“More toast please Mum”, I reply.
Aah. Breakfast in bed. My once a week special treat. Babydaddy does a sleepover and I get to have a leisurely morning while he gets to see what it is that I do on all the other days. In theory. But if that’s how it’s gonna fly, there’s a whole lot of ground work to lay. And who’s gotta lay it? Mother hen, that’s who.
Congratulations and hooray for all the women out there who have intuitive partners who really truly share the load. I understand that there’s a possibility of not being the only one to carry the responsibility of doing all the thinking, and I promise that there are times when I really truly have a go at letting go of the reigns; but the reality is, that when I make myself a tray of tea and toast and quietly bring it back to bed, I am still the mum.
And if I want to enjoy peaceful, quiet time, I have to earn it.
I have to explain to the other adult that on all the other mornings I am up with the toddler and on the go, responding to her needs, keeping us on track, and getting us out the door on time.
This includes, and is rarely limited to – having the kitchen cleaned before bedtime just in case I fall asleep with Baby (best case scenario for my ongoing mental health, given the early starts and broken sleep, not to mention mega sleep debt), making sure I’m showered, have taken my magnesium & brushed my teeth, have tidied the living area ready for a fresh day, have set up an ‘invitation to play’ for the next morning, have prepared her lunchbox if it’s a daycare day, and have applied my moisturiser whilst saying to the mirror “I love you, I see you, you are great”. So that’s the night before.
In the mornings, I have to be organised with keeping Baby happily busy if I don’t want to be followed to the toilet, or I just have to accept that having things brought to me in that tiny room is a part of this stage of parenting. The luxury of closed door toileting, long showers, a leisurely coffee… these are things I have forfeited for a child who feels connected and secure. For now, because she is still very small.
So, on my ‘morning off’, my idea is that I get a chance to replenish so that I can keep going on all the other days. I’m lucky as a single mum to have this weekly chance.
But if Babydaddy wants to go to the toilet and shut the door, Baby knows where to find Mum. If Babydaddy wants to have a shower, same. If Babydaddy didn’t get organised with lunchbox the night before, Baby needs to be entertained while he does this at his once a week leisurely pace. And if there was no ‘invitation to play’ set up the night before, then keeping Baby entertained takes more.
As Mother Hen, is all of this intrinsic? Hell no. How I manage sustainably comes down to acquired skills, thought out systems, and practised rhythms. Yes, there is an organic natural flow, yes, there is a lot of intuitive loving awareness, yes, I’m a bloody great improviser and a fast thinker and can operate in the kitchen like one with many more arms than I have.
But at the end of the day, and at the start of the next day, and in the seemingly endless, relentless cycle of keeping on going in a home that is ordered enough to support a developing sense of security, it is my presence and preparedness that keeps me going.
Because this job needs me to keep going.
And that’s why, when, on my ‘morning off’, Baby has come wandering and found me, and nobody is protecting my solitude from outside my bedroom, and she sees me with my tray of tea and toast, and asks for a bit, and then a bit more, I respond with loving gentle parenting. Because that’s easier than getting up to knock on the toilet door to explain all of the above.