Today I found myself striking up a conversation about chewing gum with a complete stranger. It went like this:
Tesco Woman: “That’s 41p, please”
Me: “It’s been ages since I bought chewing gum, it was about 25p last time I bought some”
TW: *smiles impatiently at me*
Me: “My teeth feel funny, you see. You know how they feel if you’ve had a really sugary drink?”
TW: “Yeah…” (*pulls face which says ‘why is she telling me about her furry teeth?’ while thrusting her upward-facing palm forwards, awaiting payment*)
Me: “Yeah, it’s like that. But I haven’t. I’ve only had water. And no added sugar squash. It’s weird. They really do feel funny though”
TW: *raises eyes to the heavens wondering what she did in a former life to deserve this awful conversation with the moronic woman (with furry teeth) and possibly even contemplating paying the 41p out of her own wages, just to get rid of me*
Me: “Oh God. I’m so sorry. I’m telling you about my teeth. Sorry. Really sorry…” (*I quickly pay her and scuttle away, wondering when I became the person who talks to strangers about my apparent lack of dental hygiene*)
So I’m realising there are some challenges to this stay-at-home- parenting malarkey. No, not the furry teeth, I still haven’t figured that one out. But being starved of adult conversation is definitely one of them. The problem is, by the time there’s an adult at home to actually converse with, I’m too damn tired to strike up a conversation. Although, given my choice of topic with the poor Tesco Woman, that’s probably the best thing for my relationship, and my other half’s sanity.
I’m also finding I get angry a lot, which I didn’t expect, given that I don’t have to contemplate deadlines, targets, biting my lip because I’m working with idiots and trying not to get sacked, etc. You know, ‘actual work’. We don’t have to leave the house, if we don’t want to. Hell, we don’t even have to get dressed! So why all the stress??! Well, it’s really, really hard work. That’s why.
There’s the normal reaction to idiotic behaviour, for example when your incredibly bright daughter picks up a cat shit and then cries about it. Great. And then there’s the irrational anger, like when they do something they are totally justified in doing, such as spilling something or knocking things over, as toddlers do, and you lose your mind over it and then spend the next half an hour sobbing quietly to yourself after apologising profusely about your meltdown – I wonder where my daughter gets her temper, really I do…
Until you do it, I think it’s very hard to understand. I don’t mean that to sound as patronising as it does, it’s just how it is and it’s quite hard to explain. It’s like being in a weird limbo-land. There’s no beginning and there’s no end. Your day doesn’t start at 8am and finish at 5pm, it’s just sort of constant. My other half works Mon-Fri though so I still really look forward to the weekend (even though our routine and ability to leave the house without absolute mayhem go completely to shit at the weekend, for some reason: Dad). Also, there is no-one telling you what to do. Well, other than a bossy toddler, and it’s not all that difficult to pass her a biscuit/help her find her tutu/explain that the park is – ahem – closed again today (bloody rain).
I’m slightly ashamed to admit my days usually centre around nap time, instead of lunch time, like they used to when I had a job. You see, at the moment I manage a synchronised nap at 1pm most days and it is BLISS. But even that is strange. I feel guilty if I sit on my arse while they sleep, because that means I have to clean/make food/tidy up while they’re awake and I should be playing with them, right? But if I DON’T put my feet up, well then Mardy Mama arrives, and no-one likes her.
Also, I can’t stop eating. I’m like a hoover, going along sucking up any trace of sugar in the house – and we just had Easter, so you can imagine the volumes we’re talking about here. Nightmare. (No, I’m not pregnant again, before you ask – I know chatting about teeth isn’t a good sign but I’m not totally insane just yet, thank you very much).
It’s quite surprising how fast your week can fill up too. I always wondered what people do if they don’t work. People without little children, I mean. So lottery winners, retired folk, celebrities, etc. But I can easily fill a week, no problemo, there is so much to do aside from keeping the little ones alive. First, there’s the washing. I basically spend more time squatting than Mr Motivator, and that’s saying something (although I’m fairly sure he might have retired – I wonder what he does all day?) Standing in front of the washer and dryer doesn’t particularly offend me, it’s the putting away of the dry clothes which I detest. It’s ridiculous. Most nights I feel like a hotel maid, stacking up clean clothes outside the girls’ bedrooms after they’re asleep.
Secondly, there’s the mess. Oh, the almighty mess. I like a clean and tidy house – always have, always will. I’m trying to accept that it isn’t going to be clean and tidy most of the time with two children running around (well, one runs, one sort of rolls and then gets stuck, gets mad, rolls back, if you know what I mean). This isn’t just running though, this is whirlwind-style movement and MY CHRIST it gets messy. Ive started to force the tidying-up issue with our almost 3 year old, but it’s like wading through quicksand trying to get her to clear up after herself sometimes. It’s honestly easier to just go out. I dusted our irritating blinds on Saturday. Ran a polished duster along each and every effing slat and today I noticed they are covered in dust again. Oh, and the other half wants us to get a dog. Hilarious! He clearly wants me gone – it’s probably the riveting conversations he can’t live with anymore.
I’m grateful. I really am. I know there must be loads of people wishing they could stay at home with their babies and I sound like I’m not enjoying it. I absolutely am. I don’t enjoy every second of it and some days are really tough, but it’s totally worth it. I wake up to a squidgy toddler cuddle every morning. I hear our baby shouting “Mama” when she wants her porridge, and we really can do whatever the heck we want (funds and weather permitting). It’s just not the (literal) walk in the park I expected it to be – but anything worth having is worth working for, and I would do anything to spend precious time with my girls.