Monday, 17 June 2013

What do you DO all day???

Okay, we've had our little rant about giving the guys a break and letting them be men.  Now it's time for the stay-at-home mums.

Before I had the Little Big Fella, I wondered what stay-at-home mums did.  I mean, it doesn't take that long to clean the house, does it?  I could do it in a couple of hours on the weekend, after a full week at work, no worries!

And babies sleep so much!  What on earth could mums do all day???

Although I kind of knew that it wasn't as easy as it seemed, I had quite a delusional concept of life at home, looking after the kids.  I expected it to be pretty cruisey, and that keeping the house in immaculate condition, providing hours of educational entertainment for my child/ren and cooking wonderful, nutritional meals, all on a tight budget (obviously required because I wouldn't be working) would be a cinch!


(Yes, that was definitely an Edna Krabapple impersonation!)

Turns out that being an at-home mum isn't as cruisey as it seemed (how's that for understatement, mums???).

Let's start with that new baby.  Yeah, the one that takes an hour to feed, burp and change their nappy, then is ready to start again two hours later.  Do that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for say... a few months, and tell me how you're keeping it together.  Oh!  And have you been to the bathroom today?  Lucky you!  Had a shower this week?

So baby finally gets into some semblance of a routine, and you're getting a combined total of 8 hours sleep a night (seriously, that feels like being on speed!).  But now baby is starting to move!  All of a sudden, all those "trinkets" (read: CDs) aren't safe where they've been living, so the house suddenly gets a makeover.

Because, as much as you thought you'd just teach your child/ren not to touch, it turns out that saying "no" every 5 seconds is really annoying, and you actually need to do other things (like use the facilities, or cook dinner).

And because baby won't stay where you put him/her, and baby likes to put everything in their mouth, you feel the need to clean the floor after every meal, and several extra times a day if it rains (how does grass get inside when it rains, when no one has even been outside???).

And now baby is a toddler.  They toddle over to the massive bookshelf and try to climb it.  They toddle outside and attempt to navigate the stairs.  They toddle around the side of the house and climb the lattice until they're higher than your head (hello my gorgeous nephew!!!!).

So you're attempting to keep your child/ren alive, whilst still trying to use the loo and/or cook dinner (mothers develop an incredible ability to do multiple things by this time).

Meanwhile, you're attempting to keep the house somewhere near liveable (you gave up immaculate the day your child was born!), and trying not to drown under Mount Washmore.

I thought that when the Little Big Fella went to kindy, I'd have some time to myself.  Apparently I was still deluded.

Let me give you an example of a fairly typical day at this point in our lives:

I get up at 6 and start putting the dishes away to help myself fully wake up.  I make my breakfast, and the Little Big Fella's, then after we've eaten I clean up.  Then it's downstairs for about 20 minutes for my workout.  The Little Big Fella watches a bit of TV, or sometimes comes down and talks to me, or tries to workout with me (always entertaining).

Then it's back upstairs to shower, dress, and do the last minute things before we officially start the day.  I also dress the Little Big Fella (normally takes about 10 minutes because he has issues with "focusing" - I'm starting to think that toys in the bedroom is a bad idea).

Most days it would now be time to head out somewhere - kindy, or playgroup, or just to go check the mail.  The rest of the morning is my most productive time and includes a selection of the following:

  • food shopping (How can two small words equal such a big task???  Drive to the shop, no worries.  Select the food, yeah, okay.  Go through the register, starting to get stressed out if I have the Little Big Fella with me.  Drive home, okay.  Drag the bags upstairs.  Put everything away, whilst being hassled about everything from putting on a superhero suit, to eating something, to watching a movie, to visiting friends, to going to the park...)
  • clothes washing (Again, two small words that equal a big job)
  • vacuuming
  • mopping
  • putting stuff away (There's always plenty of that to do, even though we've downsized so much and have such a little house)
  • dishes
  • food preparation (I try to prepare a bunch of things at the start of the week so that I have easy food on-hand)
  • changing the bedding
  • cleaning the bathroom
  • putting more stuff away (I told you, there's always plenty of this to do!)
  • more dishes
  • whipper snipping and mowing (because of the Big Fella's hours, I end up doing this about half the time.)
  • cleaning the car, inside and out
  • feeding the dogs
  • washing and flea-treating the dogs
  • putting stuff away downstairs or outside
Now, if you separate those tasks out to the days of the week, they don't seem like that big a deal, right?  But now add a pre-schooler with no siblings. A pre-schooler who is really getting ready for big school.  A pre-schooler who is starting to get bored at home!

