Morning time, the crunch of the left over bread crumbs from the Hurricanes vegemite toast grittily crumble underneath my feet, sticking, oozing, honey and oats smeared across the counter top from the Big Mans porridge, all while drizzles and drops of milk from the spilled bottle of our Little Ray of Sunshine slowly bundle and build together. The typical, daily, post breakfast war zone of my kitchen and in amongst the chaos and the clatter of the cleaning my hunger groans as the quick gulp of my morning cup of tea (reheated twice) inadequately suffices! I go in search, seeking for my breakfast.
We are on the back foot this morning, our normal calmer Monday morning has been demolished by the realisation that we had, again, missed the memo, lost in translation and a ‘Franglais’ puzzle, that it is a public holiday in France and a bitterly disappointed Hurricane will not be going to ‘petite section’ at the local village school today.
As I’m mentally rescheduling my morning in between hurried breakfast bites, the voice of the Big Man filters in, murmurs of going to look at a few new cars in the next town over, as we are currently on the hunt, BINGO, perhaps the morning could be salvaged! Gently, delicately I plant the seed ‘hey you know how much the little man loves cars, why don’t you take him along with you?’ and there it was, that charming, joking, jovial smile of the Big Man, who just as wittily, turned to me to say ‘when does dad get some time?’. The question hung, hazily, heavily in the air, his ‘oh you know I’m joking’ grin was met equally, fiercely with my burning hot ‘seriously’ glare. Message received loud and clear, the Big Man chuckled, pulled me in for a big bear hug and scurried off to gather up the Hurricane ready for a father son car seeking adventure!
It was after this seemingly simple morning interaction that prompted me into thinking about mum’s, no not just mum’s, perhaps I’m being to hasty there, more so the stay at home parent (SAH parent) and the art of trying to manage, juggle and negotiate time for yourself.
When I became a mum, my entire world, in an instant, shifted and changed, you are met, almost flooded, with an overwhelming, all encompassing love for your child and a world, that once singularly involved you, now completely embodied them.
Life very quickly becomes a selfless, sometimes mechanical cycle of continuous cogs spinning and working, keeping the momentum moving and flowing often only running on vapours and fumes. This cycle is not just limited to the SAH parent, both parents in their roles are giving and providing to the project of parenthood, both equally as important as the other in their positions. The working parent does have the added advantage though of being recognised, as still, a separate, functional entity and the dual benefit of a dual identity, a parent as well as their profession, which comes with all the extra perks of adult conversation, scheduled breaks and a breath to think outside of nappies, bottles, breasts, nap times, play dates, cooking and cleaning. This can be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage but for these purposes let’s just call it an observation.
It is the SAH parent that can, more often than not, become caught up, coiled and in a way consumed by the cycle. Days meshing into one long blur, showers missed, hair unwashed, meals picked over, track suit pants and a sloppy jumper deemed fitting for day to day apparel. Their routine, their consciousness, their existence morphs and binds with that of their child, cycling along as the primary care giver.
For me it was in the forming of this relationship with my children that I found I started to lose parts of myself that made up me as a whole. This crinkling of me slowly fostered an inner battle within myself, my strong sense of self identity butting heads with my long desired and yearning sense of being a parent. Trying solely to be one or the other was, in my mind, not a possibility. Of course, the role of parent is always going to tilt the scales, it’s natural, in our basic maternal/paternal engineering, but it was in my acknowledgement of my inner turmoil that I accepted and recognised that, for me, to be a better, present and participating, happy, healthy parent I needed to make room for my identity, for who I am and for what makes me happy outside of my children and family.
So where to from here? Recognising it to then putting it in to action is a process in itself. All I can give from my experience so far, is start small and aim big! Identify facets of you and your life that are important to you and help you to feel good. A cup of tea is number one on my list, as ridiculous as it sounds, that one steaming cup of brewed goodness, along with a cookie and a half an hour of sitting in my own head space, can turn me from frazzled, fed up at the end of my patience mum, to ‘go time’ mum, ready, re charged and better equipped for what the rest of the day’s adventures have in store.
Half an hour and a cup of tea, my mummy break, normally just after the lunch time rush when the Little Ray of Sunshine has gone down for her sleep and the Hurricanes sluggish and in need of some down time. This is the moment when I actively decide that my needs have to be met and unashamedly that does mean the Hurricane watches TV in that time (normally the Wiggles or Playschool a safe bet with our little man for interactive, attentive and contented viewing) so that I can effectively and easily achieve that half an hour of selfish need. That’s exactly it though, it’s what I NEED to be a better mum for the rest of the day. It is in that choice, that small seemingly insignificant choice that makes the biggest pivotal difference, it can turn a downhill roll into an uphill bounding sprint.
Moving down the list there’s exercise, reading, getting my hair done, dinner with friends, shopping without the little ones and on nights when the Big Man is away I treat myself to sushi, gyoza, glass of wine and the latest episode of my favourite tv series. Just to name a few, call them trivial, meaningless or superficial, but it’s these small yet crucial parts of me that I need to keep me happy and to make me whole. Starting small with these, I’ve now allowed myself to make room for the big, for me that is writing, it nourishes a piece of me, a creative, driven piece of me that gives me a validation and happiness that’s solely for me. These do not take away from the importance, affirmation and utterly blissful joy I feel from being a mum, if anything it supports and confirms the beautifully challenging and continually changing, learning, growing role as parent.
My needs are mine alone, it’s something you need to give yourself time for to identify and make happen, some may even say that they don’t need time for them they’re completely content with their role and that’s equally wonderful too, the point is we are all working towards the same goal, to be the best and happiest parents we can be.
For those working parents thank you for selflessly and tirelessly taking on the role as provider, to persevere through fatigue, to work as well as parent, to put aside your wants and needs in your parental role so that we can be given the opportunity to be at home with them. Thank you for understanding that we are mentally and physically often burnt out, that we have put our needs last and sometimes lost ourselves in the journey, thank you for supporting us when you can and for allowing us to be in the role we’ve always wanted to be in. To the stay at home parents …make time for a cup of tea! Remember it’s ok to want something outside of your beautiful little ones and the dream role you’ve always wanted. Give yourself time, whatever that may be and be kind to yourself.