Mumbot Version 2.0 – a work in progress

This is not me. This is, in fact, Nicole Kidman. Doing the acting.

Disappointing as it may be to That Man, there will never be anything Stepford about me. I can bake, but I don’t do it recreationally. I love to cook, but I don’t do it to impress work colleagues. I can dance, but I don’t do it sober in a floral frock. And pearls? I like them black.

I wrote last year about my immense frustration with being at home, and the fact I’d thoroughly misplaced my patience. Sadly this is not a victory post. In fact, today I’m dangerously close to taking myself off for some ‘Time out’ in the sandpit to try and breathe and feel some sand between my toes. It’s about as close to the beach and some ‘me time’ as I’m likely to get. HOWEVER – I think I may have found, if not the patience, then some trick around it. BALANCE. Or some approximation of it, anyway.

There are two invisible kids sitting on the heavy side. Can you see them?

For me, that balance is work. I’ve been working two days per week in the office, doing work I love, for about a month or so now. My permanence hasn’t been confirmed so I’m a bit hesitant about declaring the work drought over, though I’m super-optimistic and feeling less like a citrus-fruit than I was around October last year.

Today, as a home day, has been a TOUGH DAY. Often they’re not, and we hang out and are chilled and relaxed and play together nicely. Yes! I know how to share! This is not that day, however. Keeping me going is the promise of a cappuccino, a desk, and air-conditioning tomorrow. Little A, my pocket rocket, has today drawn with biro on the white wardrobe (‘couldn’t find any paper mum’), put lipstick on the dog, taken 15 minutes to go to the toilet at the gym with the ‘engaged’ lock on the door and me outside, then had a fight with me about seatbelts. Oh, and hurt herself 3 times (falling off things, getting feet stuck in things), and spilt 2 cups of water. It’s only 4pm. I’m so tense I could scream, and with much guilt, I admit I have been. Revision: 5 minutes later – I have just found her in the bathroom lathered in Lucas’ pawpaw cream and water, over her face, arms, hands and hair. WHHYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!! Attention? Me going to work? Maybe I should be sitting with her and a book or playing, but we are both so mad at each other we need a little space right now. Tomorrow is a fresh start and we had a chat and makeup cuddles at bed.

I’m relieved to be going to work tomorrow. People listen to me there, and say ‘thank you’, and suggest I go and make myself a cup of coffee before we do some work. I sit and eat lunch in a courtyard garden, and read my Kindle on the train, and wear nice clothes, and get PAID to do these things. The best part of all is, I miss my girls, and I kiss their little faces all over when I come home, and look forward to playing with them all the next day. Work 5 days? That’s hard. Two days? That feels like balance, and like fake patience, because it makes me fresh for the girls twice each week. It also feels selfish, but I’ve almost convinced myself it’s part of making me a better mother. Plus, money.

This Mumbot Version 2.0 I’m working on? There’s nothing Stepford about it. Like that Vegemite Version 2.0 (Cheesymite?) they brought out a year or so ago and had trouble naming, I’m a work-in-progress. There’s a slower, more planned and organised way I’d like to deal with and respond to the girls, without the heights of emotion and the urgency of being late. Now, if only I can get the littlest family member to play along …


A woman of no virtue

Also useful as a wake-up device when boredom rears its ugly head

Because patience is one, right? And I seem to have misplaced mine, quite thoroughly. I’m not sure if it’s something to do with the fact that I’m a fairly controlling, perfectionist type of personality to begin with, or if it’s more to do with the fact that my daughters and I are quite similar (in the strong and the will departments). Either way, I’m finding mothering at the moment is making me take so many deep breaths I’m close to passing out from hyperventilation.

Discussing patience as a notion over a few wines the other night, a very wise friend of mine described it like a rubber band. Sometimes it’s really stretchy, and those little things the kids do that push those buttons just bounce off. Other times, however, the band is short and stretched tight, at capacity, and one more ill-timed wail of ‘Mummeeeeeee’ or melodramatic display of crocodile tears is enough to snap the band.

I know that staying home and mothering is a noble and incredibly important job. I just feel like I’m utterly crap at it unless I can re-stretch my band by engaging my brain in a way that feels meaningful to me. I am not a naturally patient person, and have to work really hard to bend myself into being her, because that’s what my kids need from me. I’m finding it tough.

This wise woman I know is naturally more patient, but equally, she knows what she needs to do to keep her rubber band stretchy. She always stays one step ahead of her kids, and doesn’t allow herself downtime, because they’ll catch up and overtake her. A very smart approach, and one I’d like to follow. Whether through laziness or extreme tiredness, I’ve so far found myself unable to follow in these footsteps, possibly because I abhor schedules and waving away the daily monotony of catching the 7:14 bus, with the same grey and unsmiling faces, was one of the most victorious things about leaving my full-time job. Flying by the seat of my pants is in some ways what keeps me sane in the groundhog dayness of mothering, but at the same time what engenders the insanity, because I lose the control I’m so fond of.

So where’s the happy medium? Where do I find my patience? It’s the main thing I need to work on in Me Version 2.0, because I don’t want to be Cranky Mummy anymore. I suspect the key is organisation. I’m probably going to have to go back to basics and draw up a timetable, building in 15 minutes before every engagement to allow for infuriating child-isms like changing into different outfits instead of just going to put their shoes on, or deciding to rip off a complete set of clothes to jump in the shower with me, because I feel too mean to hold the door jammed shut and say ‘NO’ for the 50th time after we’ve all only been awake an hour. Then there are the exactly right princess bandaids to be selected and applied for the little clumsy one who somehow manages to injure herself at least ten times per day. It’s all the small stuff I’m sweating which brings its own healthy dose of guilt.

I’m pretty sure, though, if I could be an ethereal calm-mama who still somehow managed to turn up places on time without half-naked children, my kids would not only appreciate my patience and serenity, but I’d feel more in possession of virtue.

If there is any advice on which rock to turn over to find the stash of patience, I’d be most grateful for the map. Anyone?