I've invested money into a degree to help me fulfil my dream as a writer. I'm seven weeks into my course, and I'm sad to say that I have not given it as much effort as I wanted because I have allowed myself to be distracted by other things.
Yesterday, I phoned my younger sister to see how she was getting along. She is expecting her first child. In a clear and confident voice she explained that she no longer want me to buy the cot. When the baby is born, she will decide if she feels up to visitors, and if she wants to be alone with the baby so be it. If she doesn't feel up to Christmas Dinner with her in laws, she will stay at home.
To be honest she was the same about her wedding. And why shouldn't she be? It was her day.
Once upon a time I would have been upset. I have always wanted to be closer, and would have liked to be involved. But when I put the phone down, I thought, what the hell. I bought my youngest sister a cot on the birth of her first child. I can just send my other sister a gift voucher for her to buy what she wants. I want to travel the path of the least hassle.
It's caused me to reflect on the birth of my first child. My parents had just died. I was desperate to please everyone around me. I was so ill during my pregnancy, frequently hospitalised due to the sickness. I can look back now and honestly say with a smile, that my mother and sister in law were complete bitches. But it was ME that went back for more. Desperately, trying to make them like me. What a idiot? Yes I really was that needy. A couple of years later, I remember the suicide attempt after my mother in law told me that 'we would NEVER get on. Never, never, never. No matter what I did or how hard I tried.' I could feel her smiling down the phone as I cried, and went on to her 'we are very different people speech.' I am ashamed to admit that I apologised and sent my mother and sister in law flowers!
It wouldn't make me suicidal now.
I remember the exact date years later when I saw my mother in law 'do a bit of behaviour' towards another member of family that made me decide I didn't want their approval. I realised that she was right, we were different people. Only this time I was glad.
I'm still the one who makes the effort with my in laws. People pleasing is a hard habit to break, even if it doesn't please them. Plus, I have this major hang up about treating elders with respect. I send pictures of my beautiful daughters, send letters to let them know what their amazing grandchildren are doing. I receive so much positive feedback from everyone who meet my girls. What joys they are missing out on!
My husband phones his brother and sister every Christmas, a single call once a year, and he always points out that it's one call more than he receives from them. He use to ring his parents every week, now it's every six weeks. They phone maybe twice a year. I can't remember when I stopped even being curious about the conversations.
Now, here is my clever little sister putting her needs first. And she is happier for it.
We will be meeting my in laws on the 1st of December. I use to become physically ill before every visit. At one point I didn't go to their house for several years. No one ever believes this story. We were contacted, and told that they wanted us to be like family and visit the house. Because I couldn't say no like little sis would have, we went. The visit had been arranged seven weeks in advance. Our car broke down outside their home. While at the house - and remember we hadn't visited for YEARS, my brother in law phoned and asked if my in laws wanted to come for tea. We were pushed into the car, driven back to our Premier Inn, at four in the afternoon on a Sunday. They wanted to see their grandchildren. Their other grandchildren. There was nothing to do around the Premier Inn, no car to take the kids out and my youngest girl sobbed herself to sleep saying 'they are going to see their grandchildren! We are grandchildren too.' I had nothing left to say to defend them. I have forgiven them, but my daughters face, red eyes, hair plastered onto her sweaty cheeks has she cried herself to sleep stayed with me.
They don't bother me anymore. If I do have any feelings, it's sadness that things didn't work out better, and concern over who will look after them as they get older.
After my chat with my sister I had a discussion with my daughters and I've made four little changes.
If I'm busy on the 1st of December, or if I have work to do - I don't think I will be driving up to Banbury to see my parent in laws. And, if my husband tries to guilt me into it by saying if I don't go he won't go - he's in for a shock! And I'm not going to worry about what they think. I will only make the decision on the day.
Currently, I'm not giving lifts to anyone, I'm struggling to drive at all. I'm in hospital test waiting land. I know that when I can help, I do. But as for my regular passengers, I haven't heard much since I'm no longer offering a taxi service. In fact I haven't had a call or email in over two weeks. In future if I feel like it I will offer a lift, if I don't I won't. Nothing nasty, but I will decide how I feel and if I'm well enough physically and mentally.
I have a couple of fair weather friends who only phone when they need something, or something is happening in their lives. They will spend hours on the phone crying, and needing me to pick them up a bit. And then you don't hear anything for eight months. I'm putting the caller ID on, if I'm writing, busy, or just watching a programme I'm enjoying I'm not answering unless I feel like it. Likewise for any calls that the ID says 'International!'
I'm eager to see my new niece or nephew, I love babies. I would have liked to be more a part of things. But if sister isn't up to visitors in January when we are up, my first cuddle will be the next time I'm up North. I'm not making the 700 miles round trip, and hotel and petrol costs unless it's something I want to do. I'm sure I will get lots of lovely updates via email and Facebook.
Four little changes. But, I feel like something has changed inside me.
My sisters last words kept me up most of the night, 'it's me and the baby that are important.'
Well maybe it's time to make my needs important.