Social Media Madness 

This post has been written by so many people, so many times, but I still feel the need to write my own. I’m having a bad social media day. 

So, we have a social media ban on our kid. In the 21st century, I recognise how some might find that odd, but we have various security and privacy concerns surrounding social media and it’s an important matter to us as a family. 

This leads me to the fact so many of our peers now have kids and it’s absolutely the norm to share the life out of your life on social media (observation, not judgement). So I know almost every single thing my social media contacts do on a daily basis, minus the crappy stuff, obviously. I know all their kids’ achievements and milestones and outings and holidays and art and extra-curriculars and outfits and whatever else. And sometimes I feel sooooo left behind. Half my social media contacts, maybe more, don’t even know I have a kid. Never mind anything about her.

Sometimes it takes me a while to catch up mentally. To realise that I’m not left behind, I’m just not living online. I’ve done loads of the things I feel “left out of”. They’re just not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

We are moving into a reality where things aren’t real if they’re not on social media. We ask new couples whether they’re “Facebook official”, we proclaim unending love for our partners on their walls, but barely speak in person, we have become unable to have an experience if we are not also broadcasting it. A friend of mine recently quite literally posted her engagement, with photos, while still in the middle of her engagement date. Another’s sister in law posted her entire birth story to her fb wall as it was happening and without her permission. 

I worry we have lost our filters, our sense of privacy and our understanding of reality. I’m constantly aware of the problems, but even with that, I can feel myself slipping on days like today. I feel like I’m not keeping up, because I’m not proving that I’m keeping up.

Most days, I can shake my head at the oddness of it all. At knowing people irl and seeing their ridiculously edited social media lives. Most days. But today I’m slipping and I suddenly understand why discontent in life seems to be on the rise. Compared to social media, my life blows! My marriage is boring, my kid isn’t impressive enough, I’m very far from up to scratch and we sure as hell don’t party enough.

Aaaah, but I speak to people irl. And the less exhausted, more rational me, is fortunately still lurking somewhere in my mind, going “You know this is part PR, part bullshit, part editing, right?” And yes, I do, but will our kids? 

It’s not a well paved road

Ten years. Ten years ago today I made some changes. Ten years ago today, a broken girl started putting the pieces back together.

Early on a Sunday morning exactly ten years ago, a broken girl decided to do something, so she dumped all her laundry out of her boyfriend’s laundry bag, folded up the bag, stuck it under her arm and took the walk to the laundry. At the laundry, she handed him the bag, looked him in the eye and told him that no matter how much she loved him, she couldn’t do this anymore. She just couldn’t be with him, it was destroying her. And so, in tears, she turned on her heel and walked back home. She knew herself well enough to take precautions against just going back if he begged or made excuses, so on her way home, she made a few phone calls to inform the important people of what she had done. It felt like that was the only safeguard and there was quite a bit of shock from the people she told, but she absorbed it and kept going, because she knew she deserved better.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details. I’ll tell you that the next few months were a living hell. I was struggling to reconnect with myself, make new friends outside the dating circle, work and simultaneously deal with my ex stalking me. I was afraid to go out, I was tired of trying to explain and I lived in constant apprehension of the begging/hurling abuse roller coaster. I spent many of my days sobbing as one abusive message after another came through via text and email and I once even got a 06:00 wakeup call on a Saturday morning from his mom. I endured suicide threats, death threats against all my male acquaintances and him pitching up at my office at random times.

I lost 75% of my friends, because abusers often look like saints to the rest of the world, so this was clearly me being a bitch. More than a year later, a mutual friend told me that he still bamed me for “breaking the man”. That my leaving him had broken him and our friend would never forgive me that. I stood there, trembling with frustration and hurt and told him that I didn’t hold that against him, as I know he has no idea. He again informed me that I had broken his friend and he (my ex) was still hurting, still broken, still loved me so. At this point I lost my shit, I’m afraid. “We’ll, you didn’t have to live with his abuse”, I hurled back, “besides, he’s engaged now, so he’ll just need to get the hell over it!” I figured that would end the conversation, but there was one parting shot “Do you think she doesn’t know? Imagine how she feels”

I tell you that story, not to soothe my ego, but to illustrate how abuse is not a single thing by a single person. There is always some form of secondary victimisation, especially when the abuser is so adept at playing the victim card. Somehow, after years of emotional abuse and months of psychological warfare, I was the bad guy for calling it quits. That hurt more than all the crap my ex ever gave me.

