Resentment is an ugly and uncomfortable emotion, one that creeps up on me when I think I am doing well, strangling my good-will and reducing me, usually, to tears.
Today was another snow day. At least, for one of the local schools. Not for us though. My husband left early and expected to be home late as he decided to walk to work rather than risk cycling on the icy roads. Two of my children have had intensive weeks of maths, following our month 'off timetable' and had work to finish. My middle son was busy making 3 batches of muffins for the Christmas Fair at church tomorrow. So when, at 9:30, the boy over the road turned up on the doorstep, I was torn. We were busy, but my children love to play with the neighbours and I have some guilt about my educational choices limiting their friendship circle. So he came in to 'help' make muffins. The boys' conversation, however, turned rapidly to football, punctuated by 'whoops!' and, after three warnings that these muffins need to be good quality to be sold, I sent the lad home. My daughter rushed through her maths, making frequent mistakes and getting tearful, as she wanted to be free to play with his sister. The pressure was up and the fun went down. I tried to alleviate this by inviting the pair along to our Home Ed social group which turned in to me giving them lunch before we set off, a few minutes late while they collected a car seat and extra hats.
There were only a few children at our meeting, due to the bad weather, and the group dynamics noticably shifted with the addition of unknown extras; coupled with the lack of a football this made for a tense afternoon. The traffic was bad in the ice and, with stopping to do an errand, and giving in to our visitors request to be taken in the newsagents to buy football swapping cards, it took me an hour to get home.
It was sometime around lunch that I felt the internal shift to resentment. 'Do I look like a childminder?', 'Why do I have extra children when I have my own all day, every day and these children's (non-working) mother has every day at home on her own?' I felt it, but I did nothing about it. The end result: tears and shouting before bedtime.
I can begin to see that the real conflict is between who I really am within the current circumstances and who I would love to be. I have always hoped that we would have an open house for the neighbourhood children, that our home would be a welcoming relaxed place to hang out after school, that I would be the kind of cool mother the local children think of as a friend. If I had turned this boy away, I would not have been that person, I could not have even indulged in the fantasy that I am that person. My options? Inviting the children over, and fizzing with resentment, exhausted and unhappy, leaving nothing for myself or my own children. Or, accepting that I am limited and not who I imagine myself to be and living with the painful feelings that brings up for me. And sometimes, exhaustion and unhappiness are actully easier to live with.
I had a similar dilemma on Thursday morning faced with fulfilling my planned training session in sub-zero temperatures with depleted emotional reserves, or staying in bed an extra half-hour, not running and battling the fear of the fat slug within. The duvet won, but my image of myself as hard-core, super-fit runner took a hit.
I have the feeling that this insight is crucial to unpicking much of the stress in my life. If I could figure out more of who I am, what I like, what I want and peel away the layers of who I imagine myself to be, who I would like to be, who I think is acceptable, I would begin to be free to say no to the one-demand-too-may that comes knocking.