Come and sit by me, I want a chat.
I feel two-dimensional, often, as the mother of two toddlers.
And I need a better way of categorising them than that, for a start. ‘Two toddlers’ is too brief to convey the sweat and tears and bruises and seesawing emotions. It says nothing about the early mornings, disturbed nights, battleground mealtimes, or constant anticipating and managing of their shifting moods.
It doesn’t talk about how they’re both toddlers, but at different stages with entirely different needs, and yet all of those needs are relentless and all the time, every minute that they’re awake.
It doesn’t get across the joy of it, either – the absolute heart-hurting beauty of their expansion and questioning and love. What a privilege it is to watch. How often I fall short of the trust they place in me, because they have to, because I make everything they know.
It consumes me. I never wanted to be consumed.
Over the summer I started getting twitchy about how much time Tim was spending on his bike. We have always encouraged each other to pursue our own interests: the ones that we fell in love with in the first place, that make us well-rounded people. But I was irritated by his ‘time off’ not because he wasn’t allowed it, but because I couldn’t think of anything I could do for myself in turn. I asked myself what my hobbies were, and came up with a buzzing blank. All of my thinking, writing, talking: all of it, about these boys.
Let me say that I know this time is short, and I will miss it when it’s gone.
Let me say that I believe creating and moulding this family will be the most important thing I will ever do.
Let me say that, despite all that, because of all that, I need to show them that I am their mother with my whole person. There are depths beyond the business of their immediate care. There are places I find joy that no one else can touch. They need to see it. If I do not start by showing them that women are three-dimensional, complex and interesting, how will they believe it of the women they will meet later?
I was revolving this around late one night, yearning for something I couldn’t put into words. What is it? I thought. What is it I want?
The answer came, eventually.
I want a richer life.
I’ve had that in my head as summer has deepened into autumn. A richer life. Not a different one, and not a busier one, but one with better things in it. More little things that make me happy. More balance. More connections. More attention to my spirit. If the canvas of my day felt like mostly pastel watercolour, I wanted oils. Have you ever seen a Van Gogh close up? The brush strokes are tiny, but every one of them is richly coloured and meaningfully placed. It’s one of the reasons I love him so much.
Um, I’m getting carried away.
I think it’s worth a shot, though, so I’ve been trying hard to put little dots of richness into my everyday. Here are some of the ideas I’ve been trying out:
- spending more time outdoors, in nature
- expressing appreciation to friends
- starting a book club
- choosing our family activities more carefully, so we’re outside/interacting/seeing new things/performing service
- exercising a couple of times a week (WHAT, I KNOW)
- using the fancy pottery and napkins at dinner
- having flowers on the table
- making my phone harder to reach from bed
- buying the good ice cream
- resurrecting old interests in art, history, music, theatre, and making dates to enjoy them
Not all of them at once. I’m not looking to be more stressed, just better balanced. I am in here somewhere, and so are you. So I am choosing little things, richly coloured, meaningfully placed. To help me feel like I can stand out on the canvas. Life in oils.
I think I’m starting to feel better.
So tell me, because I need solidarity: have you ever caught yourself being COMPLETELY wrapped up in what you do for your kids? And what weird and wonderful interests do you have (or once have) that make you yourself? I can name the wigs in any episode of Alias you care to mention, and could tell you some things about the Tudor court that would make your hair curl.