It’s nearly time to collect Zeph and I feel as though I haven’t accomplished much. I had a lot of basic plans, everyday cleaning and laundry chores. Stuff I had to do in snatched ten minute sessions when I was working yet have failed to do in an entire day at home today.
I suppose it’s all about what you label as an achievement. If this was one of my friends wailing in despair at me I’d point out all the small hidden stuff done – the fact I spent an hour first thing looking at stuff in the garden with Ida – checking out insects, digging a hole in the dirt and putting in some seeds (they’ll never grow – sweet peas, about a foot down…) putting the bowl of peelings in the compost bin, whoah-ing at the insects in there.
Then we washed up together (she says through gritted teeth) then Ida watched me chop vegetables for the ratatouille, then I had to find the mushrooms she’d hidden around the conservatory for me (Mab blast those easter egg hunts…) Then we made bread rolls;
You need a lot of patience to knead dough with a toddler. I had the genius idea of adding some herbs and maybe chive flowers. That took half an hour to pick and painstakingly pull apart and since she was balancing on the counter I didn’t feel like I could go and gather the wash that desperately needs putting on…
Then I realise she’s probably hungry – cream cheese and hummus on crackers is hardly time-consuming to prepare but spreading it takes time when you’re two and insist on using mum’s knife. Of course it goes everywhere and when I go into the kitchen for a cloth I come back to find Ida tapdancing on a handful of dry crackers – “nice schrunch!” she says with a delighted grin.
Then I’m on here, quickly doing my post for today as I’m hoping to spend a bit of time with Steve for a change this evening and I see the time. I was supposed to be doing “stuff” today.
Now bear with me because I know how galling I’d of found this when I was dropping Z off every morning then running off to be a book selling till monkey under the big W thumb all day then running to pick him up on time, get home, do tea, do bath, do story, do bed, wash up, prep tea for tomorrow, put a wash on, hoover, slump on sofa to watch some CSI crap, stagger upstairs – repeat the day after and seemingly forever. BUT I don’t always appreciate my time with Ida.
It’s mainly because the hard work involved seems pretty hidden. Her development is a longtime goal. If I was still working I wouldn’t be able to afford this level of childcare. We’re talking one-on-one interactive play and development a Cheltenham Montessori with a five-year waiting list could only dream of. Fresh herb and chive-flower bread rolls. They’re bistro- tastic. Yet when Steve rings to see how we’re doing it feels like nothing. When he’s tired at the end of a day I’m defensive and furious and deflated about my day. As his eye sweeps over the chaos I could spear it with a paintbrush. I feel adrift and purposeless – I couldn’t call myself a homemaker – even if I could force those hateful words out- because this tip doesn’t really look homey. I’m failing on basic housekeeping.
Every night before I pass out I resolve to really get stuff done tomorrow. Put the washing away, finish the wallpaper and painting in the hall, finally rip out the mouldy cupboards, fold my enormous fabric stash and stow it away neatly, sort out the bedrooms and bunkbeds, deal with the mould in the corner of the kitchen decisively. Sort out our finances, formulate a budget, find out what the hell is going on with my child tax credit. Get Z’s hair cut, hoover more, actually mop our laminate floor which has needed it for about a year.
Instead I clean some plates and pans, make them dirty, wash them again. Pick some stuff up, turn round to see Ida has emptied it all out again. Pick it up again. Try not to shout too much. Greet Steve in the hall with a scowl and run upstairs for a blessed five minutes on my own crying on the bedroom floor.
When he’s says “what’s happened?” you just don’t have the words. There is no way he’ll get it. You have to have had prolonged exposure to the full on, drip drip drip water torture of toddlers to really get it. The occasional half day every now and again just doesn’t come close. It’s the year build up you need. The total submergence of yourself to a two-and-a-half foot dictator with a will of iron and the wiliness of a weasel on crack. The relentlessness of it all. The feeding and cleaning and playing, the tyranny of love. The loss of self.
Yet now as I watch them doing a bit of breakdancing before we go up for a bath I know this is just a bad day. That tonight as I lie wakeful and worried I will make hopeful plans for a better day and I will laugh at the memory of Idas face when I caught her filling the cat’s bowl with the newly baked cooling bread rolls.
This has been a bit of a whiny one so apologies all round. I’m not blind to the fact that on a better other day I would have taken this all in my stride. Just like Z’s usual brushing off of the name calling. Today a convergence of events and the stars left me with a very thin skin.
I read No Matter What by Debi Gliori to Ida tonight. It was very soothing. We ended our fraught day with a big cuddle and a kiss on every toe.
Tomorrow is another day.