Life as a parent can be tough.
It’s a constant juggling act. Like a clown in a circus, you start each day by setting off your spinning plates. You’re so careful. These plates are important. Each one represents something – from a basic necessity to someone’s hopes and dreams. This one’s the cooking, this one’s the cleaning, this ones the bank balance which needs to be able to cope with that horrible day when the boiler breaks while also storing enough money to go on that weekend away you rashly agreed to with the in-laws, this one’s the drop-off and pick-up at the childminder’s, this one’s the one which sorts out family visits and make sure no one feels like they see you less than someone else, this one’s your relationship (which somehow you always forget about until after the others), this one that’s teetering on the edge is your career, and the one with the cracks already starting to show? That’s your social life. To top it all off, half way through balancing these plates you lean forward, glance down and realise you haven’t mopped the floor in so long there are still blueberry stains on the floor from last Tuesday’s breakfast. Oh sod it, let them all fall. I always preferred the trapeze anyway.
It’s been a tough few weeks in our household. From money worries to chicken pox to bereavement, we’ve had it all.
At times it’s been sad and at times it’s been stressful, but overall it’s been mostly…functional. Sometimes, there’s so much going on there’s nothing to do but switch on the autopilot and ride it out. The problem is, how do you know when to switch the autopilot off?
The simple transition from work to home life at the end of day can be a difficult one. Rushing home from the office to get to the childminder’s, it’s easy to feel like you haven’t finished and before you know it the lines are blurring. Still on work mode autopilot you rush through dinner and bedtime, half heartedly serving up rice pudding with one hand while you type email replies with the other. After bedtime, rather than spending quality time with your partner, you collapse in a heap on the sofa moaning about the housework and boring them with minute details about the work you still have left to do when you get in the next morning.
Thankfully, at times like this, when you’re meandering along in a haze, being totally ungrateful for what you have and losing sight completely of what’s important, the great gods of parenting have a habit of reaching out and giving you a good old slap across the face.
I got home from work on Friday tired, grumpy and slightly resentful I couldn’t head to the pub with all my childless colleagues. I was sitting on the floor staring into space while my son waved torn up jigsaw pieces in my general direction when it finally happened. He walked. I was totally unprepared for how completely momentous this simple act was. Obviously I knew it was a big deal but I hadn’t really thought it through. I wasn’t prepared for the total and complete shift that seemed to take place in my world in that split second when he took his first steady and deliberate steps towards me. I went from wallowing in the rivers of self-pity to standing on the top of the world.
So, it turns out that the nonsense I spout to all my students when they’re struggling is true: if something’s not difficult, it’s probably not worth doing. Parenting may be hard work sometimes, but it pays dividends. A glass of rosé down the Rose and Crown could never have the same effect as seeing the little man growing up before my very eyes, and being so ridiculously proud of himself.
I know the whole point of this blog is to be sceptical and scathing and totally un-twee, but for one week I’m afraid I’ve got to give it up and go with optimism…because my lazy git of a son has finally gotten up off his backside and starting walking. And it’s bloody brilliant!