Peepo!

Here’s a little baby

One, two, three

Stands in his cot

What does he see?

morning

And so begins one of the most deeply moving books in Sam’s growing library collection.

We turn the page, and we are right there. It is early morning. We can sense the silence and stillness of the room, that sweet time just before the alarm goes, and it is time to get out of the warm bed and face the day. The baby’s parents are still asleep. This is such a familiar, ordinary bedroom. There is a suitcase under the bed (just like at my grandparents’ place, where my grandfather stored his archives). Baby and adult clothes are strewn across the floor and hang off the chest of drawers and bed railing.

There is something very timeless about the ‘shadows moving on the bedroom wall, and the sun in the window’. Those are the sorts of things we used to notice as children, whiling away time as we waited for adults as they were doing whatever it was that needed to be done. The sun and the shadows it creates are signaling the beginning of the day.

These details remind me of sitting in a park with my grandma, when we would go to meet a friend of hers who had a granddaughter my age (I was probably around 4). We would all sit on a bench and my grandma and her friend would talk. I remember looking up to the sky and hearing cooing doves. Just that sound, and that languid warm late afternoon air, and just sitting there listening, stayed with me. Time passing, but also standing still. Or when I was at home, trying to fall asleep, examining the patterns on the carpet on the wall next to our bunk in my and my brother’s room. All the delicate swirls and geometric shapes, following them with my finger, looking at the colours.

Here’s a little baby

One, two, three

Sits in his high chair

What does he see?

porridge

The day had started. Grandma had already done a wash of the whites and is hanging them out; some colours are still left to do, waiting near the sink. Dad is bringing in a bucketful of coal for the stove (my granddad used to have to get coal at the break of dawn to start the stove at my grandparents tiny flat after the war). A box of toys sits, spilling them out on the floor.

 

Here’s a little baby

One, two, three

Sits in his pushchair

What does he see?

bonfire

Now this one, what is it about it that brings tears to my eyes every time I turn to this page? ‘He sees a bonfire smoking, pigeons in the sky, his mother cleaning windows, a dog going by’. It is a dull grey day. Mum is doing her housework, the sisters are looking for something to do. Another ordinary day. The bonfire might be for burning autumn leaves, and you can almost smell the acrid smoke in the stillness and quiet. The only sound is the pigeons cooing. Nothing much is happening; life is happening. Time is passing. This is how we pass our time, our days.

 

Here’s a little baby

One, two, three

Sits on the grass

What does he see?

Sam always gets restless at this point, and I wonder whether it is because it is my least favourite page. Why is that? The baby is now in a park with grandma, watching his sisters fishing in a pond. Maybe there is something a bit jarring about the sisters’ ‘dresses tucked in knickers and legs shiny wet’. Or maybe it is because we are temporarily out of the domestic space, and in the open. There is too much space here. It reminds me of when Sam just started to walk, and I would take him to the park thinking he needed wide expansive spaces to be encouraged to take longer walking attempts. But what I quickly found was that to find his freedom in walking, he actually needed defined spaces between objects, so that he could have the safety of going between one and the next. He needed boundaries and limits, to gain confidence. Much of the baby’s life is spent in reference to, working with and against the confines of enclosed spaces. The freedom that completely open unbounded space offers is an acquired taste.

 

Here’s a little baby

One, two, three

Sits on his sister’s lap

What does he see?

dozing

It is afternoon now, and the day is now on the wane. Mum is exhausted, dozing in the easy chair, with a cup of tea going cold and a magazine in her lap. Dad is gesturing us to stay quiet, while pouring afternoon cups of tea. Grandma is now ironing the clothes she washed in the morning. It is the dreaded ‘witching hour’ – the sisters are squabbling, the baby’s biscuit is crumbling on the floor, the doggy who is not allowed in the house has made it inside. The day inexorably draws to a close. The cup of tea and cake will galvanise the adults for the last work that is to be done for the day.

 

Here’s a little baby

One, two, three

Sits in his bath-tub

What does he see?

bath

Dad is kneeling with his sleeves rolled up. There is a flannel on the table and soap in a cup. The nightie is warming on the oven door.

Mum is doing the wash-up after tea, hunched over the sink. A stack of clean dishes and the baby’s bottle are drying on the rack.

