Saturday, January 14, 2012

About a week ago I mentioned a revelation that I had about mothering. I am pretty sure that I had just tripped over the vacuum cleaner cord as I was hurrying to the bathroom because one of the kids was calling out that there was no toilet paper. JW uses a lot of toilet paper... we're working on it. I had been tidying up the lunch things as quickly as I could before Sweetie woke up from his nap and trying to think of a suggestion for G when she (inevitably) declared that she didn't know what to do. I was feeling very flustered because I had a lot of stuff to do and a lot of renovation materials to find a place for when all of sudden it hit me. These little spot fires that I am always putting out with the kids; keeping the colourers well supplied with paper and pencils, keeping Sweetie well fed and entertained, keeping G in reading materials and having the head space to enjoy our chats, making time to enjoy the walks to the park, the swimming at Oma's pool and reading stories, is actually the 'job'. All the other stuff like cleaning and cooking and laundry is stuff that needs to get done but it isn't what I am staying home for. The stuff that I am staying at home for is all those little things that I can't schedule but just need to be around for. Playing fine leg at cricket is probably pretty similar, you've got to do a lot of standing around waiting for the moment that the ball comes your way but if you are also trying to be the greenkeeper you'll never be there when they need you.
The lack of schedule is one of the hardest things about being a stay at home mum and I think it's pretty common for women to struggle with it when they first go on maternity leave. You know those mums who go to two playgroups, gymbaroo, music classes and swimming every week? I think they're nervous about just being at home and seeing what develops. Just 'being' isn't that easy but it's a skill you can learn. I used to be really good at it. Some of my favourite memories with the kids have come about because we had time to spend hours creating a fairy hollow at the bottom of the garden or make roads all through the house using masking tape.
Over the years I have been more aware of this aspect and have found it easier to sit with but I am very glad to have rediscovered it and am looking forward to making it in important part of 2012.


blackbird :

Funny thing - I just commented on another blog about how wonderful it is when they are grown, but the truth of it is that you are in the most wonderful time of mothering, the real meat of the job of it and, though I adore being with my big boys, I envy you.

rachel :

This is very thought-provoking, and I do so agree with you. Mothering has to come before housework - so far as it can without chaos or squalor creeping in, of course!

The only thing I would add is that children sometimes need to get a bit bored, without parents jumping in to fill what they fear might be a vacuum, because a child having to work out for him/herself what there is to do can lead to the most wonderful creative activities, often with the simplest materials.

Perhaps not too much toilet paper involved, of course.....

Mary :

I agree with you - and it is the job because it is the most exhausting part - the housework is routine/mindless - the other engages you mentally and physically in a very constant way.

I believe you and Rachel agree re allowing a little boredom to creep in - I know I do (although that could be sheer laziness on my part)...

Fran :

thanks for sharing your wisdom Amelia. I can be guilty of wishing they would just hurry up and be self sufficient already! But then I realise I will never get this time back - and it is so fleeting in the grand scheme of things. When I look back on a day/week/month, it isn't the housework I remember it is the moments spent enjoying my children that I hold onto.

Eleanor :

Fascinating and true.

I used to feel (often still do) like an understudy. I had to be available throughout the theatrical season, fully prepared for those most meaningful mothering moments which may or may not happen. It felt like I was going through the motions most of the time, but if I didn't then I wouldn't be there to perform the magic when most needed.

Does that make sense?

Another metaphor I played around with a lot (understudies have a lot of time on their hands, especially if they're not knitters or patchworkers) - just as a performance is nothing without an audience, so is my children's childhood in need of an audience - moi.

And now I'm nostalgic. Also exhausted. Hehe. E x

Julie :

wisdom, Amelia, just when I need it. And I love Eleanor's idea that kids need an audience. Perhaps we all do, and that is why we blog?

Lynn :

I feel a bit sheepish because I long ago gave up bothering to be a decent housekeeper -- maybe it's my advanced age? But I agree with you completely, and I loved your phrase about needing to maintain the "head space" to enjoy your chats with G. I think that's what it's all about - being present as much as possible, such that whenever we're interacting with our kids we're really doing so, and not mentally scanning the to-do list, replaying conversations with other people, etc. I struggle with that all the time, I'm ashamed to say...

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