The thing about Motherhood is, it’s a very guilt ridden profession. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by when you don’t wind up consumed with guilt about some aspect of parenting. Maybe it was the McDonalds you fed them, in lieu of a home cooked meal. Maybe it’s because you were snappy and short tempered. Maybe you weren’t listening to them tell you about their day when you were too engrossed in Facebook. Maybe it was all of the above because some days it’s all you can do.
Lately, for me, there’s been a new cross to bear. I’ve been burying myself under the weight of some solo parenting guilt. Solo parenting is not a new thing for me. I’ve been rocking this lark for about 18 months now and, for the most part, we’re in a good grove. It’s what we’re used to and it’s how we roll. Whilst there have been times that I’ve wished things were different, for the most part, we do ok.
But for the last few weeks, I’ve struggled. I’ve struggled to spread myself thinly enough to accommodate the wants and needs of three individual beings. I’ve struggled with sleep deprivation and the lack of patience it leaves me with during the day. I’ve struggled to offer the kind of family dynamic I’d like my kids to have because, without the Spouse around, that dynamic just doesn’t exist.
It’s been a busy time. I have a weaning baby; a school girl with homework to do; a preschooler who needs his packed lunches made. I have a committee to run and a house to clean and meals to make and baths to give and a to do list that never seems to get any shorter, no matter how many jobs I’m able to tick off it.
I edit photos whilst doing laundry. I empty the dishwasher whilst feeding the baby. I do admin whilst bathing the kids. I wipe noses whilst taking the bins out. I fight back the tears when they won’t eat the dinner I made; because despite the back ache and the burning bicep that come from having to hold a fractious little one in your arms, whilst also wielding a saucepan; I still managed to cook them something with a degree of nutritional value and now the little sh*ts are claiming that they don’t like pasta anymore! And because of this, because there truly aren’t enough hours in each day, something’s got to give. And that’s when the guilt sets in.
I’m trying to be 100%, but I seem to come unstuck usually around 90. Somewhere along the line, I’ve come to rely on the 4-year-old to take her 3-year-old brother to the toilet when I’m stuck beneath a hungry baby. And this has progressed into other things. She helps him to put his pyjamas on; reminds him to brush his teeth; reads him a bedtime story. She’s somehow taken on the role of Mum. My role. And I feel terrible about it. She shouldn’t be doing those things because I should. I should be there for my son when he needs me and I should be there for my daughter too, instead of using her as the extra pair of hands I miss when the Spouse is away. She doesn’t complain. In fact, I think she quite enjoys it. She’s a born nurturer and gravitates towards those that might need her assistance. But the fact is, it’s not fair on either on them. It’s not fair that I have to leave the baby to scream because I need to retrieve the other two from the bath. Or that I haven’t checked homework over or listened to reading or played the board game I’ve been promising for weeks or washed their hair or a hundred other things that I probably should have done, but didn’t, because there simply wasn’t the time.
And each night, once they’re all asleep and I reflect on the day, I find myself feeling physically engulfed by the guilt because as much as I want to do it all, I can’t. I’m trying my best, but my worry is, my best might not be good enough…