Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Monday diary

Day 6 in an experiment keeping a diary of my week of mothering.

Whoever said, 'An unexamined life is not worth living,' never spent a week examining life as a stay-at-home mother. I'm finding this exercise thoroughly depressing. I will soldier on, treating it as something akin to one of those writing exercises where you have to keep writing for fifteen or thirty minutes, never stopping your pen, waiting for the pearls to emerge from your subconscious or the universal energy or wherever that creative flow comes from.

Today was one of those stay-at-home days I dread. My playdate cancelled because of a sick child, and suddenly at eight a.m the day loomed before me like a desert, dull and featureless and incapable of sustaining human life.

There is a rough routine to our days - some sort of activity in the morning, followed by a nap from 12ish til 2ish (that's them napping, not me - and Pearl sleeps much less than Louis, so hers is more like one hour while he slumbers on for another hour after she wakes up), then lunch and a bit of playing in the backyard, finishing with a walk down to the park about 4pm, then dinner-bath-books-bed from five til seven. Basically I'm trying to exhaust them.
With no morning activity, I felt overwhelmed at the thought of entertaining the two small people for the next nine hours.

So this is what we did:
  1. Drove around to where I thought there was a Playgroup on. There wasn't. Rang Playgroups Australia, who told me to ring Playgroups Queensland, who told me the Tuesday Playgroups in my area are full. Obviously Tuesday is a dud day for everyone.
  2. Rang Mum to see if she wanted visitors. She was working, but we could pop in if we liked. Horrid visions of trying to control toddler twins in workplace. Declined.
  3. Found a playground in a park. This kept us going for about half an hour, until I could no longer stand the stress of trying to keep each adventurous toddler away from all those edges. There is one park I regularly go to where the climbing frames, slides, walkways etc are only about a foot and a half off the ground, so I don't have to worry about 'spotting' both children. When people have their children spaced sensibly apart, they only have one child constantly in imminent danger - the one nine months older is competent on the climbing equipment, and the one nine months younger can't walk. With two, I'm constantly weighing up the relative risks - if he slides out from under the chain on that swing, he's not going to do as much damage as if she falls from the top of that climbing frame she's attempting to scale.
  4. Went to the library. Much safer, and used to be foolproof, but now only keeps them entertained for a limited time before they start running up and down the aisles of books, or banging metal bookstands - you know, the ones where they display the book of the week - on metal book trolleys.
  5. It's only eleven o'clock! Oh my god. Back to the park for some morning tea then to teach them to chase birds, an invaluable skill for when I want to sit undisturbed for a few minutes.
  6. Into the car at 11.30 whereupon they promptly fell asleep. I drove to the local(ish) megaplex multimall (what are those places called? you know, like Westf1eld shopp1ngtown). Now they are a gift to mothers. All pram accessible. No cars once you get in. Giant chain stores so no staff around to see you trash the toy department. I had to do a few mundane jobs, the sorts of jobs stay at home mothers do. Locate a particularly unusual lightbulb. Find out whether the camera can be repaired. Sort out a Med1care claim from several months ago. Life's administrivia - how does that usually get done? We spent the whole of the rest of the day at the megaplex multimall. As long as I didn't stop moving, the babies stayed asleep until one thirty. Bliss!
  7. Came home to meet L who was doing a flying turnaround to get changed from her day's activity (collecting data from subjects) in preparation for her evening activity (presenting the results of one of her other projects to a bunch of doctors and hospital administrators in the hopes of further funding).
  8. Dinner and bed, bed, bed for all babies within a twenty metre radius.
This is the last year of L's study and I suspect it's going to be hard work for all of us. I slept through the first year, pregnant, happy that she had something to occupy her while I went to bed every night at six. Last year she coasted a bit, but this year she Really Has to Get the Thesis Done. And then of course, there's her work...I know, we're not living in Iran in imminent danger of being stoned to death should our illicit love come to light, and I know that I just have to get through this year, it's only another seven months but oh it's such a relentless grind. Wiping up food and wiping up bums and wiping down walls and what on earth will we do now to fill in the time?

I really need to work out a bit of a support plan for myself or I'm going to fall over.


ThirdCat said...

It is a bit relentless sometimes...sorry, nothing wise or helpful to say - I mean, there's all the 'you'll look back on these days a teensy bit wistfully' and 'the time flies' and yes, we are lucky to be able to do it and so on and so forth...but that doesn't stop it being a bit relentless sometimes.

Sarah said...

I'm loving the day-by-day thing, M. Especially as we are heading off for frozen embryo transfer next week... and are thinking about having two transferred. Makes your recent posts very pertinent reading (even though at my age blah blah blah there is very little chance of both taking blah blah blah especially given my history blah). Thanks.

Karina said...

I'm writing a paper on the everyday places of parenting so your day by day series is totally inspiring me! :)By the way the parents who participated in the study that the paper is based on had to keep a diary of where they went 'in the course of their parenting' which basically means, where they went every day...and yes, their days are EXACTLY like you describe here.So for what it's worth, I'm finding your day-in-the-life posts both interesting and helpful.

Anonymous said...

poor moogle...valium could be helpful or chocolate or day time tv. all i know are numbing strategies...maybe ask someone else...poor moogle.

Deborah said...

As the wise Third Cat said, this stage really is very, very hard, and there's almost no way around that. And having done both singleton child and then twin children, it really is harder with twins. Like really.

Wish I was in Brizzy so you could come visit for morning coffee / tea / brandy / stress relief, with twins in tow.

And then the evening rush. Oi vey! I remember that all too well. We are still busy in the evenings, but it's nothing like the sheer rush when our girls were tiny.

This is a very hard time, no doubt about it, and you do need to find some survival strategies. I know it's a long way off for you and L, but we found that around age 3 and 1/2, it got easier having two, than having just one. And these days, they are so delightful and wonderful and gorgeous that I feel as though I am the luckiest woman in the world.

Mikhela said...

Oh, SOOO nice to get all these comments. I feel immeasurable heartened. And Deborah, I read your comment out to L, who was going really well until you said 3 and a 1/2, then she started laughing in a weird, slightly hysterical way.

Good luck Sarah - fingers crossed for you - and a good reminder that your stage was much more stressful than this one is.

And I'm so glad my experiences can be used to further develop understandings of the cultural hegemony of semiotics of place, or whatever...!

Deborah said...

then she started laughing in a weird, slightly hysterical way.Of course. I remember the "laughter" from those days too.

I should also have said that it gets easier, noticeably, every six months or so. And this is the time that parents traditionally find hard - pre-verbal, but so determined to do absolutely everything, and always, always, active.

You know, 15 minutes of TV so that you can at least sit down with a relaxing cup of tea won't rot their brains. Really. The Wiggles. They will dance to The Wiggles.

Anonymous said...

I will be eternally grateful that we found a house in our new town with a carport. A long two car carport next to the kitchen, so it's shady in summer and dry in winter, and perfect for riding bikes up and down all year round for my two year old.

We're also fans of the classic game Mummy sits on the backstep with the cricket bat hitting big soft (toddler appropriate) balls up and down the carport making the kid run after them. I've done it with visiting toddlers the same age as mine, so it might be worth a go with twins. I have done it in the late afternoon with a beer, and I highly recommend it.