So I’ll tell you this. When a woman finally walks away, know how much courage that takes. Know that the road ahead is going to be as hard as the relationship behind, possibly harder. Know that she didn’t just decide that moment. Know that abuse is insidious and that she likely only figured it out when it was nearly too late or already too late. Know that she’s a survivor and a fighter, not a victim. And please, please don’t ask her what took so long.

It’s been a decade and as I write this, my baby sleeps in the next room, my wonderful husband is sleeping next to me and I’m surrounded by three furry babies. I got lucky, I managed to pick up the pieces and mostly put them back together. That said, I have no illusions of how close I was to missing the exit. So today, I think of all those who are still figuring it out.

#MenAreTrash, but is that all?

Disclaimer: This post might be a trigger for some. This post will not win me any popularity contests. This is by NO means a disagreement with the movement, nor is the aim to victim-blame. This is one woman asking whether there should be more to this conversation.

So, #MenAreTrash has been featuring a lot lately and the amount of conversation, debate, anger and enlightenment it has sparked has been impressive. Like many, my instant response was offense. I can not stand man-bashing as a form of female upliftment, so the hashtag pissed me right the fuck off on sight. Interestingly, I first saw it on a male friend’s Facebook feed and his response made me rethink mine.

 * screen grab posted with permission 

So as the posts and discussions have gone by, I’ve been absorbing them and taking them on board. Yesterday my mom contacted me after seeing a post by Caffeine and Fairydust on Facebook. She was livid that an intelligent woman could be involved in such an offensive campaign. Like many, my mom had only read the tag. She hadn’t read the point and I spent some time explaining it to her as best I understand. My mom is no longer angry, but I can’t say as the movement has her support, either. And that little nugget brings me to the point.

I believe a vital component of this debate is missing. I am concerned by the fact we are ignoring the role WOMEN play in men being trash. No, I’m not talking about being out alone or having too many drinks or wearing provocative clothing. I do not believe in victim blaming or shaming and I do not believe any one person has any right over another.

Here is what I DO mean. The first person who ever told me boys will be boys, was a woman. The first person who ever said a boy was being mean to me because he liked me, was a woman. The first person who ever told me I’d go to hell for responding to my own needs, but excused a man for doing the same, was a woman. The people who taught me that I could only gain validation through men, were women. The only people I have ever personally met who made excuses for abusive partners (their own or others), were women. The editors and writers selling and approving the shit in women’s magazines about how to please your man, how to catch his eye, how to make him stay, how to recover your relationship from boys being boys, they’re fucking women.

Society is slowly changing and men are playing more active roles in parenting and I will not discount that. BUT for generations, we as women have raised the next generation. And look at what WE have told our children. Male and female alike. As mothers and sister, grandmothers and aunts, we have dismissed our boys’ disrespect and poor behaviour as boys being boys, while shushing our girls and, at best, teaching them to avoid notice and not get above their station. Boys don’t like that sort of thing, you know, girls getting above their station.

Now we have come to this. And yes, it is time, but my question is, are you, as a woman, as a mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, daughter doing YOUR part? Not just posting a hashtag,  but really looking at the message YOU convey to the men in your life. Have you tossed the women’s mag that preys on your need for male attention and rather focused on something that might really bring you joy? Have you listened to the underlying message in the throw-away comments you make to young children? Have you stopped making bitchy comments about other women being bitches/whores/sluts,  because you don’t like them/envy them/are pissed they got more attention than you/wish you could pull off their look?

Yeah, #MenAreTrash, but when I’m in deep water, I trust men to bail me out. Not because they’re stronger than women, but because in my personal experience, they’ve been fighting #MenAreTrash a lot harder than women. When my foster brother made inappropriate advances toward me when I was 14 and he was 19, my stepmother was excited for me. When my cousin was date raped, the first people she told were men, because women would blame her. When my ex became abusive, my female friends told me I was being silly, he was just stressed, his brother told me to bail.

