Things fall apart: ‘This week we’ve given up, given in. Stopped all scheduling’
In the last year, Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she is exploring the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.
I know that what I’m about to say goes against everything it is to be a working mother during the summer holidays. Is in fact, tantamount to a betrayal of my kind. But it’s the first week of being home during the summer holidays and it has been the easiest, most stress-free week in memory.
Everyone is away, or sick, all those who help with childcare, and so we have given up, given in. Gone off schedule. And it has been lovely.
This is my first summer as a mother with a child in school, and therefore a child with summer holidays. Parent or not, it would be hard to escape some sense of what is to be expected from the horrors of juggling the summer schedule. Camps your child doesn’t really want to attend, favours from every relative, endless expensive outings. Broken parents.
And yet, despite a lack of any of the usual helpers, this week has been bliss.
In the same way a Saturday has a feeling quite distinct from the other days of the week, summer holidays, even if you’re not actually in school yourself, feel different. When your child is off, it’s impossible to ignore a certain feeling of loosening.
And so this week, we have taken the foot off, and taken it easy.
After loss, it seems impossible to escape a period where one goes into a sort of crazed busyness. At a time when you would think you should be taking it easier than ever before, resting, minding yourself, the instinct actually is to do the opposite.
I remember it with a good friend after her mother died. She took on the project of sorting the things, from the clothes, to the house, to the telling old friends, and the general end-of-life admin.
And she was manic. More ill-equipped than ever in her life to take on a big project, or to deal with organising, every minor task brought her to the brink of a nervous breakdown. Sweaty browed, furious, she would be frustrated-to-pieces over the smallest administrative hiccup, and god knows, there were many.
Intervention was impossible. It was as if this was a sort of baptism of fire she needed to go through as part of the grief process. So overwhelmed by her loss, the only way to cope with it was to bury herself in the minutiae of a project. If it hadn’t been the house, it would have been something else.
Distraction, I suppose. Keeping busy, occupied, anything to avoid looking the loss in the eye.
When a loss is that big, I don’t know that counselling, or any sort of healing process stuff, is possible in the first year. When you’re that close up to a big grief, it threatens to overwhelm. Just getting out from under it is enough. Any sort of distilling can be beyond, because it’s sort of impossible to comprehend. ‘Losing your mother is so fundamental, it takes a long time to even realise it has happened’, an older colleague told us at the time. And I could see her words made sense to my utterly routed friend.
My loss wasn’t half as great, but there has definitely been a certain amount of at-all-costs-keep-busy-ness. So this last week, with no school run, we stopped all other scheduling. Days were not a stack of things to be done; drop-offs, deadlines, pick-ups, meetings, meals, tidying.
No alarms have been set, so we have woken at half eight, nine (herself was a brutal sleeper as a baby, so I am allowed this parental smugness). We have done things that have been on the list for months- visited a friend with a new baby, gone for a public health nurse check-up, finally had that coffee with a cousin. In the afternoon, exhausted by the heat, we have chilled on the couch, eating melon and watching toonies, occasionally dipping into sleep. We have gone to the beach and the park, spent an afternoon at the Work Wife’s with the kids, where the only way we knew what time it was by what was on RTE radio, lounged in the sun on a rug idly chatting with the Brother. I have gone out to a party, and we spent several hours with Herself “helping” me in getting ready; ‘oh no Mommy, I don’t like trousers on you at all’, said in a disappointed tone that makes the wearing of trousers impossible, so saddening is their effect.
We have had dinners made from whatever was easily to hand in order to prolong our time outdoors- Tuc crackers and raspberries, a tin of baked beans, pasta and strawberries. We have baked bread and made soup, had leisurely weekend breakfast foods (pancakes) on a Monday morning just because Herself woke up and asked for it.
The whole thing has felt pleasantly nostalgic, as if reliving summer’s from my own childhood.
After grief, busyness can get you through. Sometimes when you stop, you collapse. Go on holidays, and be sick for the entire thing. I’ve seen it happen. Except we went away and had a ball. Now, we’re back, and I had expected the post-holiday re-entry to feel a bit rough, as these things often do. ‘How’s it going being back?’ the Work Wife asks halfway through the week. I consider a moment, then tell her, to both our surprise, ‘it’s lovely. We’re having the nicest week.’