“What have I actually achieved today?’ ‘Is this it?’ ‘I feel like a skivvy!’ ‘People used to sit up and listen when I spoke – now I’m just reading ‘Where’s Spot’ all day’… Sound familiar? This is for all those mums struggling with the ‘tasks’ of motherhood.
Busy busy busy. Life is hectic right? So much to do, so little time. But our adult world is huge. We have a family, an extended family, friends, various social settings, places we go to, memories that we hold, our wider community and world affairs. It’s massive. Then there’s the humdrum nonsense of laundry, making the house not look like a bomb has gone off, and making food which will in all likelihood be painted all over the walls. Our heads are full of all this stuff and more. Worries, anxious thoughts, stress, deadlines….. The list is endless.
But stop for a moment to consider how small your child’s world is. It’s you, your immediate family, your home, maybe the playground and a couple of places you go. Maybe nursery or Granny’s house. That’s it. He has no concept that if he smears spaghetti bolognese all over himself that it’s – a) time you spent making it, b) time spent clearing it up, c) a new outfit, d) another wash load, e) it’s raining so you can’t dry it outside and blah blah blah. To him it was just fun. He was exploring, He was learning. Kids think pretty simply. They live in the moment. They don’t plan ahead or worry about the future – how wonderful! If only we could live like that!
But my message today is for those of us who’ve had a busy job. Maybe you’re used to achieving things. ‘Getting stuff done’. Completing a task. Now you don’t finish anything! There are five thousand half-finished jobs around and it’s frustrating. I was walking my eldest to school and a familiar scenario played out. I’d done the school drop and I was walking the small one home again. She wanted to get out of the pushchair and walk. She gets out, grins mischievously, and then proceeds to stop at Every. Single. Conker. She inspects each one, delighted every time. “Conk conk” she exclaims over and over again. “Stick” “Tree” “Up”. She walks forward 2 paces. She stops to pat a dog. “Dog dog!!” “Woof!”. “Aaahhhh” (she cuddles the dog). We walk another 3 paces. There’s another bloody conker. Oh no, it’s a dog turd!! Get the wipes out. “Yuck”. She walks backwards 6 paces and grins. Meanwhile, something in my forehead feels like it’s going to explode. There’s a vein throbbing in my neck and I’m fighting the urge to hurry her. But I’m getting darned annoyed. The quarter mile walk home takes upwards of 45 minutes if I let this play out.
I don’t have anything pressing to get to. No plans are fixed. I don’t have any clients today (!) so it’s just me and the small one. Why should I be so irritated?
Because I’m used to getting things done, I’m accustomed to finishing a task efficiently.This is, like, the antithesis of efficient.
But what if we re-think and re-frame the ‘tasks’ of motherhood. It takes a mental shift but what if our ‘To-do’ list looked more like this:
- Find 4 things from outside to look at and play with
- Look into our child’s mind and see the world with their eyes – even just for a moment.
- Play Duplo, or blocks, or pat-a-cake for 15 whole minutes and be present and engaged throughout. Turn off your brain to distractions.
- Eat lunch together. Clean up together. Laugh about it.
- Play chase, or tickle, or ‘this little piggy’
- Just for 5 minutes – do whatever your little one wants to do
- Try to make your child laugh on at least two separate occasions
- Involve your child in the chores
Remember, their world is smaller than yours. They don’t get the ‘big’ stuff. So make your world just a tiny bit smaller. If they don’t get the big stuff, don’t you sweat the small stuff. This is a work in progress for me – so if you find this really hard – you’re not alone! It takes practice to consider the work of ‘childhood’ up there with the ‘important’ stuff we have to do as adults. But the funny thing is, the more we meet our children’s needs for connectedness throughout the day, the better they will sleep and behave. It’s kind of like if you tank them up on YOU in the day, they have less need of you in the middle of the night. Try it – what’s the worst that could happen??!