There is something so comfortingly unpretentious, so grounding, about the details of this scene. Nothing about soap in a cup or flannel is glamorous, picture-perfect. This is not the fantasy world of gorgeously made up mothers frolicking in a beautiful impeccable home with flower arrangements, with not a speck of dust or a dirty nappy in sight. This is the mess, the puddles on the floor, the raggedy towels, the improvisation and making do that goes with the territory of babies.

 

Here’s a little baby

One, two, three

On his way to bed

What does he see?

mirror

This picture brings tears to my eyes again. It is an interesting image. ‘He sees the landing mirror with its rainbow rim and a mother with a baby just like him’. When I was reading about the Ahlbergs, I read that Allan Ahlberg saw himself as the baby in the story. This picture makes sense of that.

Under the mirror, there is a handbag with a purse peeking out, a crystal cut vase, a jewellery box sitting on a doily, a safety pin. Familiar objects reminding me of my grandma’s place. An ordinary messy hall stand.

The baby is looking straight at us smiling, reflected in the mirror, held by his mum also looking at us and his dad kissing him. In the background reflected in the mirror, we see the very same bedroom where we started the day, and the cot made ready for sleep. Grandma and the sisters are looking up from downstairs. Because we are looking at the reflected image head on, we must be part of the scene. Who are we? Was this book about us?

Here’s a little baby

One, two, three

Fast asleep and dreaming

What did he see?

Another day had passed. I am reminded of a day being so much longer proportionally in relation to the baby’s short life. Days in our childhood sometimes seemed to last an eternity, though just the same 24 hours on standard clock-time. Every day holds experiences that may be mundane to us, but absolutely new and fascinating to the baby. This is the time to dream and store away memories. Another day awaits tomorrow.

Reflections on an evening’s play

The other day, something interesting happened.

It was early evening, just after dinner-time for Sam. The sweet hour between the chaos of food being flung about, between shoveled mouthfuls of something hopefully nutritious and repeat episodes of Pepa Pig, and bath time.

Sam was playing on the floor in the living room, and I joined him. As he was busily moving his cars, from floor to couch to floor again, I sat on the floor with him, just watching. It was so enjoyable to simply sit and watch his activity, listen to his chatter, see his lovely face lighting up. One of those timeless moments, when you think: ‘this is it!’ Just being there.

Do you wonder why I singled out this experience? Maybe even question whether I spend enough time with Sam? Perhaps you feel like offering me wise words that good parenting is about being present, in the moment, ‘waiting and watching’. Or that I need to slow down and enjoy the small things, because they don’t last, and children grow up so fast. That I should be grateful for my blessings.

If you did (and trust me, I have been guilty of the same for which I am truly ashamed), I am curious to know why we often jump to these platitudes. And why we feel the need to advise, to chide, or judge.

I am. I am very grateful. Being Sam’s mum is the best thing that has happened to me, hands down. He is my favourite person in the entire world, hands down. My love for him is beyond measure.

But let me tell you what was different about this evening.

Sam had been sick on and off for a month or more – we are right in the thick of the dreaded ‘starting daycare’ germfest. So no daycare for Sam, and no paid work (aka ‘rest’) for me for many days. I have had assessments and exams for my part-time study. I have been squeezing study into every free minute. The day in question was a Monday, when I usually go to work. Sam got conjunctivitis the Friday before, and we decided he would stay at home for a few days. But instead of just automatically taking a sick day while my husband went to work, I asked him to take a day off and care for Sam, and I would take the next day. And he did, and they had a nice day together.

When I was sitting down with Sam at the end of this Monday, I had a day which didn’t start with me frantically trying to get him changed, fed, dressed, while doing same for myself, and corralling him into the car. I just went to work. Then I came back and dinner was already made. So I sat down after my day at work, I was just there to spend time with Sam. I did not have another 10 things on – another run of the washing machine having just spun out and waiting to be hung, the oven beeping at me, the shopping to be ordered or packed away, toys to be picked up, clothes to be folded, dishwasher to be emptied, etc etc etc. I  just relaxed with my gorgeous son and enjoyed his delightful company. I felt truly happy in that moment.

But let’s face it, how often does that happen for mums? The meme doing the rounds on Facebook about what it feels like to be a woman (‘imagine having a browser with 3241 tabs open all the time’) is funny, and sad. Because it is so true.

