The alarm clock sounds a startled beep. The kind of beep that makes your whole body jump and jerk awake – alert to the alarm – what’s going on? Where am I? What time is it? A snore from beside me, shakes off the fleeting shadow of dreams half remembered, noting the number ‘four’ and the ‘am’ and the realisation that he should be up for work.
A shove, a push, a dig in the ribs. A “Babe, wake-up!” and a shake here and there, before he stirs from slumber and drags himself from the sheets. I think that maybe one night I should unplug the alarm that wakes me, not him – leaving him with no wake-up call, just the consequences of the aftermath. The stark truth of the fact that I am a mother to four not three these days.
My head sinks back onto the pillow – the ones that make my neck ache. I remind myself to save for some decent ones but there are so many other things to buy, that take precedence. Sleep comes and I’m oblivious to the tribulations of uncomfortable hollow fibre. Just the blackness and the odd toss and turn before eventually the “Mummy, what day is it? Is it nursery today? Can we have breakfast now?” It’s six in the morning. My children are early birds in comparison to my night owlish behaviour.
Breakfast, medicine, twins up, milk, breakfast, drinks, nappies changed, clothes on, dishes done, fights broken up, toys tidied for the first time, laundry on – then sink onto the sofa. In through the front door he walks, like a warrior back from the hunt. Two hours of mopping floors and I’m expected to be awe-struck and grateful. Off he goes, straight down for a nap, while chaos resumes around me and the day blurs past in a toy-confused haze.
I snatch moments on the laptop – check for jobs, read emails – a tweet here and there. Always at that moment he surfaces again, as if all I’ve done is sit here, flaccid and oblivious to the child climbing up the curtains. The words have been used to describe me before – lazy, ungrateful, a user. I can brush them off but some of it always sticks. I think of the words “running around after you”, words that he uttered all too recently and I stifle a laugh. Yes, yes of course you do my dear.
Invisible – that’s the right word to use. A ghost in a house where things get magically done. A ghost who found that two hour job. A ghost who offers constant praise and encouragement. A ghost who has no-one to encourage her – no-one to help with work, with children and with retaining some sanity. Day in, day out, this ghost is confined to the walls of this house – not even doing a great job at being a ghost. Walking through walls would come in handy most days. Perhaps there are other ghosts out there. No. I know there are. They look at their tired reflections in many a mirror and start to believe that that is all they are and will ever be. So many ghosts and so many talents, invisible and gone unnoticed.
We are not alone.