I’m sitting on my floor, looking at two items that arrived today. One is a box. The other; a letter.
The box is a hamper dropped off by the local church group. A Christmas food hamper. As in, the kind that is passed out to the financially disadvantaged in the community to assist them through the expensive holiday period.
The letter is from the child support agency, letting me know that my ex has filed his tax return and will hence be having his child support level recalculated.
They sit in front of me, a squat brown and a slim white reminder of all the things that were not meant to happen in my life.
Four months ago I took a work break from my relatively well paid, highly skilled job. I did it because I had been pretending to be superwoman for far too long. I did it because I was hospitalised with heart pain – which turned out to be a panic attack – and had to delay the doctor taking blood tests because I was sitting on the bed, telephone interviewing my next au pair. I did it because my son started play therapy and the therapist told me, “What he really needs most is more time with you.”
I’m glad I did it. But still. The box. The letter.
Nobody stands at the alter in the big white dress confidently assuming that they’ll be part of the 50% that don’t make it. My wedding day was backlit with happiness, full of hope, all doubts packed away in the back of my mind.
This wasn’t the plan at all.
I have some decisions to make. I can return to work. I’m good at my job, and they’ve asked me to come back. We would have money for art classes, and new bikes, and the occasional holiday abroad. We would have after school care or an au pair in the evenings until mummy got back from work to bathe and read stories and put to bed.
We wouldn’t have school reading groups, or afternoon library visits, or time for long cuddles and chapter books in the morning. Someone else would do their homework with them and teach them how to form their letters.
Or I could go back to university. I’ve been accepted to study a degree in counselling. I’d have the flexibility to be with my children while they need me to be. They’re still so very, very small. But then… another three years of boxes. The kindness of strangers, bringing me shame.
I’ll sit here some more, and think about it. Sometimes, it sucks to be a grown-up.