This not an adequate description of parenting. It is NOT all sunshine, rainbows, and happy times! It certainly has a good dusting of these, but these are the good bits. It is predominantly made up of tears, frustration, teamwork, routine, sleeplessness, more tears and arguments and negotiations. It is like working on a negotiation then to have to start all over again because the goal posts have shifted. It is like being outnumbered every day. It is a regime; dictated by four tiny humans that constantly amaze me with how intelligent they are.
Most days I find myself rushing on through just about everything to do with getting ready. I generally multitask and tend to only really glance in the mirror quickly as opposed to standing and looking properly. I am not ashamed or in disgust with myself. I am just busy. At least that is what I tell myself.
The other evening, long after the kids were in the land of nod, I did have a look. A look at me; who I am and who I have become. I was blown away by how much you can miss by not observing yourself – really looking I mean. Fine lines, wrinkles, bags and all the rest – they are all ok – they are testament to life. What I really noticed was my eyes. They are not sparkling, bright or dancing (the only real ways I could think of describing eyes!!). They are tired. There is no fire left in them – they are almost like a fire that is just about to burn out. I am not trying to sound melodramatic here, but life, work, family and all the other things entwine, it becomes, for me at least, very easy to fall into the trap of giving to everyone before I worry about myself.
It’s not all that its cracked up to be. Sure, there are countless hugs, smiles and ‘I love you’s’ but there is SO. Much. Doubt. Doubting of yourself, your decisions and your methods. Worrying about the ‘big picture’ the things that might be a direct response from your decision to feed your kids weetbix for tea because you are simply exhausted, haven’t had time to organize dinner and have not got any fight left in you after being battled all day by four inquisitive and sharp minds.
The constant chatter, both in your mind and all around you. The yearning for silence, and then when they are all asleep wanting to wake them up and talk to them or just hear them laugh. The arguments in your head – you talk yourself in and out of things in a matter of seconds. The way you quickly adjust to this gig and simply put yourself last, every time. Sharing everything, dividing whatever it is you are eating into five pieces, equal pieces. The ability to risk assess and manage almost any playground, park or play area in a matter of seconds. Knowing exactly what your child wants, often before they even ask for it.
The daily battles with not only myself, but with the kids, need to be selected – and carefully. Some days, fatigue sets in early, and clouds my judgment. Things that normally might not bother me, do. Couple this with four active and stubborn kids and it leaves me feeling like I am just out to survive the day. Waiting, waiting, waiting for that sun to go down so they can go to bed. Only to sleep a bit and then I get to do it all again tomorrow. If only you know completely, before having kids, just how much psychological warfare is to be used, so you can equip yourself, prepare yourself. I am unprepared, unmatched, and outmanned most days.
I think I would have laughed if someone told me 10 years ago that raising kids was like ‘this’. Even now I sometimes catch myself looking at the scenario – I mean really looking, and thinking, ‘wow, why do I actually care so much if she does not want to do ____/wear ____/eat ____? ‘ Motherhood is a strange existence sometimes. One minute you are consoling a sick/injured/tired child, the next you are on full scale debate as to why we should eat vegetables, or the values of doing a base in lego. There are no professional development days as a mum. Most of the ‘experience’ you gain is your own passage of motherhood time. There are no powerpoint presentations to help you prepare, there are books, but they generally make me feel as though I am doing far worse than I thought.
The old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words – and when I look in my photo program, I have a whole library of words that ‘go’ with the photos. It brings me back to why I take photos. With the integration of smart phones and cameras it means that, for me, I don’t drag out the ‘good’ camera as often and predominantly use my phone. This means that I find myself flooded with images, as opposed to some carefully crafted or opportune moments that were found when you had to worry about the quantity of film being used, or the wonder of seeing the film when you picked it up from developing. I kind of miss those days. Sometimes you take a hundred photos to get one ‘good’ shot. Then other days you find yourself not taking a single photo at all.