When you’re reading the same story book for the eighteenth time (that night) it’s hard to not feel like parenting isn’t anything but a grind.
Those early days with a newborn when you’re just feeding them, then trying to get them to sleep, (and changing and burping in between) can feel like a particularly painfully slow groundhog day.
So much of parenting feels draining in the same way those long exams we used to have to sit at school felt…but there’s no bell ringing to say time is up and send you off home.
When the minutes and hours and days drag on, it’s easy to feel defeated. I often used to beat myself up over the feelings that overwhelmed me as I struggled with the same monotonous tasks – washing bottles, changing nappies, folding clothes, matching socks, picking up toys
I no longer do that.
Feeling guilty for acknowledging that there are parts of parenting that are at best a tad boring and at worst absolutely mind-numbing does not help me be a good mother. It’s not a value judgement on my children, or a statement of what kind of parent I am, to say that I absolutely loathe scurrying around the house putting toys away, or that changing the bunk bed sheets is a form of torture.
I can’t think of any other role in life where it’s such a taboo to say that there are small aspects of the day to day that can sometimes be a drain on the rest of an otherwise wonderful existence. There isn’t a job on earth where we expect employees to enjoy every part of their shift. We even brightly suggest it’s fine to hate every part of your job (not that I’m suggesting we should do that with parenting. If you’re hating parenting then maybe there’s something bigger at play and you can get help, there is help out there).
But it would be great if we allowed each other to say that sometimes there are parts of parenting that are just really, deeply, truly boring as anything.
Instead, it sometimes feels as if there is a clamour to say you love every little tiny bit of parenting – Oh my gosh, the deep fulfilment I get from cleaning wee off a toilet seat! I can’t put it into words! Have I described the immense joy I am overwhelmed by when I have to use a knife to scrape stickers off a coffee table? Sorting clothes into donate and keep piles – now there isn’t anything better!
Let’s just tell it like it is – unless organising is your jam (and maybe it is – that’s cool, if you want to organise my place I’d be keen!) or cleaning calms you (I’ve heard stranger things) – that boring stuff just sucks.
But it’s a necessity and it’s not changing. Being a housekeeper is part of the job, and (unfortunately) you can’t just check out and not wipe butts. Unless you’re super wealthy, it’s on you to do the crap stuff. So here’s what helps me through (and I really, really want to hear what helps you!)
• Grumpily throwing toys around and acting like a pissy teenager. It’s kind of nice to not be mature all of the time. Sometimes I want to throw a tantrum. And why not? If huffing about for five minutes and shouting “clean up your fucking toys” in my head helps – then hey, do it. It’s a moment in time where you get to not be the adult. Sometimes that feels damn good. I recommend doing this when the kids are asleep or else you’ll get into a ‘do as I say not as I do’ predicament.
• Not cleaning the bathroom and instead eating chocolate and watching episodes of True Blood, preferably the episodes where Alexander Skaarsgard is mostly naked. I can interchange True Blood for Sons of Anarchy and mostly naked Jax, and if I’m really struggling I will sit through Luther even though Idris Elba never gets naked which frankly, is a cruelty to all women who aren’t lesbians and gay men the world over.
• Look at photos of your children that you’ve taken throughout the week or look at your sleeping child. (An image of your child is safer because if your child wakes up you’re in a world of pain and also you can’t do your crap chores). Nothing is cuter than an image of a child because the child isn’t crying or yelling at you that their potato is too mashed or smearing rash cream into your couch or pulling the cat’s tail or fighting with their sibling or pulling pages from the book you just bought them.
• Read comments on any parenting story on a news website and then sit back and feel smug that you’re not as batshit as most of the people who comment on mainstream parenting websites. Look, it’s true that changing sheets on a bunk bed defeats you in a way that it shouldn’t because you have a degree and used to have an actual job where people paid you money – BUT at least you’re not the person commenting on Stuff furious that a total stranger gave their child a dummy. There are worse things in life than having an appalling laundry closet. Like being somebody who comments on Stuff.
• Make the kids lunches – but do it while imagining the day when you never have to make another child’s lunch again. One day you won’t have to do this. One day they will make their own. What will you do with that time? WHAT WILL YOU DO? Think of all the time spent cutting stupid shapes in the stupid sandwiches – you could read stuff like War and Peace or maybe a Buzzfeed list of Taylor Swift lyrics that completely confounds you because you haven’t listened to popular music in two years because every time you put a song on your child suddenly realises it’s not Justine Clark and then you have to put on Justine Clark. THANKS JUSTINE CLARK.
• Don’t dwell on it. Tomorrow is another day. A day full of the same shitty chores and boring tasks. A day that will grind on…oh wait…this isn’t helping is it?
• Go back to the photos. Look at that face. You made that little cherub! Go you! Think of that gorgeous face as you pull play dough from the carpet. You’re doing awesome mama. Keep up the good work.
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