We had an electrician visit the house today – carrying out a full check of all my electric systems, wiring, circuits etc, which I am extremely grateful for. It is lovely to have a brilliant local council as our landlords, (big shout out to Cheltenham Borough Homes).
Whilst he was with us – for about two hours, he observed us quietly. A Romanian gentleman, he informed me over a cup of tea that he had come to the UK ten years ago, and had been working with agencies until last November when he was contracted to CBH, and he travelled from Bristol to Cheltenham each day to do this job. Today he was doing thorough safety checks which will last for five years and a good job he did too.
The reason I am writing is because of one curious question he asked me, which left me speechless but full of gratitude. Quite shyly, he asked, ‘Do you mind me asking, are you a Christian?’
I was a little taken aback but not wishing to offend I smiled and replied ‘No,’ with a smile. Evidently he was so I asked what had prompted him to ask me this. His initial response stunned me: ‘Your husband was playing the guitar.’ Well, yes he was. In a rare moment my partner had picked up his guitar and was noodling not really playing tunes whilst he stared out of the window, simply passing time.
At the same time, although I didn’t realise it, my 17year old son – working from home today – was also noodling on his guitar. The electrician had noticed the two guys playing gentle guitar music and also the way we were together.
I offered him a cup of tea as soon as he arrived, and another whilst we were waiting for my washing machine to stop so he could check the kitchen circuits.
Apparently, we were very different to the families he usually visited, and for that I felt quite sorry for him. He also mentioned that we were very kind and polite…different was the word he kept using.
I wan’t sure whether to be honoured or shocked. I mean, I know we are pretty quiet, we don’t deal drugs or scream across the street or fist fight in the kitchen…but then, who does? It is a stark reminder of the world outside of my bubble, my close friends and my online community, where its pretty much all love, light and rainbows. This lovely man sees the worst of the world as he goes from house to house and I felt quite sorry for him.
But this is not the first time a stranger has taken the time to compliment me on my family. Years ago when my son was about six and his sister about 4, we attended local community events, where the Fire Engine was a big draw. All the kids loved climbing up and sitting in the engine. A few times, I was approached by one of the firemen who enquired ‘Are those two your kids?’ and I said yes. ‘Oh they are lovely,’ he added,’ they were so polite and really lovely to have. (He whispered ‘It really makes a difference you know’)
Now, I know I’m not the first mum to get a compliment but it means so much. As someone who lives with depression and anxiety, it can be very difficult, sometimes, to feel like I am doing anything well. If I am not working in some meaningful project, not earning vast amounts of money, and haven’t really been the ‘Home-making Queen’ I can often feel myself falling into a pit of self loathing and struggling to see my worth.
Moments like this then, become so special and can make me feel like I’ve done a really good job, in spite of my struggles.
I share this as both a moment of celebration and as an encouragement to others who may be struggling with mental health challenges, especially if they are raising kids. Those little things that you deem ‘unimportant’ and refuse to acknowledge; those little wins that you refuse to accept: they are the stuff of magic, and even if you cannot feel like you are winning, please at least accept the views of others when they give these gifts of appreciation to you. I know it’s hard. I know that every fibre of your being is screaming “DON’T LISTEN! THEY ARE LYING TO YOU” but take it from one who knows, one day you won’t feel so bad, one day you may just need a boost to get you through, and these wonderfully subtle gifts of appreciation will be juice that makes your motor run. And you will be glad you chose to take the compliment.
And as you kiss your kids goodnight (or hover nervously in the doorway of your teenager whilst she ignores you and carries on texting her friends) you will feel a warm glow inside, safe in the knowledge that You Did That! And that super -special human being is only on this planet because of YOU!