Parenting Through Anxiety – Our Kitchen Makeover

I can’t tell you when it started, this insane level of anxiety over our kitchen. I know it wasn’t there pre-Boe, and I know it wasn’t as bad as it has been this year, but I wouldn’t be able to pin point at what stage of my mental health crisis that it all went from not really liking our kitchen to feeling like we’d all die if we opened the door….

But at some point, something somewhere was triggered, and that was exactly how I felt the second that kitchen door was open – that it would all end in death.

It seems completely batshit bonkers when I think about it, because, rationally thinking, the chances of anything major happening was pretty slim (it could still happen though, so…)

When Boe was born, I was fine. I had issues with the kitchen, but they were more cosmetic rather than life threatening…. I’d still go in there and cook dinner and grab a drink when needed, like any “normal” person. When we started baby lead weaning, I remember being in that kitchen cooking spaghetti bolognese, or stir fry for us all while Boe napped in the lounge. But he ditched his naps quite early on, and so I just stopped going in and cooking from scratch… I guess it’s possible that was the beginning of the end.

Why didn’t I want to go and cook dinner while Boe occupied himself? Why didn’t I want to take him in the kitchen with me to cook dinner? I can’t tell you.

I know I did sometimes, as there’s the odd photo of us playing with spaghetti while he’s in his high chair… But those times are erased from my memory.

And it’s not like I was just looking for any excuse not to cook… Because although I’m no professional chef, I actually DO like whipping a meal together. But mentally I just wasn’t able to open that door at some point, and that feeling of dread just appeared and hit me like a runaway train.

From being scared that Boe might smash his skull if he slipped on the floor, to him throwing one of his toys on to a lit hob and the house burning down, to him popping an eye out on a door handle on the cupboard… The washing machine, the fridge freezer, the worktop, fingers in the door, germs on the bin… Literally EVERYTHING was a death trap in my head.

And so something had to be done. I wasn’t getting any help professionally – my GP and health visitor constantly ignored my phone calls where I sobbed and begged for help, mental health charities that I’d emailed just never replied, so it was down to us to make the insane decision to just rip the kitchen out and start again. To be fair, we never liked that kitchen since we moved in, and it was already falling apart, but in the past we’d just lived with it… So rebuilding it didn’t seem *that* crazy… Not really

So we hot footed it to so many kitchen shops late 2016 / early 2017 and were almost signed off on a standard B&Q job…. Until we went to Wren Kitchens in Warrington. And instantly fell in love with their Milano range. I mean, really… It’s a very sexy kitchen. And it should be for the price!

So we bought it. That was our Valentine’s Day gift to each other – and we signed off on Feb 14th 2017!

We lived another year with that horrid, old, dirty kitchen. I’d managed to bring myself back into it for quick bursts, but the anxiety in me was so high that after 5 minutes I’d be losing my shit over something and I’d be screaming at either Boe or Mr Plinky. Which was NOT cool, nor something I’m proud of as generally I’m such a gentle parent who knows that Boe was just doing what babies / toddlers do. But the rational part of me was long gone 😭

Eventually, enough was enough and I demanded that Mr Plinky get his arse in gear and book in the kitchen fitter, arrange delivery of the kitchen, order the floor and wall tiles and stop making us live like this.

And he did. It was all booked to start the first week in August. Boe and I were to go down to Devon with my mum for the first week while everything gets ripped out. I say ripped… The guys only took two screws out of the wall cupboards and the whole lot just fell off the wall. Bloody anxiety missed that, didn’t it! I felt sick over what could have happened if we’d not pushed ahead with the rebuild!

The boys worked really hard ripping everything out… The floor was gone, the radiator was gone… Poof! I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders – and all I was seeing was photos!

The week went on, and even though I told Mr Plinky to not send me anymore photos, he did…

I was too excited! Our dream kitchen was starting to become a reality… I was over the moon to see mine and Boe’s baking space being started by the door 😍

That was the last batch of photos I was sent which was how the kitchen looked by Thursday. They’d made good progress in those 4 days.