Something else that has happened recently relates to this. As Sam is making headway into the territory of turning 2 (terrible or terrific?), and gets more dramatic and willful, I asked a general question about this on social media. The responses I received, all well meant and lovely and genuinely trying to help, were so unmistakably divided into 2 camps. Various advice – from friends without kids of their own. And commiseration and reassurance (that it is a stage, and that we can get through it, but need lots of support and breaks) – from other parents.

This, it dawned on me, is what is problematic about assuming all parents need is theoretical advice, and what is hardest to explain to those who are not themselves parents.

Most days so far, I am like my smartphone when it is running on about 10% battery power. Too many applications running, memory card nearly full, all functions soooo sloooow, freezing and stalling. The warning light is flashing that it needs to be recharged, but the charge doesn’t last very long. I am not alone.

From just observing mums running around with their prams, you cannot tell this. The picture looks so rosy. Wouldn’t everyone like to spend their days walking around the park enjoying the fresh air, eating out in cafes, catching up with friends, having playdates, shopping, or just hanging around the house, enjoying time with a bundle of joy?

If this is the image you have of motherhood, you are in fantasyland. The real stuff is brutal. It is not for weaklings. It breaks your back. It makes a calloused mess of your hands. I remember in the early delirious days, going to a shopping centre nearby and taking Sam into one of the parenting rooms, seeing the other mums, and thinking: ‘this is insane. This is the hardest job I have ever done, hands down. Here we all are, doing it. We are all at work here.’

The definition of ‘hard’, or ‘being tired’, changes. Before having Sam, doing something hard always had the proviso that it was time-limited. Doing my PhD was hard, but even though it took a while and took a lot of effort and energy, it was done and I put it behind me. Running uphill is hard, but then you get to sit down, have a cool drink and enjoy the view. Being sick is a nuisance, but you take a sick day, stay in bed with a book and a hot cup of tea, and look after yourself. Doing a difficult task can be hard, but you can try to focus on that one task, and not get distracted. And if you look after kids who are not your own, yes, it is hard, but you hand them back. And have a rest. And go back to your life.

Here is what happens when you are a parent. You can be as sick as you like, but you still get up through the night to feed, you still change nappies, wash bibs and clothes, cook meals, and do your parenting. Yes, your partner will help if you are lucky, but ultimately, you are always on duty. You have just run around the park after an energetic toddler, went to the shops, walked up the stairs lugging the toddler and the shopping, but now you have to feed lunch, and change him, run after him to take his shoes off, wash his hands (if you are lucky), get that phone/wallet/fragile object out of his grasp, hopefully put him to bed, and now shove something in your mouth quickly because you need to cook dinner. Or catch up on some phone-calls or making appointments. Or finally have a shower. Just because you have just run a marathon does not give you the ability to take the rest of the day off. Until the child sleeps. And nights are another shift.

And your attention is always split. Whatever you are doing, you are never just doing one thing – mentally, you are always in at least 2 places at once. Or 5. Or 10.

The reality about mothering (and what I struggle with the most) is that it comes as a package deal with bits that you may not have expected. Housework. Roles around the house and the relationship you may not have thought would be assumed as part of being the stay-at-home parent. Being a mother is not just about giving birth and caring for a child. In theory, biologically, yes. But the social role is a loaded one. As I said to a friend once, we never got a position description for this, and if we did – would we have signed it knowing all it entailed? So no, as much as well-meaning people may tell you that you should just sleep when your baby sleeps, in reality, unless you have means to employ help or willing and able family members and friends who will take over the running of your household, this advice is not going to work out.

So here is what I think about parenting theory.

I love it. I am a huge believer in it. But as much value as there is in parents having an understanding of developmental theory, attachment, and the other wonderful and fascinating literature on bringing a new person into the world, when a parent functions at a significantly reduced physical and mental capacity, the expectation of acting rationally and logically and utilizing whatever theory or great parenting idea, is not only unhelpful, it is unfair towards parents. I read somewhere that long term sleep deprivation and fatigue are equivalent to being drunk, in terms of how our brain functions, our cognitive abilities, concentration, attention and more. You just can’t do it. So reactions may be less than ideal. Tempers may flare. What will end up being done will do, but may not be ideal. But maybe sometimes that’s all that will be possible.

