn’t deserve my grumpy, snappy bullshit (does this count as an apology my love?! It’s a bit public I know, but every word is true), nor do we have the time to row over silly, unimportant household chores when a friend has been diagnosed with cancer, another is facing infertility and the world as a whole seems to be going to shit.
I guess it's almost a compliment. Like when your toddler flips out in a major tantrum with you, and as soon as his Gran arrives he grows angel-wings, says please and thank you and doesn’t wipe his nose on the sofa. Your toddler is in his safest of safe places with a parent, and can push the boundaries. I can (I shouldn’t but I can) be a complete grumpy-arsed cow with my husband knowing he’ll still love me in the morning.
So because time is short, and so precious, and because every person of my parents’ generation who has raised kids and knows how flipping hard it is having two toddlers in the house tells me to cherish these mad days, embrace the chaos, because when it’s over you don’t ever get it back, that’s why I should stop narking about the mess on the table, and he should leave the house in a state I would almost approve of. That’s why we should drink more wine together on a Friday night and have a giggle rather than strop about who should be loading the dishwasher, or who changed the last evil nappy. And even if I’m knackered and grumpy and fecked off because the baby has hidden the TV remote again, perhaps it’s time to channel the anger into a sweaty run, or a sweary tweet or a phone call to my patient mum. Maybe it’s time to pay heed to the #blessed images on Instagram and take up meditation (ha, *falls off sofa*, maybe not).
When my toddler is so upset he can’t breathe, when snot and tears are all over his face and he’s incapable of speech but making lots of noise... we count to three. We take time to breathe. And maybe this is what I need to do myself, as well as the grubby 3-year old. Easy enough to say. But I need to manage it, because the kids are little mimics, and they can’t see me losing it over trivial stuff, because they don’t get the back story of no-sleep-no-coffee-so-much-mess-another-bill. They don’t understand that frustrations build up and explode, even though we see it in their tiny bodies every day. And I want them to grow up to be like their dad, chilled, relaxed, and not angry. Not like me. Not in that way at least.
This piece first appeared as a Guest Post on Reprobate Mum.