Like many parents, last week I dressed my four year old in her new school uniform, tied her hair in matching bobbles, took the obligatory photos whilst she stood and posed for me and then nervously dropped her off with a group of strangers in a new environment to start the next journey in her life. I waited outside the school gates, holding her little hand, I reassured her as I left her in a room full of strangers and I walked back home alone to an empty house.
Yet inside I was praying for the next week to come, when she would be in school from nine until three, instead of returning home before lunchtime.
Let me get this straight, I adore my children and I work hard to be the best parent I can be. But they exhaust me, completely and utterly. From the minute they scream mummy at me at anything from 6am until the moment the lay their heads in the pillow after fighting with me at bedtime, I am worn out.
I play with them as much as I can, I take them for days out, I educate them, I cuddle them, I help them to grow. But as I do this my energy drains away and often my sanity and by the end of the day I can often be left just a shell, desperate for a moment to myself. I have headaches, I have memory loss, I have to drag myself out of bed almost literally. I struggle to feed myself due to low energy, a shower can make me dizzy and the house is a tip around me.
The reason behind all this? I have chronic fatigue. I have had it for two years now and whilst I manage it a lot better than I used to, I still find most days a struggle.
It has been an uphill battle to try and manage the every day symptoms and I have had many a setback. It is emotionally devastating realising how limited you are and how little you can do now. When once I climbed mountains, now the stairs wipe me out. Throw two young and demanding children into the mix and the days can seem endless and my parenting skills hopeless. The guilt is never-ending.
So if you see me at the school gates, hair slung back, make up loaded on to cover the bags under my eyes and not a tear to be shed, please don’t judge me. I love my children more than anything, I am just living in the haze of an illness that is impossible to see but is debilitating at times. After I drop off my little girl and walk home to an empty house, it is with a guilty but lighter heart as it means I can lay down and rest. And maybe when I wake up I may have a little more energy to run around the park with her after school, rather than sitting on the sidelines as I often do. A little more energy to be the mum I want to be.