I have woken today with a hangover of blerghs. Yesterday was the kind of day on which nothing specifically big or bad happened, but many of the little things that happened were symbols and symptoms of other, bigger things. Each of them, on their own, was a simple blip in an otherwise unremarkable day, but they seem to have spent the night worming their way through my veins so that this morning I have woken on the edge of a mood I have so far refused to embrace.
Not helped by that Big Red Cat that sits at my door mewing. I love cats, but I find strays shiver-inducing. Also, the toaster is busted. No one knows how.
Most of the things that happened yesterday are things better left untold to the internet, but there’s a small mother-wife thing I want to talk about.
If I could quantify it, I would say that ninety eight percent of the time, I’m okay with the role I have to play while we live here. For better or worse, to a great extent or a little, our lives are shaped by the mister’s work. I have to assume that when the lads aren’t at school, they’re my responsibility. It means I don’t get out of an evening much.
The mister is away a lot and when he’s in Abu Dhabi he has the normal commitments that jobs like his do have. I can do things, I can get out, but I always need to have childcare Plan B in place. Just in case. There’s no simple child care solution in Abu Dhabi. ‘Casual’ employment as we would know it in Australia is illegal and, for my situation, employing a full-time, live-in maid to effectively act as an on-call babysitter is like hitting a pintack with a sledgehammer. There are casual solutions of course, and the chances of anything going wrong are no greater than they would be in Australia, but it’s the consequences of things. That’s where the difference lies.
This is not to say the mister doesn’t play his part, and I’m always reluctant to write about these things, because I would hate anyone to think that I am criticising his availability. When he is here, he does everything he can to give me time and space to work. He’s a hands-on Dad who has taught the lads to scrub the toilets and hang the washing out. Emotionally, he has never not been there for me. And I’m not going to detail the twenty year history of our relationship to demonstrate why it’s okay that every now and then such imbalances can be justified. Suffice to say, I think they can. They have to be.
Besides, it’s not like I don’t get any benefit from the life we lead. You will have noticed, for example, that I’ve been able to do a lot of travelling and I’ve been able to take my boys to some pretty special places. Most of the time, when I feel frustrated or lonely or bored, I’m able to think of the travelling that I’ve done, of the time that me and the lads have spent together, and it is excellent compensation.
But you can’t run a balance sheet of things. Brains – well, mine at least – can’t always rationalise. You can’t draw two columns, put London under ‘Wins’ and then balance it with losses. Sometimes emotions get in the way.
And so, we get to this week and the tickets I have booked myself for the Abu Dhabi film festival and the inevitability that one of them will clash with something the mister needs to do.
‘Really?’ I said as he told me about it last night. ‘Do you really have to go?’
I just want to go to a film. I just want to lose myself in someone else’s life and someone else’s thoughts and someone else’s dreams. And I just want to do it without having to think my way there. Where will I drop the children, when will I pick them up, what will I feed them, when will they finish their homework, who will I owe by the time the night is done.
I left for last night’s film and by the time I was sitting in my seat felt bad for making him feel bad, because he already knew that I was going to feel bad. ‘If you need to go tomorrow,’ I texted him,’ ‘I’ll stay home.’ I added, so that he understood that the offer is genuine. ‘Not happily, but I will.’
I don’t say this to be a martyr or to the play the role of long-suffering corporate wife or to guilt him into saying, ‘No, no, you go’ (which, of course, he does say). I say it, because I can sit through a film with my brain a constant tickertape of ‘you shouldn’t be doing this, you shouldn’t be doing this’ or he can go out with clients knowing that one film is not too much to ask.
Look, I know that in the course of a lifetime together this is a small, a miniscule kind of thing. I know that in the balance sheet of life one missed movie or one missed client dinner will barely register. I know that this over-intense amount of time I have to spend with the lads is fair trade for the wonderful few months time I just spent with them in Adelaide.
And anyway, three of the things that happened yesterday – not to me, but around me – were enough to remind me that a person who has the time to fuss around with nuances like these is a fortunate person indeed.
So, you know, by lunchtime I will have pulled myself out of this funk, I will have sucked it up and hardened up and I really will have moved on.
I’m going to start by throwing a glass of water in the direction of that mewing, worm-ridden cat. (Sorry Cat People).