I’ve spoken before about my overwhelm as a WAHM, and my wish for more help with my babies. But I’ve had an epiphany I want to share, because I BET all other work at home parents will get this, in a way my husband never can. That’s not a criticism of him, it’s simply a fact. Until somebody lives the juggle struggle, how can they possibly understand?
Today I’m going to talk about the reason mums (or dads if they’re the primary caregiver) find balancing parenting and running a home so draining.
The Mental Load
I have all kinds of demands placed upon me, every day. From wiping bottoms, to writing (hopefully) impressive words; from being a demented rotweiller-with-a-bone when it comes to consumer rights, to rustling up gourmet meals out of a tin of soup, four crackers past their best and an avocado that should have been ripe two weeks ago.
All of these things, and many, many more are necessarily part of my repertoire. Which, incidentally, I find myself adding to every day.
Remembering it all and merely the fact of it all depletes my energy almost as much as working my way through it.
(Today’s new skill: running through torrential rain pushing a pram and balancing a three year old on my hip, whilst playing dodgems with the oncoming foot traffic. In 5°C. Oh, and letting go a cleaner who thinks it’s acceptable to spend two hours ‘cleaning’ my small kitchen – clearly she’s never been as pushed for time as I am because in the course of two beautiful, child-free hours, I’d whip my entire house into shape.)
Managing the Juggle Struggle
Also, whilst normal life is ongoing (including the obligatory feeding of humans, and the calling of credit card companies to deal with chargebacks – does it ever end?), I am also managing the emotions of a toddler. Which on the face of it, if you’ve never had the pleasure, sounds quite lovely.
You’d be forgiven for envisaging sitting cross-legged threading daisy chains and snuggling with warm milk. LOLs.
The Real Reason Stay at Home Parents Are Overwrought
But here’s the thing – it’s not the pressure that has me teetering at the edge of sanity. Genuinely. Not even when you factor in pressing work commitments which must be fitted around the realities of life as a parent to
incontinent imps delightful little angels.
No, in actual fact it’s the disorienting bending of the laws of physics, and the infuriating frustration that comes with it. Allow me to explain…
Time is a constant, right? Well, allegedly. Except we all know the truth feels somewhat different when you have a tight deadline, compared to, say, when you’re handling a three year old in the throes of a meltdown.
Sometimes even playing with a toddler can feel tedious. Yep, I went there and for the love of all that is alcoholic can we please just say it like it is? Playing with toddlers is fun. For five minutes. Because singing ‘Daddy is a Bogie’ on loop (true story) when I *could* be writing that commissioned article or preparing dinner or sorting the laundry can feel somehow…vapid.
Nailing the art of being fully present for my daughter, so that when I belt out those words I really hit the high note on the penultimate syllable and she knows I really mean it – that’s when I feel like I’m bossing being a parent. And honestly, it doesn’t happen often enough. So there’s guilt too – the inevitable bedfellow of being a parent.
Back to my epiphany…
I realised that for parents of young kids, the true angst of the juggle struggle is rooted in the knowledge that there’s actually an abundance of time to fill – and yet extremely limited opportunity to utilise that time effectively.
Despite knowing in my heart that time spent playing is worthwhile, valuable, essential even – it’s an infuriating predicament for parents who have shit they need to get done.
And the wild swinging between tearing about to complete the infinite number of administrative tasks required to be a functioning adult, versus the apparently everlasting banality of being alone with two small children for an entire day is, frankly, draining.
The Parent Paradox
The frustration borne of knowing there absolutely is the necessary amount of time in which to accomplish all the tasks required of you – if only your child would entertain themselves for the five minutes it would take you to empty the dishwasher, or the ten it would take to fold the washing – is what jangles my nerves and keeps me in a perpetual cycle of anxiety.
And right now, that anxiety seems only to grow exponentially.
It’s often far from easy, but someone has to do it – and I’d prefer to endure every seemingly impossible moment than allow a stranger the privilege of parenting my wonderful and exhausting babies.
Specifically – of course – the euphoria my daughter derives from our harmonies of ‘Daddy is a Bogie’.
Do you agree the juggle struggle is the real reason mums are always overwrought?