There’s a blog I subscribe to by a woman I admire very much. The blog is called Sleep Is For The Weak and the writer is an astonishing woman called Josie. I’ve just read her latest post and it’s inspired me to write this.
In that post, Josie talks about the days when everything, but everything, conspires against you – from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to bed. She had a day like that and then, at some point, she suddenly got really angry and was able to harness that anger into a form of positive energy that allowed her to end the day on a far happier and more positive note.
I recognised everything she said in her description of being a housebound single mother with a demanding toddler and no food, deprived of sleep and feeling like the end of the world had come.
Been there, done that, and didn’t cope half as well as Josie seems to.
And oh, how I wish I’d known then the things that I know now.
- bringing up small children on your own is a form of torture and it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you if you feel the need to shout that fact from the rooftops occasionally
- there is no such thing as the perfect mother and you’re on a hiding to nothing if you feel that there is, and you should be her
- feeling guilty about your own perceived shortcomings doesn’t help you or your child(ren). On one of my particularly bad days I once asked my then 3-year-old daughter what kind of Mummy she would rather have, to replace the useless one she already had. She thought long and hard and then said “A zebra Mummy. Or a daffodil Mummy”. The best Mummy your child can have, and really the only one they want, is you
- this too shall pass. Today may be crap, and tomorrow may be crap but it won’t ALWAYS be like this. As my very wise Mum once said to me, whatever it is, it’s just a phase and it will stop.
If you find that most of your energy is being depleted by wishing things were different or feeling guilty or angry, or by berating yourself for all of your failings (that you can see and, by the way, that no-one else can) then take a moment to do the following:
- Make yourself a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate and sit down for 10 minutes. If necessary, give your child something sweet, sticky and immensely bad for them – they’ll be so overcome with wonder and delight that you’ll get the 10 minutes peace you crave, they’ll think you’re even more lovely than you (undoubtedly) already are, and just this once it won’t do them any harm.
- Write a list of all the loveable things your child does that it’s so easy to forget about in the daily fog of misery. Include that moment of peace when you know they are (finally!) asleep and they look so angelic you’re almost tempted to wake them back up again…
- Now write a list of all the things that you “have” to do that you’ve not got around to because the kids are so demanding, and find a way, just as Josie did, of turning them into games. Here are some of the things I used to do when my 2 were little:
- washing the kitchen floor – if your kids love playing with water and your house is warm enough, give them a bowl of warm soapy water and a sponge each, get them down to their undies or bare skin and ask them to wash the kitchen floor for you. They’ll have hysterical fun (and if you use bubble bath they’ll get clean) and you’ll have a clean(er) kitchen floor
- washing up – since only big, sensible, grown-up people are allowed to help with the washing up, a small person will be unaccountably thrilled to be allowed to help in some way. Particularly if they have to stand on a chair and wear Mum’s apron and her rubber gloves!
- shopping for groceries – we always used to turn this into a treasure hunt. The minute your child is too big to fit into the supermarket trolley seat, they’re big enough to be sent off to fetch specific items from around the store. They’ll feel Big and Important for being entrusted with this solemn undertaking and you won’t be surrounded by boredness and whining. And if you tell them to collect ridiculous amounts of things they’ll have even more fun!
- tidying up – can (and perhaps should) be done “in the style of”. So if books and toys need to be put away, get your children to do it “in the style of” a favourite cartoon character, or a Big Grizzly Bear, or of Father Christmas etc.
Once you’ve cleared up the mess caused by your little effort of bribery, put on some loud music and do silly dancing for 10 minutes to get you warmed up – WHETHER YOU FEEL LIKE IT OR NOT. You’ll feel like it once you’ve finished, and a dose of silliness every day is enormously helpful to everyone.
And now, with your head full of memories of all the loveable aspects of your offspring, bubble of silliness coursing through your veins and some ideas for how to turn work into play – you can train your child(ren) to enjoy doing the housework for you!