#Menaretrash and society perpetuates it and society is patriarchal. I do not deny this or argue it. I fully agree. BUT FOR THE LOVE OF THE X CHROMOSOME, STOP ENABLING IT.

Fantasy vs Reality

This past Mothers Day has really had me thinking. Possibly due to the big focus around Mothers Day Connect, but more likely due to the attention that has been given to post partum depression (PPD) on my social media newsfeed of late.

I read a great piece about the things we leave unsaid when discussing motherhood and that really got me thinking.

As a child, teen and young adult, I had a few very specific ideas about the mother I would be. Hell, right up till I actually became one. I’m pleased to say that fundamentals never changed on how I want to raise my child, but there were some interesting shifts. I never wanted natural birth, ever, so being the woman fighting against a C up to 41 weeks, was amusing. Never had any intention of breastfeeding, so being the woman telling another mother that my “extended breastfeeding” is MY business and WHO endorsed, so take a hike, was surprising to the 20-something me that still hangs out in the back of my consciousness. Here’s the one I’ve really been contemplating, though. I always figured I’d be that annoying sunshine mom who always tells you how parenting is the best thing ever. That I’d be perpetually chirpy, packing lunches and putting together cutesy outfits.

Only the good Lord knows why fantasy mom me would have had a lobotomy along with her first cesarean, or started taking some pretty serious drugs, but that’s what I thought. As it turns out, I parent much more in line with my actual personality, which must be a source of great relief to my friends.

See, the post I read is about how we don’t discuss the dark thoughts and moments that are such a huge part of becoming a parent. How we talk about all the unimportant shit, but not the stuff that might actually break you as a human being. And how, because nobody brings the darkness into the light, new mothers feel alone when everything isn’t fairytale perfect inside their new bubble.

I’m a naturally honest person, perhaps a little brutally so, so I never hid my darkness. My childless married friends asked about parenthood in the early months and I was frank about how hard it is, how exhausting, how debilitating and frustrating and overwhelming. I knew the woman had never wanted kids and I bluntly told her not to. I have never been afraid to admit that I have put my screaming infant in her cot, howled “I can’t anymore!” at my husband and locked myself in his office, hitting my head against the wall, because I was tired, frustrated and overwhelmed and terrified of hurting our child.

I also was not enveloped by overwhelming love for this wailing creature the moment I laid eyes on her. That took me three months (and boy, is it OVERWHELMING LOVE). I just don’t do insta-feelings. They’re not my thing. Did I have full maternal instincts to provide and nurture and protect? Yes! Is that love? Nope. It is not. Did that make me feel like less of a mother? No. It might even have kept me sane.

The most important thing motherhood has taught me is that it is not for everyone. I believe more than ever that the parenting discussion with non-parents should be a frank one. Parenting is bloody tough and I’ve wanted kids for as long as I’ve known it would be an option someday. Being a mom was always my greatest ambition, so if I struggle, and I have a huge support system, where does that leave those in doubt? 

We all have this fantasy of the parent we will/might be and what parenting will be like or how we might change our minds someday. The reality of parenting, however, is seldom discussed. The loneliness, the fear, the frustration, the loss, the gain, the change. 

Perhaps it’s time we all drop the filters when chatting to new parents or prospective parents or just friends. Perhaps we should drag the darkness, kicking and screaming, into the light.

Lost and Found

Today marks the third anniversary of my father’s death. Actually, as I write this, it’s about 90 minutes past three years ago to the moment I found out.

My father and I were estranged for various reasons and I won’t pretend that there isn’t a lot of pain in that all by itself. I was the very last family member to find out, a good 7 or 8 hours after the fact and that holds its own hurt. I didn’t even know he was sick. Before the last time, whenever he got really sick, he’d try to get his affairs in order and reach out, but not this time. I’ve wondered why for three years and I still don’t know. I do know that it’s not because I pushed him away, so there is that.

