I’ve had a really good day today. A really good day. You’re going to have to stick with this one though. It started with an early morning wakeup call from my brother that went like this.
“How was your weekend away in Lorne?”
“Not bad. I’m a bit tired.” I yawned.
“Who’d you go with?”
“Ummm…just us and a few friends. Six adults and Bella (our daughter)”.
“No other kids?!!! What were you thinking?” he laughed. Precisely!
Let me just start by saying that the friends I went away with are delightful. Pick of the bunch type of people. Top notch. But I just wish I had had the above conversation a few weeks ago. By about the second day in to our four day break I was feeling down and resentful.
I’ve been aware over the years of the dilemma facing parents as I’ve heard my sister in law talk about how holidays away are merely a matter of picking up your life and your routines and transporting them to a different location. The holiday simply lies in the fact that there are more people to witness the doldrum. It seemed to me that there were constantly things that we were not able to do. Morning one, activity one: a hike in the heat. Afternoon one, activity two: lazy naps and smoking in the hammock under a tree. The writing was already on the wall.
By evening two my poor friends were witness to what can only be described as a full mummy-meltdown tantrum. Had I been a four year old I would have been flailing my arms and legs around, rolling on the grass. I didn’t intend on bursting into tears straight away, I was trying to be laid back and cool, demonstrating the fine and seamless art of attachment parenting…take your kids anywhere, strap them to your back, live, laugh and eat plenty. But as you are all aware by now, my experience of this takes work and plenty of it. My weekend would have been much easier if I were the “pop them in a play pen and swing them a little phenergen if need be” be type of mama.
In truth, what was really going on was that behind my good old fashioned tantrum was the desire to do what I very well pleased. To sit with my friends, pick up the paper at will, drink wine in the afternoon. And I can’t do this anymore. And they can. And I found this too overwhelming to contain. Herein lies the childish tantrum.
One of my friends (male) made two points, put quite bluntly. 1. This is the price for a “beautiful little girl”, and 2. You need to decide what it is that you really want to do and feel you can’t do while having a daughter and make moves to sort out some time so that you can do them. Both infuriatingly logical and reasonable. Another friend (female) responded differently, “You just want the choice of how to spend your time don’t you?” Bingo!
But infuriatingly logical male friend is right. It is the pay off. This really should be the end of the tantrum. Right? Well the tantrum may be over but the feeling remains.
And then something else happened on our little holiday which put the wheels in motion of today being a really good day.
The toolman and I walked down to the beach to see a friend of ours who had been lying in the sun for some hours. The toolman and my friends had all spent the afternoon napping while I entertained our ten month old who didn’t feel like following the holiday snooze time itinerary. Needless to say, as we walked towards the beach I was wondering why I was there in the first place. I was pretty sure that I spent the afternoons doing the same thing at home.
As soon as we arrived on the beach bubba decided to start squawking and in the afternoon sun and the sand, I decided to almost immediately return home. It was close to bed time, she needed dinner and a bath and by staying here while she was obviously tired, I would be making our night time routine more difficult. Only another parent would understand this logic.
But the toolman insisted we stay and cradled her in his arms on the beach while she slept, throwing caution to the wind and deciding that we would deal with whatever happened later. If she was then going to sit up till midnight, we’d deal with it. Somehow I managed to enter into a conversation with someone I hardly know and will probably never see again about enjoying the moment, mindfulness, Eckhart Tolle, mediation, liking myself, not liking myself and how I can make my days more balanced. It was bliss. Mainly because my husband was so beautifully resting with our daughter but it was also because I felt like me again. Not just a 24/7 milk machine but the person who used to do this, talk relaxedly with friends. The importance of this cannot be underestimated.
Admittedly this conversation was at the back of my mind within about an hour when bath and dinner time were at the forefront but I was reminded of it today when I was alerted to another blog. I opened it and started to read about a womans plight looking after her kids and wanting more time away. Tick, yep, sounds like me. And then she wrote that “grappling for time apart from our kids often leads to more frustration and upset all around. It rarely recharges us enough, as promised, to feel better when we come back and we are stuck in a vicious circle of craving more and more (and feeling frustrated when we can’t get it).”
She goes on to say that the more we desire time away, “Mummy time”, all things that we are told we need to keep us sane, the less we actually enjoy time with our children. This made me STOP DEAD. How much of the day do I actually spend thinking about time away from my daughter? How much of the day am I stressing about getting into another room to do the dishes, the washing, pay bills when I could be sitting with her and watching her in her little but very important play. A lot. The answer is a lot.
I have always thought that mothering is hard if it’s done right. I have been proud of sacrifice I have made for our girl. I have also obviously developed an unconscious ideal that being the best mother I can be means it has to be hard work. But what if it isn’t hard? What if the place is a mess and birthdays are forgotten and Bella and I spend hours together on the floor mastering the art of getting that oval peg through the oval hole. What if I push my friends in their hammocks away and pull my daughter closer. What if I watch the expectation of having time “for me” move in and out of my mind.
Today I saw a pile (now I mean a dirty big pile) of biscuit crumbs under the rug and I put my girl in the pram and went for a walk in the sun. I stopped to look at a tree trunk and nearly laughed at myself. I started describing the tree truck and most certainly did laugh at myself. Walking along a main road, I had a mum behind with a toddler on a trike (embarrassingly somehow keeping up with me pushing the pram) and passed a mother on bended knee negotiating with her four year old about something.
I felt a whole new type of proud walking along knowing that I was actually enjoying it; that this was better for us than picking up the crumbs. That if family and friends saw said crumbs and wanted to make a judgement about them, they could do so because my daughter and I had a sweet secret; that we’re not worried about them.
On the way home I thought about stopping for a coffee as Bella was now asleep in the pram and it was a sunny morning. I thought about buying a magazine and sitting there, flicking through the pages while Bella slept. But I went home instead.
As I said, today was a good day but it wasn’t a miracle!