Do you ever get to the end of a busy day with the kids, collapse in a heap on the sofa and then wonder what the hell you’ve actually achieved that day?
Of course everyone is alive, but that’s kind of a given isn’t it? That’s not really an achievement so much as a practical, and legal, requirement.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mum for more than six months now. I used to spend my days chasing down the news, reporting from court and knocking on the doors of famous people so that they could tell me to go fuck myself.
Now I have a toddler and a pre-schooler, who at times would probably happily tell me to go fuck myself if they understood the language and concept.
This has been a weird period of adjustment for me, despite having had two years off for maternity leave in the last four years.
There is a vastly different feeling between being on maternity leave and being a stay-at-home mum.
When you’re bringing up a newborn, there’s pretty much zero expectations on you to do anything but that. Now that I’m a stay-at-home mum, I feel like I need to justify the fact I don’t have a full-time job with some kind of other achievement such as an amazing business of my very own or that book I keep swearing I’m going to write. Instead it’s just me, keeping two kids alive (woo me).
Of course some may look at me with a doe-eyed expression and say “but you’re raising two wonderful little girls to be happy and healthy people”. Yes, when you put it like that it sounds really important, but god the day-to-day practicality of it is mundane.
Here’s a little summary of what my days with the kids generally involve:
I try to set boundaries, my kids try to tear them down, I have to keep trying to build them back up, the kids try to tear them down again and so on. It either ends with the kids having a massive paddy, or with me giving up. I’ll be honest, it’s about 50/50 in our house. I like to pick my battles. As long as I’ve said climbing on the sofa is not good or safe behaviour, we’re good. I’ve voiced my concerns, so when it all ends in tears I can say I told you so. That’s my mini victory right there.
The laundry basket is NEVER empty. Ever.
I love to clean. It just makes me feel happy to see the house looking smart.
I don’t go overboard, don’t get me wrong. I love Mrs Hinch, but I don’t clean my sink 10 times a day. Plus there are of course toys everywhere until I force the kids to pick them up before bedtime (ie, I ask them to do it, they ignore me, then I do it for them).
However as we’re in the house all of the time, I like to see it looking reasonably neat, and not smelling of dirty nappies.
We moved into our house a few months ago and I’ve been trying to do bits here and there to decorate it and make it more practical for us.
Attempting to do any kind of job while the kids are around requires a bit of forward planning on my part. I need to have all items ready to be used. There can’t be any last-minute dash to the shops because it would take 45 minutes just to wrestle everyone into the car.
I also need to know the kids are truly distracted, which generally involves CBeebies and a pile of toys.
When they spot I’m doing something and decide to “help”, I then have to find a way to involve them without actually handing them the power drill. I generally give them the tape measure or ruler and that seems to satisfy. It all goes wrong when they realise they can make pretty much anything into a weapon and start hitting each other.
I do a little work when the kids are in nursery two mornings a week. On the one hand working from home for yourself is amazing because you set your own hours. On the other hand there’s no office banter about Love Island.
And that’s it. That’s what I get up to all day. Hanging a couple of pictures and an hour or so of work a day does not make me feel like I’m a high achiever. To be honest some days I feel like I’ve become a bit useless.
And then there’s the worry that I will look back in 10 years’ time and realise that I’ve fallen so far behind in terms of career that the success ship has sailed.
So then, do I regret being a stay-at-home mum. Nope, not for a second.
I know there’s a bigger picture there somewhere. I know that I will never ever look back on these years and think “wow I regret all that time I spent with my kids”.
I’ll look back on it all and be grateful for the opportunity to have been with them every single day, especially in the years running up to starting school.
Maybe it’s not so much about being the big success story, but about loving the story that you’re living. Because even with all of the mundane day-to-day stuff, it’s still a beautiful story.