As a new mum, I quickly realised that I wasn’t capable of meeting my baby’s needs, staying alive/sane myself, and having a clean house and the garden the way I would like it. I’m not sure if that’s just me or if it was my baby (eventually three babies) or the way I chose to parent, but it was that simple. I made the only choice I thought I had: the mess ruled, and still does, the babies and I came/come first.

It cost me people: after my anti-natal coffee-group had been around on one particularly messy occasion, I had several in that group who never returned; I had someone close to me, on more than one occasion tell me she couldn’t live this (with dramatic gesture) way, and my ex-father-in-law was postively rude every time he walked in the door.

I care. I cared. It upset me. I like things to be clean and orderly, I’d love my garden to be gorgeous with trimmed lawns. I’d like it done and it drives me nuts that in my  otherwise very well organised life, I can’t pull it all off.  I’m not sure how others can. How do you?

Now the boys are older (15, 12 & 7.5 – don’t forget the half), and I’m a solo-mum. I work full-time equivalent between two jobs, and the kids and I still come as first as we can. The boys contribute to getting things done and daily/weekly I do the basics like loo and washing, but still outside and inside usually look like a tribe of elephants has been through. I still get people calling in and casting an eye and giving me the frosty-nostril – to the point I’ve never really had visitors come to the house for over two years.

I have lovely friends, and the vast majority would visit me and not my house, but that sense of not being enough remains constant. I rarely even have my parents around for a meal and I’m always watching people’s reactions as they walk in the door. I’m conscious of not meeting some ridiculous standard of perfection. All. The. Time.

I also have no inclination to exercise beyond the incidental 10,000 steps I do each day; none of us is fit – but apparently that’s a capital offense too.

And, there’s the new issue of having been separated for over two years of – why are you still single, have you met anyone yet, time to get online dating, he’s got a new girlfriend, why haven’t you…

And dammit,this all bugs me. I’m 49 years old and pretty damned happy with the way my life is panning out, the boys are well-adjusted and make me very proud (mostly because, kids), I love my work and I have great friends and enough of a social life to keep me feeling part of the world. But these things still get to me: why isn’t my house cleaner and tidier; why isn’t my garden looking pristine; why aren’t we all fit and gorgeous; why can’t I really be bothered to be out looking for a new partner?

And why do I care what other people think?

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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