Estimated reading time: 1 minute
Rachel O’Leary, Cambridge, UK
Photo: Emma & Josiah Lisa Scott Photography
Clickety-clack, clickety-clack. Must be ten o’clock. There goes Carol from up the road in her high heels, lipstick bright, hair neat, covers on the pram spotless. I twitch the curtain so she can’t see me—still in my dressing-gown, hair all over the place, house covered in laundry—and sit on the stairs to feed the baby… again.
How does she do it? Why can’t I be like that—organized? Am I “coping”? Doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes it’s blissful, when the baby relaxes in my arms and falls asleep at the breast. Often it’s stressful—when she screams and I can’t understand why and don’t know what to do about it…
Somehow, we got through those days, and nights, and sometimes I even made it out of the front door—to a La Leche League meeting on good days! (I was always late, but they didn’t seem to mind).
Years later I met Carol at work, when our children were teenagers. With a wry smile, I told her how I’d been so impressed by her, all those years ago. She chuckled and said, ‘That’s the only way I could stay halfway sane! I was falling to bits at home, I just had to get out of the door, and the high heels and lipstick were to make me feel as if I was “coping” when I wasn’t at all!’
I wished I’d known; we could have had a laugh about it when we needed to. I wish I hadn’t assumed I was the only one drowning in isolation. I wish I’d got to know her better, and allowed her to know me with all my failings. I wish women could help each other more and compete less.
From Musings on Mothering Mother’s Milk Books, 2012.