I’ve been waiting patiently for the Christmas cards that pop through the letter box with the additional extras, and no, I don’t mean cheques for hundreds of pounds – although that would be very nice thank you if any millionaires are reading this – I mean the Round Robin letter.
Several of our friends and relatives like to write (or usually type these days) a long missive chatting about what they’ve been up to in the past twelve months. Some of the letters are amusing, some a bit sad at times (people and especially pets do have an irritating habit of dying) and some are full-on oh-my-gosh-my-precious-darlings-are-amazing-and-I-am-going-to-boast-about-them-for-two-A4-sheets-of-paper. With photos.
But you know, that’s OK. It’s their letter, so if they want to write a gushing isn’t-Chloe-fabulous post, that’s their prerogative, and frankly if I don’t feel like wading through it, again, it’s up to me. Generally, though, for people who haven’t been great at keeping in touch via phone calls and emails, I enjoy catching up.
But – and let’s be honest you knew one was coming didn’t you? – there is always that ONE person who rubs you up the wrong way. I shall refer to my bete noire as D (cos I’m not mean enough to use her real name)
I have known her since our eldest children were babies, and we’ve always got along just fine. She is, by choice, a stay at home mum. Again, I have no issue with this, so am I. But here is the problem. Every year for as long as I’ve been receiving one of these missives, the following line has cropped up
“……..D has once again made many sacrifices this year…..” And it goes on to detail how she has managed to meet up for the occasional coffee etc.
Now I’m not a complete cow. Or at least I don’t think I am. One of her children had a long-running health issue, which coincided with the family having a run of bad financial luck, so for a considerable time pennies were stretched and she was at the beck and call of a sick kid. Please note I said sick, not dying, not terribly disabled, nothing terminal. Upsetting and not pleasant, definitely. The end of the world, most certainly not.
The year when everything was at its worst I read the above line and I did feel that yes, D had had a tough year of it, and her wishes and needs had been at the bottom of the crap heap that can sometimes be our modern lives. So I felt a pang of sadness for her.
But this same “oh woe is me” line has cropped up every sodding year since! She lives in a big,spacious and beautiful house, her husband is in full time work, both her children are living productive and full lives, both in education and socially. They have holidays, and they have social lives.
So tell me, what part of her life is she “sacrificing?” She is a Stay At Home Mum. The job title kind of gives the main elements of the job away. It’s not particularly glamorous; there is a lot of boring housework (well rather less of that if you’re a slob like me) there are endless taxi runs to places you have no interest in but your kids adore, there are endless meals to cook, uniforms to clean, homework to check, and so the list goes on.
But that is what I signed up for. I wanted to be there before my kids went to school, and the minute they came home, and I feel insanely privileged that Hubby earns enough for me to be able to do this. I want to be able to go to every school concert and sports match, and nativity play, and to maybe get invited along on the occasional school trip as a parent helper.
I get coffees with other mums at times, and more often than not I’ll bump into one of them in the supermarket and we will chat for a while. When the kids were smaller there were toddler groups; now I am a scout leader and I am involved that way.
D’s line annoys me as I think, supposing she was a mum with a child who was non-verbal, ten years old and still in nappies, unable to feed them-self or be left alone for a second? Suppose her child had a life-limiting condition? Suppose she was watching one of her precious children lose both their sight and their hearing? Suppose her primary-age child had just been diagnosed with cancer? These are all examples of situations that have or are happening to people I know, and do you know what? I don’t think any of their mums would consider that they are making sacrifices. I think they would say they are “being there” for their kids, hoping that tomorrow is better than today, and soberingly in a lot of cases, just hoping that there will be a tomorrow.
So, thank you for reading. I don’t know quite why she bugs me so much, but I shall spend Christmas hoping fervently that she doesn’t let her kids know she considers looking after them a sacrifice.