I had no idea that time would take on a totally different complexion after I had children. No-one told me that my time would no longer be my own, or that my fanciful notions of “being busy” pre-kids were just that – fanciful and self-indulgent.
Oh boo hoo, us parents have it soooo hard. Someone call the waaahmbulance….
Yes, yes, I know how utterly precious that sounds but I truly had no idea just how much my every waking moment would come to be defined by my children.
It started just hours after I gave birth. 40 long weeks of pregnancy had just come to it’s messy, visceral end and it felt like I had just collapsed at the end of a marathon. My baby was in my arms and we were finally over the finish line but I was battered, bruised and broken. A physical and emotional wreck. I needed to sleep.
I needed time to rest. To heal. To recover…
But – HOLD UP, SISTER – my baby needed to be fed every three hours, and I was the poor sucker who had to do it. Thus came the core-shattering realisation that pregnancy was just a light warm-up to the real marathon of parenthood; and that my time from now on was going to be dictated by this squishy pink blob of endless, wailing need.
WHAT I LEARNT ABOUT TIME AFTER HAVING KIDS
Everything takes forever plus 10 minutes
I knew that the menial work of child-rearing and domestic duties would absorb a lot of my time, but what I didn’t know was that straightforward tasks can take a really long time when you have kids:
A simple outfit change can take 10 or 20 minutes as you wrestle with a wriggling baby, chase a mischievous toddler around, mop up a category 5 poonami or argue with an indignant preschooler because they want to wear a Spiderman t-shirt and undies to the park in the middle of winter. Basic chores become epic time-suckers: eating dinner, putting on socks, brushing teeth, walking to the shops.
Your entire day is spent micromanaging ALL OF THE THINGS
I completely underestimated the volume of requests that were going to consume my day: from the trivial through to the unreasonable and the downright ridiculous. I was quite surprised by the endless number of things I had to supervise or pre-empt:
- The adventurous toddler who wants to stick things in power points, gargle on choking hazards, jump off the furniture or put his finger up the dog’s bum.
- The baby that just cries, eats, shits and sleeps. Cries, eats, shits and sleeps. (But needs your over-attentive ministrations to achieve all of it. All the time).
- The curious preschooler asking about rainbows, tampons, Mummy’s lack of penis or the location of his Spiderman t-shirt. Always with that damn t-shirt.
- The affectionate toddler who needs cuddles when you are on the phone, cuddles when you are on the toilet and cuddles when you are asleep at 3am.
But – conversely – your kids are like the most demanding boss ever
You try to keep up, but the demands keep coming like a tidal wave of endless human need: a drink of water, more toast, Octonauts on You Tube, craft activities, bike rides, more cuddles, the red hat (NOT the blue one), the socks with stars on them, gummy vitamins and the EVERY SINGLE OTHER THING. And what’s THAT OTHER THING…? WHY?
It sounds exhausting because it is. Despite the fact that I spend long hours at home every day my time is not my own, and what time I do have is furtively stolen in tiny little fragments when the boss is looking the other way: enough to check Facebook, pee with the door shut, nibble on a secret piece of chocolate or sneak off for a sip of lukewarm tea.
You can never truly punch off the clock
You can never truly switch off when you have young children, and are always in a constant state of hyper-vigilance. You can’t afford to daydream, let your guard down, let your thoughts wander or lose yourself in books, music or film. You can never truly relax your attention during their waking hours, because if you do you might discover they’re about to abseil off a makeshift tower of dining chairs or stab themselves in the face with a barbeque fork – no matter how well you think your house is baby-proofed. You’re always on duty.
“Me time” is not the self-indulgent luxury you thought it would be
“Me time” is – quite frankly – a hilarious con. It’s one of those quaint little rituals that conjures up images of a relaxing bubble bath in a room full of magnolia-scented soy wax candles. The only thing disturbing the blissful tranquility of this scene is the sound of the spine being gently cracked on the latest Elizabeth Gilbert novel and your partner’s quiet footsteps as he glides over to hand you a glass of chilled white wine.
HA! Nice one.
In reality, “me time” is much more likely to look something like this:
- lying in the dentist chair
- cleaning the bathroom
- sitting on the toilet alone
- doing the grocery shopping
- waiting in line to renew your drivers licence
- getting a pap smear
- being forced to do jury duty
I kid you not, my new favourite thing to do is root canal. You get to lay back for a couple of hours and snack on handfuls of codeine tablets. It’s kind of like going to Gold Class at the cinemas – but it’s way less painful than an Adam Sandler movie.