Looking at the image of a woman sipping a coffee and reading the paper, I’m almost flinching in the knowledge that it will be at least a decade till I’ll read quietly with a hot drink in my hand without being approached by a member of my family.
Though I humbly and deeply appreciate it’s a huge blessing to be in this position, with a healthy family flourishing around me, it’s simultaneously the most challenging role of my life so far. It’s a role I earnestly attempt to fulfil exceptionally well: attempt being the operative word in the majority of cases.
For me, mothering generally involves making a huge effort but experiencing mixed results.
As you will likely know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m not a big fan of the way that success is defined by the mainstream media.
It is high time that we recognise success is a measure best left to individuals to define for ourselves.
I heartily resent the idea, for example, that a woman who is battling severe post-natal depression isn’t winning the day if she makes it through without at least once considering suicide. Achievement is relative. Forget work. Forget competitive sports. Let’s just look at personal bests.
If you’re a student of self-development and productivity (like me), you will know this scenario. You read an article about the best morning routine saying how “…if you win the first hour of the day then you have won the day”. This is the no-fail road to success, they say. This is how you win at life, they say.
I call bull.
It is assumed that with your spare hour or three you will wake up, meditate for 20-30 minutes, write in a journal for half-an-hour, do some yoga and/or go for a run, then create and slowly enjoy the perfect breakfast. Some of the leading experts on this topic even talk about doing all this before ‘engaging’ with their wife and kids, or before speaking at all. Gosh, that’s rude.
Can you imagine that? Erm no, me neither.
Here’s where it gets personal.
For the past year or so my husband has worked hours away from home. He is rarely here for breakfast during the week so naturally, I hold the fort as the (albeit very willing) stay at home mum that I am.
It is very difficult to convey to him what it’s like to get three kids out the door every morning on my own without seeming whiny or whingey, and that’s just not the look I’m going for. It is also challenging to put into words what it feels like to have years of needing to literally ask permission if I’d like to go out on my own – because #mumlife.
On a scale of ‘I’m screwed’ to ‘I’m doing great thanks’, admittedly things are pretty good.
I have a husband, he loves his kids, he loves me and he’s working to support us financially (and it wasn’t always that way – I was a single parent for 7 years prior to meeting him). I don’t take any of that lightly.
Still though, that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to be entirely and lovingly beholden to my own family. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss the days of independence, freewheeling and singledom. I mean, don’t we all just a bit?
So right there is the conundrum.
I have to feel like it’s ok to say I’m struggling with putting myself aside every day in order to really be there for my kids, and I also have to be able to call it when some serious self-care is needed, or the black dog will be there nipping at my heels. But how do you tell a one-year-old, hey dude, I really just need a sit down with a coffee and a newspaper for more than two minutes?
So for me, getting up an hour earlier than my kids to do yoga and have some quiet time is impossible right now. It’s not that I’m lazy, nor am I undisciplined. I’ve made choices to breastfeed in the night if and when it’s needed, to honour that attachment to my baby is what he needs right now. It’s REALLY HARD, but it still feels right. And one thing I know is that my intuition is right, even if a lot of other people don’t get it.
So for now, you productivity experts and success gurus can get stuffed. I don’t want to spend the first hour of the day not talking to my kids. I want to sleep as long as I can and then wake up with them, even if it means I’m a bit less supple, not perfectly coiffed or up on the latest news. For me, my kids and their wellbeing are paramount and I will work out how to balance my needs with theirs throughout the day, not in one big push every morning.
My time will come.
It’s either that, or I’m getting myself a new wife tomorrow.
If you want some actual advice about helping kids get ready for school in a real-life situation, check out this great article by Dr Justin Coulson in the New York Times. Image thanks to Mohamad Hassan