Just after waking I feel a little like the Little Mermaid after she got her legs. Each step is agony, sending shooting pain through my body. It gets a little better as I move around and loosen up a bit, but then I hit the other end when I’ve been standing too long and I’m tired and my back and bump hurt.

I keep thinking of that phrase about how “pregnancy is not an illness”. Maybe so, but it’s sure mimicking a lot of the signs and symptoms of one for me.

The weird thing is that I’m actually kind of relieved – at the moment at least. I’m signed off of work, so I want to be signed off for a “good enough” reason. Most of the time I’m feeling so very much better than when I was working, and that just leaves room for the guilt to creep in – whether it’s guilt about not doing enough in the home, or guilt about not being back at work. Naturally if I was doing more, or was still working then I’d feel guilty that maybe I wasn’t looking after the pregnancy as best I could be.

There is no winning.

I tend to feel that there’s not a lot of scope for women to win in life anyway. There’s so much “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” stuff there. Those who throw caution to the wind and just live their best and closest to selves lives that they can do get judged for their reckless disregard of society’s expectations, and sure – maybe that doesn’t feel like such a big deal from the outside, but it can feel like a pretty big deal from the inside.

The crushing phrase that’s used to put you down in situations like this: “You’re so brave.”

“You’re so brave; I could never ….

  • Walk home alone at night
  • Let my boy children risk being teased for playing with dolls
  • Sign my boys up for ballet
  • Shave my head
  • Leave my children with another person
  • Show my art in public
  • Buy a house on my own
  • Break up with a perfectly … breathing … man in my 30s (but what about your biological clock!)
  • Backpack around Europe
  • Run a company
  • Choose to be childfree
  • ….”

Etc. etc. etc.

Implicit in the “compliment” is “What the fuck are you thinking? Don’t you know we’re not allowed to do that? You’re gambling with your own safety and with your children’s future happiness.”

I mean, there are actually plenty of people who give genuine compliments and are actually inspired by things they see as brave. But there’s a whole heap of judgement out there too. I’m guessing that the act of “doing things a bit differently” sometimes gets read as judgement on the standard choices. Judgement on them for being “a bit boring”.

I think there’s nothing wrong with being boring if you’re not bored by it. Vast swathes of my life are painted with dull routine task after dull routine task. Honestly, you can’t make progress on much of anything worthwhile without putting in the hours of drudgery.

But choose your glitter! Add sparkle to your life in the ways that mean something to you, right? Maybe that’s something mundane and acceptable like fishing trips or car maintenance, or maybe it’s something that appears brave like sky-diving, or public belly dancing.

Get your thrills wherever you can. Mostly no-one’s really judging you. If anything they’re judging themselves for not putting the time into the things they really want to do.

Because it’s time, not bravery. It’s priorities.

It’s a whole bunch of leaving the floor un-hoovered and clothes un-ironed in order to excavate enough space in your life to do something a little bit more. Your children will be fine with 30 minutes more screen-time a day. (Maybe. But given we’re bound for the land of Fucking Them Up anyway, we might as well try to be a little bit happier and self-fulfilled when we arrive there.)

What I’m typing here is mostly advice and reminders to myself. I feel like I’m not doing too much more than existing at the moment, and it’s not exactly super-satisfying. I’ve an aim in mind that I’ll get to 30 pages (not even consecutively, but since my sick leave started) written here and then I’ll make a plan to do something more.

Thirty days always seems like a magical number. If you repeat something, in quick succession, that number of times, it seems like change just happens on its own.

I hope so. Let’s see.