Boe and I had reached our limit of being in Devon without Dada, so he drove down to pick us up the Friday evening and we headed back home the next day. With Boe’s sensory sensitivity it was a massive gamble, but we had no option really – even though the kitchen was nowhere near ready, we packed up and travelled home.

The second we got back, I was in there – 1am and I was sat in that room on a foot stool just taking it all in. It was still a total building site but I felt safer in there at that moment than I had done for the last 2-3 years πŸ€” it felt surreal.

After another week of hard graft from the boys and them bitching about how awful our wall tiles were πŸ˜‚ and a week of trying to keep an over stimulated 3 year old occupied, our kitchen was done! Apart from the washing machine door (which we’re STILL waiting on) our dream was complete! And they ended up loving the tiles once they were all put up. In your face, boys πŸ˜‰

It was finished the second week in August… It’s now 10th September and I’ve been in that kitchen every single day. Boe’s been back playing in the sink and loving life. I’ve been baking and making meals. Proper meals, not a microwave dinner! I’ve also been known to sit on our stool and enjoy a cuppa. Everything has a home (almost) and Boe’s even had a bit of a tap malfunction and sprayed water all over the place. And not one part of me felt anxious or shouty. It’s been a complete peach πŸ‘

I know not everyone who has these same anxiety issues is in a position to just have a Β£15k kitchen built, and 7 years ago I was one of those people, so I know I’m incredibly lucky….but it feels so good to be the mama I always dreamed of being, and the wife my husband needs and that I want to be, and for Boe to once again be in a calm, peacefulish environment where he can run and laugh and live….

It’s odd though because in those years I completely forgot how to live with a kitchen. I’d forgotten the simplest of things – I’d forgotten that jacket potatoes exist… I’d forgotten that there was a life outside of fish fingers and waffles and take-aways. I know it sounds crazy, but my head had begun seeing making dinner as this huge in depth task where I’d be so busy that I’d not realise Boe had fallen down the back of the sofa and cracked his skull on a plug, or he’d be climbing up the expedit to try and get to the printer… In my complex mental state I’d forgotten (and didn’t see) that quick meals existed, and actually making a simple pasta dish was possible…. And it didn’t hit me that I’d forgotten all that until I was watching Eat Well For Less just before we left for Devon. In those crazy years my confidence had taken a massive battering and my brain was seeing things in a way that looking back now, just doesn’t make sense.

I remember sitting there watching it thinking “how have I forgotten omelettes exist? How do I not compute those simple things anymore?” I sat there wishing Gregg and Chris would just knock on my door and say they were here to help. That was the wake up moment, I think…. The moment where I just thought oh fuck off, Plinky…. This isn’t how you saw parenthood. Regardless of who you beg to help, no one is stepping up, so dig your heels in to life and get cracking….. And as soon as that kitchen was ripped out, I was starting to rebuild my mindset.

Our baking space is just perfect for Boe to join in! He loves our new kitchen!

And it’s so far been working. I’m not heeled fully, but progress is progress and it’ll take a long time to undo all the mental damage this extreme post-natal depression, anxiety OCPD and worry have done, but this kitchen has taken a MASSIVE chunk of that away.

Do I think I still need the help of Gregg and Chris? Clearly, because we can’t just live off omelettes and Oaty biscuits for the rest of our days, but until they knock on my door with their massive bags full of food and recipes, I just have to keep chipping away at the barriers separating the current me from the mama I always dreamed of being since I was 15 years old.

You may see a kitchen…. But I see hope, growth, love and peacefulness πŸ’™

Nuts, aren’t I?!

Plinky xx

*kitchen: Milano – Wren Kitchens, Warrington. Floor: English Stone – White – Mizzano Tiles walls: Joyful Turquoise – Mizzano Tiles, Liverpool. Worktop: Ice Grey Isastone – Prestige Worktops, Liverpool. Instillation of everything: Andy and his guys at Nudesign bathrooms and kitchens, Liverpool.

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