In 2001 I saw an advertisement asking for parenting stories to be compiled into a book. I submitted a story and was accepted. The book is “Doing our best – New Zealand mothers speak from the heart” by Leanne McKenzie and Gail Thomas.
Here is my article:-
There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day! I take my hat off to the women who run the perfect house and have the children in bed by six o’clock. It certainly doesn’t happen at this house!
I am dragged into the lounge, extremely reluctantly, at 6:30 am by my energetic four-year-old son. Struggling to look alive, I stagger around the kitchen making my awakening cup of tea. Ha! Now I can face the day.
The battle starts, attempting to keep early bird child quiet while late riser child and sometimes shift worker dad still sleep. The Walt Disney video collection comes into its own and we try to have something different instead of 101 Dalmations for the zillionth time. I am sure I know bits off by heart! Of course, to keep the peace and sleepers asleep, 101 Dalmations wins the day.
By 7:30 am a very groggy seven-year-old daughter staggers into the lounge. She is still about 20 percent asleep. Once her eyes are open, she might be missing out on something. The drinks made and children settled in from of TV, I get on with my jobs for the day.
Job one is to empty the dishwasher, which has become a wonderful time-saver in the modern world. Job two is to make the school and kindy lunches. Job three is to turn off the TV and set the table ready for the breakfast drama.
Everybody now fed, we race around like lunatics trying to locate ‘my favourite’ clothes that were prised off the body yesterday and haven’t yet made it through the washing/folding process. When I realise it is 8:30, I say that anything not done now is too late, everybody out the door!
After a brief stop to release the four-year-old’s energy on kindy, we rush to school. Temporarily coming to rest at the bus stop, daughter lets herself out. I dare not exit the vehicle in case a particular policeman is on crossing duty and starts my day with a ticket!
With children seen to, it is my turn to get to my part-time job and remind myself that ‘I’ have returned. I am no longer his wife or their mother but me again! The three hours I spend at work whiz by, and before I know it the children call is sounded.
Back to kindy to retrieve one son minus a ginormous amount of energy, and then home to find some lunch. We snuggle up on the couch, sometimes to watch Mum’s soap. More often than not, we end up watching a small portion of a video before son falls asleep.
I now have to decide what to do in the next one and a half hours before the school call comes. Gardening, folding yesterday’s washing, hanging out today’s washing, telephone calls, sorting out the bills, baking, deciding what is for tea and preparing it – decisions, decisions.
We have come to a compromise about our daughter walking home from school and meet her about two-thirds of the way home. I now have to encourage a drowsy four-year-old to walk up a steep hill to meet his big sister.
Home again, two hungry bodies attack the pantry and devour bags of chippies and biscuits. The lunch boxes are checked and the hunger pains fully understood – one girl has eaten hardly anything!
The next major battle is homework. After weeks of stressing out big time at this time of day, I have it sussed!
“Homework time,” I say.
“I don’t want to do it, it’s not fair.”
“Fine, don’t do it. Right, could you please shift your school bag?”
“What about homework?”
“We aren’t doing any tonight.”
“Oh OK, can I go play then?”
Ignore is the name of the game, and quite often it works. Within the hour she is doing the homework of her own free will. Some nights the questions are quite full on and I have to help; other nights it is maths sums, so my help is not required.
Homework is cleared away for the onslaught of tea to begin. The “I don’t want that” and “I don’t like that” last long enough for everyone to be growled at and told “Eat!” Wow, one meal down without excruciating pain! While I wait for the children to eat their tea, I do the dishes and then run a bath to encourage them to eat faster.
Once they are in the bath the whole neighbourhood can probably hear them laughing and squealing without – I hope -too much shouting and screaming. Clothes awaiting the noisy bodies, I attempt to snatch a peek at the news in between trips to the bathroom to stop water flowing on to the floor and again to sort out the noise level!
I prepare milk drinks. Wet footsteps lead the way from the bathroom down the hall to the lounge. Oh joy, another mess to clean up! Pyjamas on, drinks drunk and suddenly all hell breaks loose as the dog goes charging through the house, whining like mad at the back door. It is 6:25 pm and Dad is home!
After everyone has had a bit of attention – including Mum – it is time to start the bedtime routine.
“I went to the toilet before.”
“Before I had a bath!”
One story read, fish fed, cassette story on, followed by a big kiss, cuddle and always an “I love you”. One down, one to go. The performance repeated a second time, only interrupted by “Do you know where bubba is, Mum?” (Bubba = toy essential for sleep.) The house is turned upside down looking for bubba, who is finally discovered beside our bed where the children had been watching TV earlier. Peace at last.
Quick flick of toys cleared from the lounge while the jug is boiling. Biscuits broken out of hiding in the back of the fridge. At last there is peace and quiet for Mum and Dad. We get to discuss the day’s events and I fill Dad in about what happened at kindy and school.
Finally we get to snuggle up in peace and watch TV, actually hearing and seeing a whole programme that we choose to watch. Before we know it, time has ticked past and 9:30 has arrived. Animals are put out for the night by Dad, while Mum does a final check of children’s sleeping positions and blankets. We collapse into bed at about 10 o’clock, exhausted.
What did we do with our lives before the children? Is it worth the sacrifice, hardship, pain, laughter, fun and challenge?