Now we need to add in the millions of requests and interruptions!  Things like those listed in the food shopping note - superhero costumes (at least 4 changes every day, sometimes 4 in 15 minutes!), movies, friends, food, drink, toilet assistance (some of those costumes can be tricky!), can we go to the park?  Can we visit my friend?  Can we go to the toy store?  Can I have something to eat (literally every 5 minutes when he's having a growth spurt)? I want to watch Batman.  I want to look at costumes (online, mind you!).  Mum, I'm hungry.

Are you annoyed yet?  Try having that as the constant soundtrack to your day for a few days.  How about a couple of months?  And then try to get something done.  Try going to the bathroom and being interrupted by a pre-schooler who needs the only toilet in the house and can't go on the grass because he needs to do...

Yeah, we won't finish that sentence.

Well!  We've made it to lunch time!  Congratulations!!!!  Now we get to have the "I don't want that" conversation (which will be repeated at dinner time).  It generally goes with the "I've made it for you and that's what you're having" soundtrack.

Now, considering that we're modern-day mothers, we also think it's important to attempt to educate our children and provide them with rich, learning experiences.  Because "good" mums do arts and crafts with their kids, and cook with them, and teach them their letters and numbers before they go to school, and sing songs, and read books, and play.  And then we also want them to socialise (and, yes, we want to get a break from it all too).

If we're lucky (and no, I'm not anymore) our child/ren will have an afternoon nap and we'll get a bit of time to sit down without being jumped on or demanded of, or catch up with a few people on Facebook, or read a bit of a book, or catch up on the housework that needs doing that didn't get done this morning.

Late afternoon, for us, is often outside.  It normally includes me taking the washing off the line, while the Little Big Fella plays in his sandpit or with the dogs, or jumps on his trampoline, or plays with the little girl next door.  Often it will include a ride to the park to play with whoever is there, while the mums have a chat.

Then it's home to prepare dinner.  For most mums this is a stressful time of day.  You're attempting to make a nutritious meal for your family, but being interrupted, or "helped", or it might just be that everyone has run out of patience for the day.

Dinner, because it's so nutritious, will probably include the "I don't like that" conversation with at least one person.

Then it's time to have a shower or bath and put the lovely little munchkin/s to bed.  I'm super lucky in this one because the Little Big Fella enjoys his shower, and when he's tired, he's happy to go to bed (in fact, he's grumpy if there's not a bed to go to).

But even with this "dream" child, there's the inevitable nights where he'll be up and down, or calling for me to "come sit with me, Mummy", or just not tired and can't fall asleep.

And then, even though he sleeps through the night, there's the nights where illness or bad dreams interrupt sleep.

See, being a mum isn't "hard" per se.  But being on call, 24/7 is.  And even when someone else is looking after your child/ren, you still wonder about them: How are they going?  Are they having fun?  Are they behaving?  Have they made friends?  Should I really have let him go to kindy today, because he had a bit of a runny nose?  Is he going to be too hot/cold?  Will he be okay with those pants, because they have a zip?

And our expectations of ourselves are often ridiculously high.

So, when you come into the home of a stay-at-home mum, and the floors aren't quite clean, there's dishes all over the sink, toys scattered everywhere, and people looking a little disheveled, don't think "what do you do all day?".  Because it's possible that it hasn't been the best day, and said mum already feels like a failure right now.

Or she's decided that today is about spending time with her kids, rather than making the house "presentable".

Or maybe she just decided that she needed a "mental health" day, and the TV has been on all day so she could read, or spend some time on Facebook, or maybe, just maybe, go to the bathroom in peace ;-)

No comments:

Post a Comment