Lost in Motherhood: No thanks for the 857 tasks I complete daily
I applaud myself for making myself visible. I tell myself that I’m important
The stay-at-home parent: ‘I almost don’t notice it myself as the ordinary days blur into one.’ Photograph: Getty Images
Sitting on my two year old’s bedroom floor, in darkness, gentle nursery rhymes whistling through the air, I wait for her to fall asleep. Night after night. The same music, tempo and gentle pats on the back. “Lie down sweetie,” on repeat as she throws soother after soother out of the cot.
The routine, the parental monotony of a stay-at-home parent, seemed never ending. I felt lost, invisible even, as I blurred into the walls and kept the automatic rhythm of the house singing, so that all was well and the kids were being looked after. But no one seemed to notice. Like an effervescent ghost guilefully moving our lives through the hours until sundown, I was unnoticeable. Or so I thought.
So much of what I do as a mother occurs spontaneously, it’s hidden and seems to just happen. It’s how shirts magically appear in the wardrobe and the plate is somehow licked clean with a scrubbing brush. It’s how bedsheets are miraculously changed and the fine layer of dust disappears before anyone notices it’s there. It’s how tantrums are eased and sore knees are healed, and how nightmares are forgotten and how there are always teabags for a well-needed brew. It’s a multi-tasking parent doing what they do best. Keeping the heartbeat of the house beating along.
All a blur
I almost don’t notice it myself as the ordinary days blur into one. The dinners are made, lunches prepared, the mess cleared away and nappies changed. A constant flow until bedtime and the gentle pat, pat, pat.
The two year old is now four and I have replaced her floor with her sister’s floor as I sit at the same cot, different room, night after night, soothing a new person to sleep. The routine is the same and I wonder in the four years of being a parent do I still feel invisible?
I took myself out of the shadows of my kids and illuminated myself in all my unknown glory
In some ways, I do. There is no praise or thanks for the 857 tasks I complete in a day. There’s no kudos for the three different dinners I make to appease the varying tastes of adults, child and toddler. There’s no applause for the smiles and happy faces that fall asleep after a busy day of painting, decorating home-made cards and making cupcakes – whenever I feel energised enough to take on such frustrating tasks with kids who have little to no attention span.
Throughout these early years of parenting I am not necessarily looking for gratitude however, but rather some sort of acknowledgement that I am here. To be seen. To know that everything I do from the moment I wake, be it 2am, 5am or an almost never 8am, to the moment my eyes close and I dream of being someone else, or the old me, away from the long day of being Mum.
There was a time when I blurred into the life of my kids. A time when I was their mother and almost nothing else beyond that. I made myself invisible, lost in motherhood. I succumbed to the natural instincts of being their carer and forgot that I was here too. I forgot myself. I forgot who I was and who I wanted to be, losing focus between being me and being Mum. Forgetting to step outside of the Mum box once in a while.
If I want someone, anyone, to be aware of who I am, beyond the walls of our house and our kids, beyond the title of Mum, I had to see and appreciate myself first. It took having a second baby for me to figure this out.
As I sit, cramping my legs for the millionth time, gently shushing an overtired toddler to sleep, I silently and gently applaud myself for the things I’ve done, making myself visible. I tell myself that I’m important. It’s easy to feel defined by the world you make as a parent who runs the household, a parent who is enclosed in the routine of other people’s lives because, let’s face it, the routine of the children is greater than any need of the parent. Unless it’s coffee, then that is a necessity.
No one will see you, recognise you or appreciate you unless you let yourself be seen. I took myself out of the shadows of my kids and illuminated myself in all my unknown glory. It was terrifying considering I had to figure out who I was all over again. You can rarely be the person you used to be before kids. I knew I wanted to be heard and seen for who I am and not for simply being Mum. No one shouts louder than a parent. I roared.
I still do those 857 tasks in a day. I still chase after the kids. I still make separate dinners. But I know I’m important and I know I’m needed. I know the sacrifices I make are seen or will be seen one day. I know I’m not invisible. No mother or father is. No parent goes unnoticed when they strive to create a family life full of memories and happy faces. What we are building as a family can be seen miles around and Mum and Dad are at the top with hard hats on.