Parenting – When Demands Outweigh Patience.
Is it ok to admit we hate being parents at times?
My 5 year old daughter is staring at me with a very disgruntled face.
‘Mum. These chips are disgusting.’
‘They taste like potato.’
‘Chips are made of potato darling.’
‘Well, just eat the fish fingers then’
‘Are they homemade?’
‘No, they’re from Aldi.’
‘Yay, I love Aldi. Can you tell George that if he isn’t nice to me I will punch him.’
‘Just eat your dinner, there are people starving in the world. Just be thankful.’
‘Why don’t the starving people just go to the shops?. Ouch. George punched me!’
‘Oh for fucks sake’ I mumble just out of earshot.
I mean, I try, I really do.
Each day my attempts at a peaceful family dinner are shat on before I’ve even mentioned a Brussel sprout. It doesn’t seem to matter what I cook, what it’s served in, or if it’s ‘not the ones we normally have’ there are always, without fail, disappointed faces, arguments and complaints.
‘Please don’t hit your sister and food is not for throwing!’
'Just sit at the table, is that too much to ask?'
After a while (9years of being a mum for me) my voice has become rather tedious. My dull tone repeating the same sentences over and over, is annoying. In fact, going over the same petty arguments makes me feel like I’m failing.
Failing as a mother.
'Why don't they do as i say?' I ask my husband when he gets back from work.
'Why don't they listen?'
‘There is only so many more times I can say 'Just two mouthfuls of pasta and one pea’ without hating yourself. What shall I do?'
He doesn't know the answer. Neither of us do. Sometime parenting can feel like a difficult question in Trivial Pursuit. Like the answer to all our arguments is on the tip of our tongues but our brains are too distracted to find it.
I’m getting to the point in parenting where I think I might be a bit shit at it. Whatever I say doesn’t stick. They echo behaviours we’ve already gone over a million times. I feel like I’m raising three goldfish.
Do children really forget to brush their teeth with each rising sun or is what I’m doing as a parent simply not working?
No matter how hard I try to be a good parent, by dinner I’m swearing under my breath and imagining what it could be like to be one of those women that just ups, and leaves. One of those women that walks out. I daydream about packing my bags and writing a note then quietly closing the garden gate behind me. (for some reason in this fantasy I’m dressed in 1950’s clothes and carrying an old-fashioned light blue suitcase and wearing white gloves and a little askew hat.)
‘How brave’ I think.
‘What a courageous thing to do’
Of course, in any social situation when someone tells me a horror story of a women ditching her beloved family and running away on her own, I act all dismayed and disgusted.
‘Gosh, how awful, what kind of a woman would do that?’
But really, secretly, about three times a day…
I want to be that woman.
I know it’s bad, and I shouldn’t be so ungrateful but somedays I imagine myself sitting on the back seat of a bus with no idea where I’m going with my suitcase at my feet. Sometimes I just want to escape this mundane life and go.
But, I don’t. Instead, I choose to battle, to parent.
I go to war with my children. I’m like a warrior, waving a wooden spoon above my head with wet wipe stuck on my shoe, shouting ‘hurry up we’re going to be late’ as I head into combat.
My battle starts at breakfast and ends at bedtime.
Each day I wake up with optimism and end in defeat.
Here are some examples of why I muse over being that brave home wrecker,
On a paradise beach collecting shells – ‘I’m bored’
Having a huge chocolate ice cream - ‘Why can’t I have a bigger one, with sprinkles?’
Travelling in the car – ‘This journey is too long and I hate you.’
Giving them IPad time – ‘You’re mean and everyone else is allowed Road Blocks’
Dinner –threats of early bed or starvation – ‘If you don’t finish your dinner there will be no TV or desert and remember if you don’t eat that there is nothing else!’
I have to fight until every round carrot coin is consumed and every bit of broccoli is nibbled to the stem. I enter into warfare each day with hope and end it waving my white hanky (that was tucked up the sleeve of my comfy cardigan) up above my head in surrender.
Children 1 – Mummy 0
Then it’s bedtime. The final confrontation. The tiredness causing the smiles to fade and the excuses causing tolerance to falter.
‘I’m not tired’
‘I’m scared there are monsters.’
‘My teddy told me he’s hungry.’
Grrrr. With each ridiculous and irrational bedtime refusal my anger rises. I just want a few hours to myself before this all starts again; I just want to collapse on the couch and watch rubbish reality TV with some Lindt balls. Please God, Bowie, Prince and Allah, let me just have some reprieve!
As the clock hits 9pm and there are still three sets of eyes staring at me, my kindness and patience runs out…. And I shout. I hate it, but it just bubbles out of me, it boils over.
My patience by that point has been outweighed by their continual demands, by their never ending disappointment in me. I shout then often because I feel bad, I admit defeat and we all fall asleep on the couch together.
Once they are all snoring and the house is quiet, I can gather myself. I can relax knowing I have a few hours of me. A place where my voice is heard, my dinners are eaten and my parenting is good enough. I reset. Re-group. Tell myself that I’m doing ok, even if I feel like I’m lacking, I kid myself that my shouting has worked and things have changed. Then I switch off my night light and think about nothing.
If you’d seen me on Facebook or Instagram on any of these days you’d have seen a momentary version of me, a me smiling as I held a starfish at an aquarium, a me that plays Frisbee with her son, a mother that’s involved, present and loving. But that is not all I am. I have another side too, one that struggles, misses her life before kids and sometimes is unhappy and in need of support.
Us Mums find it hard to admit that we struggle. If we do it wobbles the backbone of our family. If we are not ok then how is this going to work out?
I mean, if we are breaking, then who is going to fix things….cook dinner, produce plasters from bulging fold out wallets and give kisses after many bedtime stories. If we admit to not enjoying the parenting journey it's the equivalent of disrespecting our roles or not being thankful for our children.
I am thankful and I really am a good mum.
But, I will admit, I also find it hard. It's the relentlessness and the not being heard. It makes me feel like I'm loosing the battle, daily.
So, I fantasise about another life. Another me.
A me that never had kids, that just travels the world with nothing but a bag, a map and an idea.
But I chose this life. I wanted these little humans, so, I get up and I get on. Like every other mum on this planet.
Even when they’re dissatisfied with us, when we are not enough,
I just get on with it.
So.. what is the lesson here? How can those whimsical whiffs of a life beyond motherhood be dissolved? When should i sell my dream of another life?
Maybe I could just give in. Buy chips from Aldi. Have no bed times. Give them as much ice cream as they can eat, never ending IPad time and coca cola with every meal?
Erm, I think not.
I guess the lesson is this…
We have to battle, we have to shout a bit, we have to enter the conflict. What feels like failing is just mothers trying to raise children that are good, children that are healthy and children that are happy.
All of our demands, anger and fights over shoes, are forms of love.
Love can come in many disguises, in forcing a warm coat on a cold child. In pulling seatbelts over wriggling bodies and in shouting at them to go to bed so they don’t feel tired the next day. It might not feel like it, but all our battles are because of love.
So, if like me, your voice is annoying, you're swearing under your breath very often and you're feeling like no one care what comes out of your mouth just try and take a step out, go outside and reset.
You're doing it out of love,
And love is what stops us packing the suitcase and heading out of the garden gate.
Photo - My 10th attempt at a nice photo. It ended in me shouting 'Get your fingers out of your nose and just smile at the camera for gods sake!'