By Samantha Johnson
There can be a sense of nothingness that comes when you discover yourself in the position of being a stay-at-home mother to young children.
Suddenly, days are long and slow and drawn out. They aren’t the full, busy, scheduled events we were used to in our pre-motherhood lives.
There is an emptiness and a meaninglessness around time; you come to a realisation that, if you don’t find a way to fill these hours yourself, they will drag on forever, with no beginning and no end.
So we learn to become planners and organisers, we create routines and programs to help give our days the sense of structure and routine we were once used to. We organise play dates and park dates and playgroups and field trips. We go to library time and we take shopping trips. We prepare organic food and we learn about the dangers of TV, so we turn it off and feel responsible to do all of the entertaining ourselves. We go on Pinterest while our children nap and look up eco-friendly, brain enhancing, skill building activities that we can create for them.
We push ourselves, almost over the edge, in our eagerness to find recognisable purpose and meaning in what we do.
So much of the work of motherhood is invisible, and goes without recognition, that we seek out activities and tasks that have identifiable ‘results’; we know then that people will see the fruits of our labour, and validates the work we are doing.
This is what I did.
As so many of us do.
I thought the answer was in busy-ness. I filled every day with so much activity, in order to feel like I was doing meaningful work.
I restricted TV time to only an hour in the day, in the morning, and then it was not to be switched on again, under any circumstances.
I felt compelled to ensure my son was ‘entertained’ at all times. I did not leave space for us to have any authentic interaction; with each other or ourselves. We just kept moving, at great speed, all the time.
Until we crashed.
Not long ago, after another day spent chasing our tails, we came home, quite late.
My little boy, just 2 and a half years old, went outside to play.
By himself. Quietly.
He did not want me to come, he did not want me to engage. He just needed some room and some space to breathe, to unwind.
As I watched him, I felt my eyes fill with tears. I realised I hadn’t just been running myself in to the ground.
I was doing it to my child, as well.
He had been telling me for weeks, every morning, that he didn’t want to go out, as we prepared for yet another ‘fun filled’ day. I had ignored him, telling him instead that he’d enjoy it once he got there. Which he did, usually.
But that didn’t change the fact that he was worn out, overstimulated and exhausted.
He was craving the genuine connection that can come only when all the hustle and bustle of the external is switched off, and authentic moments are able to be created in the quiet that remains.
So I stopped. Right then. I decided we needed a week, maybe two, maybe more, to just enjoy life without so much background noise. We did not attend our regularly scheduled weekly events. We did not book in new activities.
I didn’t apologise profusely or make alternative plans when I cancelled things that had been pre-arranged. I just gently told loves ones that we were exhausted and needed a break. They all understood.