(First published on The Contented Calf website on Tuesday 25th October 2011.)
One Thursday morning a couple of months ago, I suddenly realised it was approaching 11am and BF and I had not really done anything.
I wasn’t really that bothered as it was half-term from her usual Thursday morning swimming lessons and so we didn’t have to rush anywhere. And to be honest, I was quite enjoying just pottering around.
However, it did spark off me hearing this song on my internal jukebox. I’m not sure the words are entirely correct, but these are the ones that came to me, along with my mental footnotes, showing just how appropriate this song is as a parent’s anthem:
I’m busy doing nothing, working the whole day through.
As a parent don’t you find that you’re flat out all day, barely taking time to go to the loo, but when you collapse on the sofa at the end of the day, you can’t think of a single thing you’ve achieved that day?
Trying to find lots of things not to do.
This is both household jobs that you try to start, but never get to finish [ie – washing, tidying, shopping etc] and trying to think-up a variety activities, games etc to entertain a toddler with an attention span of 5 mins max, so never actually get ‘done’.
I’m busy going nowhere, isn’t it just a crime?
Days at home, with no planned trips out can induce terrible cabin fever in me.
I’d like to be unhappy, but I never do have the time.
Life with a toddler, can drive you to your wits end, when you think you have no more strength to carry on without bursting into tears, and they’ll do the funniest thing or say “I love you mummy” and your heart melts, a beaming smile appears on your face and everything seems right. Parenthood is TOUGH, but overall it brings so much more happiness to your life. In any case, there’s no time for anything else! ;-)
Now, the above song and my mental comments are just a bit of fun really, which made me smile.
But it did highlight how we need to re-set our expectations of ‘normal life’ and what is ‘achievable’ when we become parents. This advice is given endlessly in every “so you’re going to be a parent!” book, on every ‘parent-to-be’ website and in every ante-natal class.
However, as with everything to do with that mental and emotional adjustment that you need to do when your life changes from individual to parent, I’m a bit of a late developer! ;-)
It really has taken me two years to fully reset my personal expectations of a day. Naturally I’m one of those people who hates a ‘wasted day’ and likes to achieve, achieve, achieve.
(And I used to wonder why BF was never content just to sit and watch the world go by when she was a baby, but always seeming like she wanted to get up and go..!?!)
But I am (honest guv) pretty much there now, and realise that time spent with my daughter ‘doing nothing’ is so invaluable to both of us. It’s amazing how quickly two years have passed. Another two and she’ll be at school. So the time I have with her now is precious. The housework can wait another couple of years!! ;-)
Then a couple of weeks later I saw this poem on a facebook group that I’m part of and I just loved it. (And yes, it brought a tear to my eye.) I think it really hit an accord with me about what ‘doing nothing’ actually is – it’s everything.
What Did I Do Today?
Today I left some dishes dirty,
The bed got made around 3:30.
The diapers soaked a little longer,
The odour grew a little stronger.
The crumbs I spilled the day before
Are staring at me from the floor.
The fingerprints there on the wall
Will likely be there still next fall.
The dirty streaks on those windowpanes
Will still be there next time it rains.
Shame on you, you sit and say,
Just what did you do today?
I held a baby till she slept,
I held a toddler while she wept.
I played a game of hide and seek,
I squeezed a toy so it would squeak.
I pulled a wagon, sang a song,
Taught a child right from wrong.
What did I do this whole day through?
Not much that shows, I guess that’s true.
Unless you think that what I’ve done,
Might be important to someone
With deep blue eyes and soft brown hair,
If that is true…I’ve done my share.
I may not remember it all the time. I may still get frustrated that I've been 'busy doing nothing' all day at times, but I do try to remember the sentiment of the poem, and just be there. In the moment. Simultaneously, doing both nothing and everything.
As ever, with love from our family to yours,