Friday, January 19, 2007

New word count and guilt

Sad to say I'm still only 9408 words into the race, partly due to ongoing t'internet problems, which affect the research I'm still doing, and family related things. However, it seems to have got itself rolling, and I have more of an idea of where I'm going with it.

The guilt is to do with my much beloved eldest daughter Louise, my first born, mother of my first and only grandson, who is now six and a half months old. For most of their lives, certainly from as soon as they were able to understand, my four children knew a) I didn't want to be a grandmother and b) I wasn't going to be on tap to babysit. My parents lived too far away and Brian's parents were in Australia, and by the time we actually had my mother to live with us, briefly, the two older children were almost out of the babysitting years.

My daughter is a professional singer (and she'll read this, so sorry, Lou), her partner, the also much beloved Jarrod, is a professional musician. Lou's gigs usually start with her leaving home between mid-day and 4 in the afternoon, getting back between 2 and 3 the next morning. A lot of them are abroad, which necessitates at least one overnight stay, and certainly means leaving home around 6am. I have expressed concern for years, even before she was with Jarrod, having formerly been married to another musician (what a perishing family) about how she would cope with a child if she decided to go back to her profession. This is now what she wants to do. Co-grandma doesn't go out a lot and is therefore happy to babysit, but not for that length of time, I do go out a fair bit, and definitely don't want to babysit for that length of time. Herein lies the guilt.

I have berated friends of mine for giving up their lives for their grandchildren, one in particular has done so, and many friends have told me I would feel different once I had my own. Sadly, I don't. My friend Beryl Kingston has written a book, Neptune's Daughter, with this subject as one of the themes, giving me to realise it isn't only me who has a problem in this area. I know I will have to babysit sometimes, but how galling to think that if I get an invitation to dinner, or to a party, I can't go because I'm babysitting. I did that for a very long time with my own four.

Oh, dear. Comments welcome, especially if they tell me how to resolve the issue without losing a daughter.


Jane Henry said...

Oh yikes, Lesley, that is a tricky one. I can really see where you're coming from, because as you know I'm not a natural mother, so I suspect I'll be even worse as a granny! And I certainly wouldn't want to be saddled with my grandchildren 24/7. However, I can see Louise's need to carry on doing what she was doing, but perhaps like me before I had my second she hasn't have worked out yet that this may not be possible without making big sacrifices for her life as a mum. I have huge sympathy with her, because clearly she loves what she does, and yes, why should she give it up for her baby? But, equally why should you give up your hardworn freedom so she can go back to work?

My mother lives too far away to be helpful on a daily basis and my mil was tied up along time with fil, and now is too old to offer more then limited help. So we really have had to get on with it on our own. And there have been times when I would have killed to be able to ring my mum to come and help out (I'm particularly thinking of two hideous occasions when my youngest was in hospital and I really did have no one to turn to). But I like to think even if my mum was here, I wouldn't take advantage of her. She had eight children and did everything for us for the best part of twenty five years. She is entitled to be selfish in her old age I think! And I chose to have thesse children. They are my responsibility, no one else's. I do think I took time to work that out though, so perhaps your daughter needs a little more time?

You clearly have a very strong family set up Lesley, and surely it won't come as a surprise to your daughter that you aren't keen to babysit?

Is there anyway you can compromise? Personally, although my mil looked after my eldest for about six months when I went back to work, I preferred having a nanny/childminder because it is a professional relationship and doesn't tend to get blurred round the edges. Using a member of your family - either a mil or a mother can be tricky if there are differences of opinion about how the child is brought up.

Having a nanny/childminder in the evenings is obviously going to be hard though. Is there a way that both your daughter and her husband could box and cox a bit so that one or other could always be at home? Can you agree you will do certain dates in the month, but not be held to a twice a week arrangement?

I do think you are right that ultimately your daughter's career is not a great one to combine with motherhood, which is very unfortunate, and a difficult problem to overcome for her. Only she can work out at which point she goes more for the career or more for being a mum, but maybe for now she should try to be slightly less ambitious? Sadly, the myth that we can have it all, is that. Just a myth. Somewhere along the line something really has to give.

For me it was my career ultimately, but I feel I'm bouncing back now. And though I did have several years of feeling trapped and hemmed in at home, now looking back I think I was carping a bit, and it does actually seem to have gone really fast.

At least your daughter wants to work. We have the opposite problem in our family which is unhelpful in a different way.

Lesley, I hope you and Lou work it out. I'm sure you will. You have a good relationship and you love each other, which is what matters the most.

Fingers crossed that it all works out, and that your other daughter has a safe and fun trip while travelling.

lots of love Julesxxx

Anonymous said...

Hello Lesley

You know all the arguments about choice already ie work-wise, baby-wise etc etc What you need to hang on to is that you've been upfront all the way - stated your case quite clearly before any of these situations arose.

Also - I'm sure your daughter is fair-minded enough to recognise that you have indeed always made your position clear AND that her choices and responsibilities are hers, not yours.

I know it's a really difficult situation but you are you and not just a mother and not just a grandmother. Unfortunately, with the mother thing comes that ol' inbuilt mother-guilt as well - it's just part of the package so has to be dealt with accordingly - it's not a case of "How to Say No without feeling Guilty" - it's a case of: "Feel the Guilt and Do It Anyway".

Good luck. You can do it.


Unknown said...

Hi Lesley, can't really help on this one. My career disappeared once I had kids and I haven't regretted it but it was tough at the time. My youngest is now seven so I can begin to think about it again.

However I do hope your writing is picking up. It's tough to put the emotional behind and write. Good luck. Thinking of you.