By Georgia Todd
I used to think having a kid or two and staying at home with them would be a jip. A sort of “get out of the jail-of-the-nine-to-fiver” card. I would hang at home and teach them to paint with edible paint – if that was a thing. We would spend days picnicking at local parks and riverside. I would write languidly and successfully while learning how to preserve our homegrown veges and make our own family sunscreen.
Little did I ever expect that the reality of those kinds of ideals meant a never-ending sense of failing across the board, an ever-present sense of someone or something – be it a kid or a dream of mine – being neglected and dying a little. Or in the case of the kids, I imagined they would be damaged a little as I failed one or the other throughout the day – I imagined the future therapy sessions on bad days. There are those stunning little moments where we make it down to the river with sammies and juice, but as the hard months of a new baby and a three-year-old washed over me, well – smashed into me – the rolling waves sometimes submerged those moments.
There’s this incessant background to my day, the feeling of overwhelm that I “should” be doing this and that – making a phone call, working a little, remembering vital dates and whatnot, household admin, socialising on rare occasions of mythological “spare” time (coffee dates ladies) – and that’s without attending to two small little humans whom you have to do everything for. And I mean everything. All their biological wants and needs. Every Mama Bear knows the urgency to get fuel or liquid in or out of their kid before they turn beast child mode.
It’s a lot.
I used to think it should be a snap. Writing seemed to go hand in hand with rearing small humans at home. But the reality of that for me at least is vastly different. It’s all about having your head “in the game”. Having space to be creative and dedicate some time to executing your ideas and visions takes mental clarity. With all the kid’s stuff going on in my head all.of.the.time, it’s just about impossible to create a situation where I can get some stuff actually done. Without interruption.
There are those stunning little moments where we make it down to the river with sammies and juice, but as the hard months of a new baby and a three-year-old washed over me, well – smashed into me – the rolling waves sometimes submerged those moments.
But this isn’t just the same old moan that we all can relate to and have heard a thousand times from the lips of fellow mamas – it’s about why that makes me feel so crap. It’s about the resentment and what I still see as failings or at least blocks that I am about to admit to. Because as much as I imagined this sweet lifestyle with my cherubic children and sunshine splattered times (and they are there as well), the truth is I’m not great at being there with my kids. Or more bluntly, I sometimes don’t always enjoy “just being” with them. And furthermore, sometimes I loathe it.
So then I escape. In a variety of ways. And it has just started dawning on me that even though this is my first time experiencing motherhood – which I thought I would embrace fully, without being able to know what that meant – the feeling of wanting or needing to escape is familiar. My kids are another opportunity, probably the opportunity of a lifetime, to embrace acceptance of what is. To just be me and that is enough. In a world where we feel pushed and pulled, always having to shout out “time to go!” even on a nature walk – there’s always next on my mind – in the never-ending parenting game, I get all prepared and plan-y. I let the present moment slip preparing for what I sometimes feel is an onslaught of activity in getting the kids sorted for “next”.
I have heard it from wise friends of mine, still learning but sharing something sage in a spare moment. One described it as always being “thrown back in the parenting game” when trying to escape to various jobs and projects. I know myself the cost to my parenting of my kids when I over-commit elsewhere, the tolerance less than usual… I try to reason about what some of the things I’m involved in brings to our lives. I ease up on overdoing it all while feeling as though I will implode if I don’t have distraction from what is right in front of me.
In a way it’s the same old escapism from myself that I know from my 20s… it’s just now myself is split into two little mini versions of me. I think the want to escape is partly that old discomfort that is so familiar – for me as someone with an addictive nature, I have always remembered feeling slightly disturbed with being here. So, escape was inevitable.