This morning I dropped my daughter off at school for the beginning of a new week and wrestled my toddler back home through the rain. After we had gotten through the door and taken our coats and shoes off, I put the kettle on while my son went to go and play with the knob on the washing machine for a bit.
I’d like to tell you that it was nice to just be at home or that it was lovely that it would just be me and my son on our own for the day.
The truth is, I just felt myself sinking.
Another day in this house.
It’s a nice house. We are very lucky to have it. It’s a three bed, 70s ex-council type place with laminate floors and double glazed windows. The kitchen and bathroom are fairly new, the heating works. I have nothing to complain about.
Also, I’m very lucky to be at home and to be able to be the main carer for my son. I work two days a week. The rest of the time I am at home or at the odd playdate or toddler group. This is how I wanted it. This is just how I always wanted to do motherhood.
So why does it feel sometimes, like after we have finished with the hustle and bustle of the school run and walked or driven back home, as if this house contains a silence that will deafen me.
The humming of the freezer.
The clicking over of the electricity meter.
The clack-clack-clacking of the zips hitting the inside of the washing machine as it turns over and over.
I stand at the fridge and drink some apple juice from the carton. My son appears at my knees. He reaches up and makes an ‘eeeeee’ noise. I pick him up. He points at the cupboard where the biscuits are.
‘Adgsh!’ he says and points at the cupboard.
Not a silence then but a wordlessness. There are no words spoken in this house but my own. I talk and talk all day to my son, hoping that he might pick up a few more of mine.
No one is making me stay at home. I could find a full time job if I wanted to, could put my son into childcare. I am no prisoner.
There is also a wealth of baby/toddler related activities available for a small fee and a short car ride. We could go trampolining, swimming, signing, shopping, gymnastics, play gym, playgroup, music time, bounce and rhyme, rhyme and rhythm, story time, etc etc.
Sometimes we do.
If I wanted to I could fill all our time up, but a day at home alone with my son should not be so hard. I should be able to do this. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
I have a coffee and we watch a few episodes of Bing together. The I turn the telly off because I feel guilty about it and start going through the toy boxes in the lounge, putting the duplo all in one box and cars in the other and broken stuff in a pile to be thrown away. He likes this and starts to play with the broken stuff.
We find all the bits to his duplo train and we put it all together.
There are now toys all over the lounge floor.
Every now and then he stops playing and gets onto my lap and we have a lovely cuddle. He rests his warm head on my chest just under my chin and says,
He is having a very cuddly day and it’s so lovely.
Outside the window a thick fog has fallen. The view from the lounge becomes more and more whited out. After an hour or so of us playing, only the first few metres of grass in our front garden is visible and from the other side of the street I can only make out the faint outline of the houses and a lamppost.
We have lunch and we sit opposite each other at the table. I talk to him about things and he says ‘yeah’ and smiles and giggles at me when I pull faces at him. I smile back. He is adorable. He points at the cupboard for something,
‘Mummah! Mummah! Ugsh!’
‘What’s up honey? What are you after?’ I ask him.
‘Do you want some squash?’
‘Ahhhhhm? Doh!’ he replies, shaking his head.
‘DOH!’ He shouts quite emphatically.
‘Ok, ok, no squash! How about some water? Do you want some water in your cup?’
‘Ugsh! Mammah, urgsh! URGSH! UUURGSH!’
‘Shall I put some water in y-‘
‘DOHHH! DO! MUMMAH!’
‘Ok, so you do want squash?’
‘Errrrrrrr . . . .YAAAAA!’
‘Ok, I’ll do you a squash.’
I pour him a cup of squash. I take it to him. He shouts ‘DOH!’ again and then throws it onto the floor.
Let’s talk for a moment about a different scenario. The scenario is that I have a full time job. I go to my job everyday 9-5 and use a childminder to do school runs and to look after my toddler. I am at work and other people look after my kids. While I am at work my two-year-old does a lot more ‘activities’ and spends lots of time with other children being stimulated. In this scenario he probably has a more interesting day than he has at the moment with me at home.
He has a more interesting day. I have a more interesting day. The only thing is, we are not together.
Is it greedy of me to want both? To want to be with him but to also not feel so cut off from the world? To not feel so bored or so lonely?
Sometimes I feel that boredom and loneliness creeping up on me as the day goes on, just me and him in the house doing normal stuff; hanging up the washing, playing cars, watching ‘In the Night Garden.’ It’s like a kind of silence that gets louder, a kind of white noise, or a maybe a kind of cold which freezes at the corners of the building first before moving into the centre.
Whatever it is I can feel it pushing in, filling up the unoccupied space in the house on a day like this. Like the fog outside the window, its threatens to obscure all else.
Boredom and loneliness isn’t quite right though. Those aren’t quite the two words to describe it. My body is busy playing, cuddling, wiping, walking, tidying, scrubbing, chasing, tickling and my mind is constantly churning, constantly telling myself I should be doing a better job at being a mum; that I should be tidier, more energetic, more patient, more compassionate, better organised, more lively and that I am always falling short.
Can you be bored and also be in a kind of mental overdrive?
And loneliness isn’t quite right either. I am with my son. I do see other grown ups for the odd coffee. I connect with people. I go to a toddler group. I have friends and most of all, I love to be by myself, to be left to my own thoughts and to be able to do my own thing. It is my best luxury.
So what is this thing I feel myself sinking into on days like this?
It is . . .
a kind of unhappiness I suppose
and also a kind of struggle to accept myself as a mum and to believe that I am doing a good job, that I can do this, that I am doing it, that my children are happy, that I am doing ok.
I find it hard to be at home with a toddler on my own. I find that day long and tiring and frustrating and mentally unstimulating. But I also would rather be there with him than anywhere else in the world. I want this time with him. So this then leaves me to ask; was motherhood meant to be like this? Is it normal to feel so cut off on days at home? And without going to every single baby/toddler group going how the hell can we make it feel better?
Sometimes I wonder what you would see if you took a slice through all the houses on my street. How many others mums on their own would you see? How many carers? How many elderly people who have not spoken to anyone all day, all week? How many out of work or too sick to work? How many metres away am I from someone who feels they are a million miles away from anyone else?
And I guess I am writing this because I feel this is important, just to say all of this out loud or not quite out loud. Just to put it somewhere.
I started this blog to create a space where I could write what I was really thinking and feeling about motherhood, but if you want to write how you feel too you can do that here. You can comment on my facebook page or you can leave an anonymous comment on this blog post if you want to.
I could end this post by explaining that I’m actually ok and by telling you how much I love and enjoy spending time with my children, but you know what? I don’t feel I need to do that anymore.
Those are the kind of things that go without saying.
These are the things that often go unsaid.