With the widespread sense of uncertainty arising for people the world over at the moment, it is little wonder we and our children are feeling out of sorts at times. The world keeps changing, and still, we feel the need to ‘stay calm and carry on’ and expect our kids to do the same.
Our own young kids (who are seven and three years old) have been like a pendulum swinging from the one side – little darlings with incredible resilience – to the other side – ghoulish restless beasts with relentless and unrealistic demands. Each day brings a new atmosphere. Between all the events out there in the world and emotions in here at home, the usual juggle of work, school, homelife and social connections is very real.
Last week my deeply thoughtful, yet friendly and outgoing seven-year-old was invited to several playdates with girls she has become close to at school this year. It was week two back at school after lockdown and she and I both had been emotionally unprepared for the speed at which they had re-opened after weeks of being closed (except for children or essential workers).
Rather than it being a 6 or 8-week process as we had been told, it was one day per week for two weeks and then back to normal. Just like that we all went from our warm bubble of all five of us being home eating sourdough, sauerkraut and a vast array of home-cooked delights to then suddenly bowing under the strain of daily schedules, school pickups, lunches, uniforms and all the things.
Soon after Schools reopened, Miss 7 began turning down invitations to playdates. She would get upset and say with real feeling, ‘…but I just want to stay home Mummy’.
And I get it.
I wasn’t ready either to return to the harried morning conversations, the put my hair up Mummy, straighten my shirt Mummy, have you made my lunch? But I don’t like that and I WON’T EAT IT. Can you pick me up? Where’s my netball uniform? Wait, I have news today, what can I talk about? You know the drill.
And though you are reading all the above consecutively I want you to understand that at least three of those questions were being spoken by three different people at the same time – the teenager, the primary schooler and the toddler. I mean I don’t know how to prioritise questions when they come from all three of my kids at the same time. Usually, I just say ‘right, youngest first!’. Then we start again, and I work my way through each apparently urgent need, one by one.
Then it’s time to go.
Then it’s time to do the washing, cleaning, hanging up clothes, sweeping floor, shopping for groceries, unpacking groceries. And all the while Mr 3 is saying he’s hungry / needs his shoes / wants to go bike-riding / wants to be picked up / doesn’t want a sleep in the day anymore because he’s big now.
And then there’s the work I’m doing for clients. And then there’s the part-time teaching job at the high school. On those days when teaching is on, I wake early, make myself presentable with scanty make up and a roughly styled hairdo. I make lunches. I pack my kit-bag full of computer, cables, snacks and papers. Then its time to drop each child at a different place. Teen goes to school. Primary schooler goes to before-school-care. Toddler goes to daycare and only THEN do I get to head off to work and start the day.
Not to complain, but just to paint a picture of the depth and breadth of a carer’s giving-ness…. we pour ourselves till we are beyond empty out of love and duty. It’s a privilege and it’s also unforgiving and hard. I see you there mums and dads, grandparents who take care of their offspring’s offspring, nannies, ALL of you. I see you and all that you do.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve already worked a whole day before I even get to work. How do people do this full-time, I think. How do single parents do it (even though I used to be one)? It’s astounding how real this juggle is.
I’ve turned to meditation – though only those recordings led by voices so that I can play them to the kids at bedtime. There’s no other way to fit it in. Herbal teas are a fantasy, I end up having those about once a week… maybe.
Training for the black-belt in Hapkido is a necessary challenge. Simultaneously incredibly satisfying and a fantastic outlet, and also one of the most seriously difficult and boundary-pushing elements of my life. Excellent training and conditioning for parenting come to think of it.
And then there’s sleep. I mean, I still don’t get a full night of it. EVER. One or the other of my children will somehow wake me, or if not them then me and my overactive mind full of the mental load will keep me whirring though ungodly hours.
We are super-heroes but we don’t realise that our mundane survival techniques are our super-powers. We don’t realise that our invisible super-suit never comes off. We are bestowed with super-human abilities to withstand emotional pressure beyond the standard limits.
Parents, carers, nannies… the JUGGLE IS REAL.
And you, my friends, are my absolute heroes.
I applaud you with all my heart….
For wanting to raise soulful and resilient kids in a world gone mad.
For wanting to respond empathically and take the time to console children who don’t have any way of understanding what is going on – I mean, we barely understand it ourselves even with all our adultness.
My toddler said the other day, ‘I don’t love everyone. I love my friends, but I don’t love everyone because that’s coronavirus.’ It seemed as if this was his way of making sense of how he can’t touch things or be close to everyone, because of germs and the threat of virus transmission. For him, touch is like love. Such a simple and beautiful way to understand his reality. It really got me thinking how much we must slow down amongst all the pressure to ‘return to normal’ (ain’t gonna happen by the way), and do our best to create more spaces for our connections, our understandings and our small humans.
Wherever possible, I propose that we juggle a little less and listen a little more; tidy less and play more; breathe deeper, and feel deeper. Connect. Love. Thrive rather than survive. As much as possible, let’s find a new way to do this so it feels more like a dance than a circus trick.
Alena Turley is a founder, mentor, ethical content creator and mother of three based on Sydney's Northern Beaches. She is equal parts loved and fired up to support mums in making deep and lasting changes inside and out. We at the Soul Mama Hub acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we live, learn and create and invite you to feel deeply and tread lightly.