I guess the reason this is a big deal is that I was/am an absolute daddy’s girl. Our estrangement broke me in ways I don’t even understand. Some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around him. Specifically him opening the world to me. His knowledge of and love for nature was incredible and he fostered in me a thirst for more knowledge and a love of my own.

For the first part of my life, he really was the best dad any child could ask for and my greatest hope for becoming a parent was that my children would have a father that could live up to those early memories, just, you know, forever this time.

On this day, we went to the aquarium. Our family has a standing monthly date with our daughter’s legal godfather, as we want them to have a strong bond. I can not really put into words what a healing experience it is to see my daughter with her father everyday. He loves her with his whole soul and he far surpasses the memories I cling to.

Even more so, celebrating this day with two father figures reveling in the boundless joy that is a little girl. Showering her in love and rediscovering the world with her as she tirelessly drags them from one display to another and listens with as much awe and focus as a 19 month old can muster as they tell her about the things she is seeing.

I wish with all my heart that this little sponge could have known my dad and he her. The man he was at first would have gotten so much joy from her. BUT my hurt eases a little everytime I see the amazing relationships she is even now building with the wonderful and diverse people in her life. She has so many “uncles and aunts” who love her so much and fill so much of the gap left by my dad, that frankly, it overflows quite freely. And I am incredibly grateful for that privilege. I am especially grateful for the amazing father she is currently cuddled up to.

2017 – A Numbers Game

The other day Facebook sent me one of those friendaversary notifications they’re so very fond of. Only, this time around, it sort of stuck with me. In fact, it’s been playing out in my mind for the past couple of weeks.

It was a notification that my husband and I had been Facebook friends for 10 years. That seems pretty arbitrary, but 2017 is a year of big numbers for me and that friendaversary moment is as good a marker of the start of a lot of change in me as any.

See, back in April of 2007, I was a very different woman from the one I am today. I was timid, skittish, down on myself and rather lost. I was in a 5 year relationship that had become ever more emotionally abusive and was fast reaching a make or break moment. I considered myself useless, worthless and undesirable and was fairly convinced I deserved the crap thar was thrown at me daily behind closed doors. See, like many abusers, my partner was inches away from sainthood in public and generally I felt very alone.

But, in March and April of 2007, I slowly started clawing my way out of that abyss. I won’t lie, working a fair distance away from my partner’s prying presence and spending time with people who were interested in me, outside of my link to him helped. As did the judgementless and flattering attention of two other men. I’m human, I’m happy to admit that.

The end, for me, was not one big thing, but three. One was a disagreement that somehow resulted in his mother showering her special brand of abuse on me (all abusers learn somewhere), two was his brother telling me that nobody deserved that sort of treatment and three was having him empty my wardrobe on my birthday and ordering me to tidy it up like an errant child. And so, I finally reached the end of my tether and started regenerating a spine.

After 5 years and one month, I finally walked away. I still faced a lot of crap from him, but I finally stood my ground. I made a lot of mistakes in that first year, but I could finally be me.

So, 2017 marks 10 years abuse free for me. It also marks 10 years with a supportive, loving and equal partner. 10 years of growth and rediscovery. And 10 years of healing.

2017 also marks 7 years of living with my husband, 5 years of marriage and 2 years of parenting. Each number holding special significance to me. So 2017 is a big year for us, by the numbers, but also for me.

For 5 years I lived in a sort of darkness, but I have doubled that time in the light.

Because I don’t really trust therapy…

Friendly warning to anyone actually reading this, it’s a vent/therapy session for me and might not be the most fun read ever.

Sooooo… uhm. I’m actually lying on a couch while I write this, which is mildly amusing to me. So here goes.

I’ve recently asked myself and my husband whether I should maybe consider seeing a shrink. I’m a psych student and as you might have guessed, I don’t put much stock in therapists, so this question rattles me a little. Please note, I believe therapy, psychologists and psychiatrists are extremely important, I just kinda view them as outside of my reality. That’s extremely arrogant, I know, but if you know me, it wouldn’t really surprise you. So, since I’m still not really in shrink territory, I’m going to spill my guts in writing instead and see how much that helps.

