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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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Fears of getting old and boring, plus when exactly girls become women - it's Dear Fifi

It’s that time of week.

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 And just like that, more time had passed. Can you believe we’re pretty much finished with February? I think that’s spring coming around the bend.

Again, I’m writing this column a little bit in advance, so I’m just closing my eyes and imagining it. For now. Beware the Hydes of March. Get at me right here.

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I’ve been suffering from a creeping dullness and seriousness for the last four years. It’s affected my sense of humour and default tone quite severely to the point where I don’t even recognise myself sometimes in company.  It seems to have been triggered by a transition to bring the sole earner in the family although the arrangement works really well for my partner and kids.

I don’t want to upset that but am finding the pressure of being in sole charge of income is draining me and making me an awful dry shite.  I always considered myself quite naturally lazy in my twenties and don’t seem to be able to reconcile that identity with my responsibilities so have ended up with this new, very boring one.

Funnily enough, I suspect you might get a bit of clarity on your situation once you read back what you’ve written to me. Has it helped you see it all laid out like that? Can you see that some of your fears about yourself might not be based in reality?

This isn’t about your personality! Your sense of humour is still there. You’re not boring, you’re not a dry shite. You’re just changing. You’re just under a lot of pressure. You’re just tired. Your current circumstances are temporary, but underneath that is the essential core of who you are. 

Look, none of us are the exact same as we were 10 years ago. And that’s a very good thing. If we all stayed the same and never changed at all, that would mean we weren’t learning or growing at all. And a life without any personal evolution would be a sad thing altogether. I think this is a difficult adjustment phase you’re in, where you’re figuring out your identity as it shifts from singleton to partner to dad to provider.

To be honest, I think more new parents experience this transition in their sense of self than we hear spoken about. It’s a big overnight change, bringing life into the world. It’s a responsibility we can try and prepare ourselves for all we want, but can only understand when someone hands you a baby and says “this is yours now, so deal“. 

You’re clearly under a lot of stress and pressure – I think you seem to understand that intellectually, but do you really feel it? It’s a big burden, and not many of us could wear it lightly. It’s likely a lot of your daily mental energy goes into working, figuring out finances, childcare – basically the logistics of a family life under strain. As you say, it’s draining you. But good news is you’re aware of that, so you can address it.

Can you talk to your partner about this? You say that this situation works well for them and your kids, and that’s understandably big. But could you make an exit plan so you have an end in sight? Or could you build in some regular, proper alone time with your partner every week? Or a night off for you on a set basis, or a full weekend every few months?

I think if you open up to your partner about the level of approaching burnout you feel, they’ll be understanding and you can discuss strategies to alleviate this dread. You and your partner are a team and at the moment you’re feeling the pressure of being the star player. You need to communicate the drained feeling you’re experiencing and ask for help. Compromises can be reached, and you can have fun again. Life will be lighter.

There’s a good time coming. I promise you that. You just need to ask for it to be hurried along.

When do girls become women? Referring to my friends as “girls” seems slightly insulting but it does seem like there’s an age where people are referred to as women.

I think a good rule of thumb is to see if you would ever say “boys” if the situations were reversed and act accordingly. For example, you might refer to your close friend as a “boy” and a close friend as a “girl” no matter of their age.

However, you’d be unlikely to say “good boy” to a colleague in a professional scenario, or shout “good boy” at a sporting hero who did a good job. Just try the swap and see if that helps you figure it out.

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