Monday, May 11, 2009

But today is Monday

Today I was furtively reading. I had to be furtive. After all, today is Monday - in my mind, a Work Day. Actually, I'm home every day of the week. But in order not to feel constantly nagged by the state of the bathroom, the toilet, or the dust under the beds, I have set aside Mondays as the day to Be a Proper Mum and/or Do Housework with Vigor - and I ignore much of the dirt the rest of the time. This means I tend not to read, write, or, perhaps, think too much on a Monday. So today, as well as housework, we did some creative cooking, and read lots of picture books; we spent the afternoon slitting olives. (I have this crazy idea that children should know where food comes from and how it is made. So yesterday we picked olives off a tree, and today took the first step towards curing them.)

But there was a moment when I lapsed on the Monday project. Two loads of washing were on the line, another already folded and put away; the floors were mopped and the toys raked out from under the couch; my three year old was asleep and the baby was happily chewing things on the floor, so I picked up The Divided Heart* (again) for a five minute dip. And I was struck by a quotation from Doris Lessing: "There is no boredom like that of an intelligent young woman who spends all day with a very small child."

Nothing like a mid-afternoon punch in the face.

Because although I adore my children; although I find an embarrassingly high level of satisfaction in a clean floor; although I love making food from scratch, I have to admit that it feels, at times, as if I am going right out of my mind. The baby and the toddler changed their sleep cycles about a month ago, and no longer coincide. So I have no time when all children are asleep during the day, and no awake child lets me read or write for longer than five minutes. And when I'm up feeding a baby at 4am, as I was this morning, I'm usually too wrecked to write at night.** All work, and no reflection, makes Jack a dull boy. Well, totally bonkers, actually.

There are moments when the mundanity and constant demands of mothering just about drive me mad. So much of it is repetitious and inane; affirming or disciplining children, or modelling gentle and generous behaviour, are long, long projects. But how many times can you watch a child do a trick on the trampoline? Tell them, "No"? Be tugged on the leg as you're doing the dishes? Ask them to wash their hands?

Strangely enough, I find nothing more tedious than standing around a playground. It makes me want to scream. Today, as we stopped off on the way home from school, I had a swing myself - the only redeeming thing about playgrounds. The motion is totally dreamy. But within minutes other kids turned up, so I had to get off my swing and give them a go.

Like my afternoon swing, everything I do is curtailed. I start one task, then have to rush and bandage a knee, catch the baby, bring in the washing before it rains. Loving moments with one child are interrupted by another's needs. Late night conversations with my partner are abruptly cut off when a child cries out, or throws up in their sleep. Thoughts are half formed then lost again in a maelstrom of nappies, stories, screeching, dinner. It becomes easy to live only in the moment, to live only as a reaction to necessity, to give up any efforts to reflect, ponder or dream.

But how many times can I slam on the brakes, change direction, lose a thought, before I become totally lost? Reading and reflecting are my fundamentals. Without them, I shrivel up. I become so dessicated by the tedium, so bored and so boring, the family shrivels up too. I am finding that in order to be a generous mother, spirited and kind, I need to take myself away from my children and feed myself. Only when I have done that do I have patience for the repetition, imagination for stories, energy for play, interest in diversions.

Today was Monday. The house is now clean. We read lots of stories, and did some activities. The children are bathed, sweet smelling, sleeping. The dishes are done. I looked like a Real Mum for a while there. And in writing about it I've dispelled the crushing boredom of that role, for now.

On Tuesdays, my partner stays home in the morning and I get a few hours to read, write and think. I get to be useless, no Real Mum or any other role. Boy, I'm hanging out for it. Today was Monday, and the house is clean. But thank God tomorrow's Tuesday.

*If you want to know what I think about The Divided Heart, click here.

**This post is being powered by this morning's creative cooking project, homemade Larabars. Luscious, decadent, and mostly made by a three year old!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you just captured it totally, for me... Amazing that you can formulate these thoughts so coherently after a day of being The Perfect Mum! Thanks for doing so, for all of us who instead, plonk on the couch in front of the TV! (Actually, I'm not doing that right now, I'm doing a paint sample for our feature wall, in between catching up on emails, and neglecting to offer my under-the-weather husband a cup of tea, but you know what I mean!). Love Bec


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