Without getting into detail, since this is not anonymous or confidential, the basics are that I’ve been struggling with my anger issues lately. You know that scene from the first Avengers movie where Captain America tells Banner that it’s a good time to get angry and Banner says “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry” and then he Hulks out? Well, that pretty much sums me up. On some level, I’m always angry and generally, I’m really good at managing it, but lately, I’ve been hulking out a bit more than I’m comfortable with. Okay, a lot more. And it scares me.

I’m always angry

Basically, growing up, there was a slightly Ancient Rome/Greece/Egypt vibe where emotions were considered a weakness. The only emotion that was mostly okay, was a sort of controlled anger, so anger has been the one negative emotion I have grown at ease with. I convert all my negative feelings into anger on some level, because I know how to deal with anger. The result is a certain frigid aspect to my personality and when I’m really tired, I have a hard time tempering the expression of my anger. I’m fairly self-aware, so I have taken measures to avoid exhaustion combined with social interaction, but it’s not always realistic. 

The problem is that lately, my anger management skills are not so great and I’m always tired and just so much more angry than I’ve been in a long time. A part of that is struggling to switch off from work. A part of it is the stress of having a toddler. A part is missing my dad so much more now that I have a kid. A part is needing a vacation. And a part is frustration at situations I can’t change.

Mostly, though, I’m feeling more and more like it’s time to address the deep down, underlying anger that feeds the rest of it and I just don’t know how. See, I’m very good at managing anger, but I’m terrible at letting it go. And I’m scared (which I unhealthily convert to more anger) that I’m going to hulk out on my little girl. I don’t want her to ever be this angry or jaded or disdainful or prickly.

Maybe I just need a holiday, maybe I need a shrink, maybe my husband is right and I need to hit the gym again. I don’t know, but I need to figure it out.

*Disclaimer: I’m not depressed, I don’t have ppd (I’ve always been like this), I’m not miserable. I also know that there is no shame in any of those things and I would own up to them as soon as I could, so I could get help, because my family and I deserve the best me. I have absolute respect for people living with mental illness  (for lack of better term). I am familiar with some of the difficulties and the bravery and strength of those fighting their own chemistry everyday blows my mind.

Confessions 

So, I have a Confession.  Actually, I have a few.

This blog, it’s never going to be what I originally said it would. Why? I don’t have the time or inclination to make it that. I could make time, but I can’t be bothered. I’d rather bake or cuddle my kid or pets or husband or dance or read. I apologise for misleading you. I also promise you’ll get over it.

I’m not nice. I tried real hard to edit out all my cranky and be the least offensive version of myself I could be, but I just feel like a big phony. I’m not a sweet little thing. I’m a tactless, judgemental, brutally honest, but very loyal, package. I’m passionate and cold and jaded and angry and excited and happy and many other things, but I am not nice or sweet. So I will not be pretending to be those things any longer. You’ll get over that, too.

I have no “target audience”. In truth, I have zero aim with this blog. It’s for me, for when I feel like it or need it. I have no desire to be read or known. I don’t care if I hear crickets when I post. If you are reading this, that’s really great. If not, it actually makes no difference and I’m addressing empty space.

I feel adrift. I’m not a creative and I’m not a people person. Blogging doesn’t come naturally. More than that, though, I am painfully aware of the differences between myself and the bloggers I read (and occasionally socialise with, on account of PiCT). Most of them probably fall under Parent Blogger. And here’s the biggie, I don’t define myself as Mom. Maybe they don’t either, but I think many do. I think many mothers do. I’m obviously a mother and it’s part of me and I love my child more than life BUT I define myself as Tamarah. Part of that is being a mother and a wife, but there is more. There is being a woman, being strong, being smart, being angry, being an animal lover, a scientist, a dancer, a friend. And somehow, in knowing who I am and holding onto it, I sometimes feel lost, because I wonder whether I was actually supposed to sacrifice being a Johnstone-Robertson to being a wife and being me to being Mom. Fortunately, when I talk to my best friend (my husband) about this, he looks confused and asks why I would do that.

So, in conclusion, I will be adjusting this here space. When I am here, I will be here as ME, not some airbrushed version of me. Me has many interests and I reserve the right to write about any of them as and when I please. Out with structure and target audience and niche market. Stream of consciousness, that’s my thing and I’m going with it.

