I learnt to juggle long before I had children. It was a boyfriend that taught me, obviously. He was eminently forgettable otherwise, but he not only taught me to juggle, he taught me to teach juggling. And I’ve done that time after time since, friends, colleagues, adults with learning disabilities. They all have something in common – a look of absolute triumph the first time they realise that they are actually juggling.
When you learn to juggle, the first thing you learn is to drop the ball. Because it’s not the catch that counts, it’s the throw. Once you’ve got the throw right, it lands in your hand naturally without you having to strain to catch it, and you can send it looping on its way again.
It’s not an awful lot like parenting really – you don’t get lots of second chances. Although I suppose in some ways you do. Every day with your child is a second chance. I grab lots of them, trying harder and harder not to be shouty mummy, and usually failing about 30 minutes after the final child gets up. Today I lasted hours, and I haven’t shouted shouted yet.
There’s still time.
This hasn’t got a lot to do with the Mum Network carnival theme of the juggle of modern motherhood has it? Mainly because I don’t think modern motherhood, or even parenthood is a juggle I’m afraid. Children aren’t balls to be thrown and caught (although I remember the year when our childcare arrangements felt perilously like that). You can’t become practised enough to get everything right without even watching. You can never take your eye off the ball, and in juggling, the time you succeed is when you aren’t following the ball at all.
So in my life, the juggle isn’t about my children, it’s between my wants and needs for the things I see out of reach, and I think that probably is a peculiarly modern thing, as stuff is just so endemic now. I’ve tried parenting with less stuff and more community, and I’ve written about it before – and yet every time I return from the past to the present, all my good intentions melt away and I go on acquiring things. Oh so many pointless things.
So if I’m juggling it’s bits of me. How do I keep the balls of wanting to see, do and have more in the air alongside concerns of fair division of resources, environmental worries and safeguarding the future?
I think it might be by getting more political. Our lives are dictated to by men in suits who have never experienced the type of community and life that they casually uproot with their policies. If you’ve never run out of sugar, you don’t know what it’s like to not know someone to borrow from. If you’ve always been able to afford a house, you wouldn’t know what it’s like to choose between between eating, heating and paying the rent. And if you’ve never found it difficult to find a job, you probably do think that benefit sanctions are utterly reasonable.
So the question I’m interested in becomes do I have enough hands to add a political ball to those I’m juggling?
This is my entry to the Mum Network Trusted Blogger Club Autumn Blog Carnival