I am one of many

I have been neglecting writing, a lot. I didn’t want this space to be angry and lately, I’ve been angry, so I waited.

I think this post is often called “I am one in four” or “I am the 25%”. It always seems so alone, because the truth of the many doesn’t show.

So, I am one of many. Statistics and research show that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I took Genetics at varsity, the stats are actually a lot scarier, but we’ll leave them be.

Today an old school classmate posted to Facebook. A simple post remembering her lost babies. Of course, having lost a pregnancy myself, this stirred up memories. But then I looked at the comments and reactions and was again reminded of how many of us there are. And how clueless the world remains.

To give you an idea of the many, I’m a virtual recluse, and yet 3 women I  know,  have miscarried in the last few months. And they are just the ones who have opened up.

When Mandy from Pregnant in Cape Town interviewed me during my pregnancy, I think I said I knew 10 women who had miscarried. Two years later, having almost completely withdrawn from the world, socially, I now know 17. And I didn’t over think the count.

Considering I work from home and almost all my friends are men under 30, that should really hit home. 

One of those women told me today that after a very smooth twin pregnancy, she took for granted that she was risk free. All would go well. And then it didn’t. At all. She’s hurting, but she’s a mom and she needs to be strong. And now she is faced with all the idiotic things people say, because they mean well. Things she and I would likely have said before we knew any better.

“At least it happened early” There’s really no good time to lose a child. At a few weeks, you feel like you never even had a chance, in your third trimester you have to face things I can’t bear to think of, as infants they never had a chance, each stage contains its own type of grief and each is equally terrible. You always feel cheated and like you’ve personally failed. So early isn’t better. A parent has a real and soul-tying connection to their child from the very second they suspect the child’s existence. The loss is real, and painful and huge and timing really makes no difference.

“At least you already have kids/You can try again” Children, whether we have met them or not, are not like dinner plates. It’s not a matter of one breaking being ok, because you have 5 more and you can buy another. One child does not replace or make up for another. It would seem stupid to others, but I still have every single item related to my lost pregnancy. From the pregnancy test to the release papers after my D&C. I keep them in the same file as I keep my living child’s information. I keep them, because that baby mattered and someone should remember that. 

But people don’t know. You don’t until you do. And though we are many, we are silent. For many reasons, often self-imposed. And because we are silent, we feel alone and those around us don’t understand. It is my wish for each of us that we find the courage, in time, to speak of the children that left us too soon, so that some feel less alone and others may finally understand. 

Noone can bear your grief for you, but we can hold each other up, when the grief is too heavy.

As Samwise Gamjee said to Frodo: “I cannot carry it for you, but I CAN carry you”

Out of the darkness and into the light

Honestly, I have no idea what the title should be, so just bear with me, ok?

The other day I was joking with hubby about “other women”. You know, the typical “don’t go picking up other women on boys night” silliness. I joked that I don’t share and even when I die, I would haunt him. He told me to have fun with that. And that it seems like too much effort.

I was quite taken aback by that and asked him to clarify. He informed me he would be too busy for women. So, uh, he has plans for after my death, does he? And then he explains. “I’ll be too busy raising our daughter!”

Now, my first response was that I’m not dying tomorrow! I was talking old age here. Since then, I’ve been thinking about it more.

My father could not live without a woman. I’m not sure what exactly ha did after his first divorce, other than run away, but after he and my mom divorced he ran back to his mother. Then he quickly remarried. His child was never his first concern, because he was completely lost without the guidance of a dominant woman. In the end, my father and I became estranged and when he died two years ago, I hadn’t spoken to him in 18 months. I didn’t even know he was sick, because my step-mother viewed me as a threat. (That’s a rant not meant to be put in writing)

My husband, conversely, recognises the hardship of single parenting and views it’s challenges as more important than new romance. Rather than the aim of wanting to provide our daughter with a replacement parent if it ever comes to that, his aim is to provide her with a fully present remaining parent.

Maybe it’s because I feel I lost my dad the day he remarried, but that means a lot to me.