It is election time, and there was something on the news that the government was stalling reforms on childcare subsidies. It made me really mad. What mums need most often is a break. They need quality affordable care for their children, so that they can have some time to rest. Or to do something other than mothering or housework. This was the joke when Sam started daycare and I wasn’t working yet. I spent the first few days scrubbing the kitchen. Because it was so much quicker when Sam wasn’t in the way! Many mums from my mothers group said they did the same thing. And as much as we all laughed at ourselves, it was not really funny.

I hope to have many more moments like I had with Sam. Sometimes it will mean making the effort not to do 1000 things at once. To put aside the mounting laundry or pending assessments. But I will also try to ask for more help, and take some more time for me. Because if I can be more rested, and have some time to enjoy something I used to like doing, I will also definitely be a better mum.

Ramblings on recent events

More brutality, violence, death, in the name of some absurd mediaeval gobbledygook, and something inexplicable – people knowingly, willingly, dying for ‘the cause’ (world domination/Apocalypse now/revenge/true religion/insert your guess).

Yes, I am somewhat naïve, so my question is, what would happen if someone stopped a person like that and tried to get through beyond the layers and layers of indoctrination, theory, self-justification, self-righteousness. Would there be anything at all to get to, at the bottom of the pit? Deep down, buried beneath it all, still, any real human emotions? Like fear, sadness, shame? Would a person like that at any level be aware that they are causing pain and suffering to others? And what do they do with that feeling? Do they ever have a glimpse of the question in their head: ‘What am I doing?’ Without ‘because’, ‘in the name of’, ‘in order to’. Just, ‘what is happening?’ Can someone so saturated with crap stop and think? Maybe not.

On Facebook, I asked whether there could be anyone in their community, like a mother or grandmother, to get through to them. Of course, I was quickly called naïve. Their parents would be behind them, the same as them.

What kind of parents sacrifice their children?

One of the more shocking realisations (of many) having become a mother, is the sheer enormity and constancy of labour, work, energy, it takes. From the early days of pain, sore, grazed and bruised body parts, countless waking at night, mornings blurred by the vertigo of fatigue, to feeding, cleaning, nappies, teaching, reading, tidying, bathing, running after, wiping etc. Nothing about parenting, once you’ve entered this terrain, looks casual, easy, fluffy or pink. It’s brutal work. And that’s why, I suppose, there is (apart from the ever expanding love for my child), a great sense of investment, of so much at stake.

So what kind of a mother sacrifices all this willingly, the years of back-breaking work and devotion? What sort of a mother does all this, knowing her child is just fodder for the great fight? Even if she is religious, devout, believes in the cause, believes she is but a part of a greater reality, does not matter as an individual, still, how can she do all these things, knowing the child will not live beyond his tender years of youth? How does she mother, and does this feed into the problem? I suppose it’s no different to the mothers over hundreds of years, producing cannon fodder for the countless wars fought, lost and won, and ultimately, gathering dust in history books. So much waste.

Female selflessness, self-obliteration, has always fascinated/horrified me. I have met some women, with little education, devout in faith, completely tethered to their family needs, and seemingly oblivious of any of their own. Without complaint (so their family insisted), without reproach, they never ask, and just give. Living in houses falling apart, freezing in winter and boiling at night, with husbands who have crazy whims and fancies but little regard for their wife’s needs, they seem to just float above it all, smiling and taking the little time between chores to read their Holy Book of choice. This was true happiness, I had been told by members of their family. True happiness in ceasing to exist as a person.

The chances of a dissenting female voice, and one to speak for the value of their labour, the value of the life they created, in any of these extreme and ultra-patriarchal organisations, are probably next to nil. What a depressing reality, thinking of generations of men who cannot value the gift of life they have been given, in love with death and destruction.

Today, a poem

Untitled

A load of washing ends the cycle

with a bang of the old workhorse.

The basket is ready for my catch of the day:

pants, socks, smalls of various hues of greying black and navy.

I pull them out one by one. A snowstorm starts.

Fine soft flecks stuck on the twisted rungs of underwear and tracksuit chords,

embedded in the folds, the creases.

Wads of white sodden paper peppering the mound of wet darkness.

“I don’t use tissues”, my husband says from the kitchen.

Crumpled white is always stuffed into my back pockets.

Small packets hide in prams,  bags. I always grab

a serviette, or a paper towel when I leave café tables,  change rooms, houses.

When I was small, my babushka always carried:

a hanky, and

a piece of cottonwool

in her bra.

(We didn’t have tissues in the USSR. It was a ‘deficit’, as we used to say.)

I carry a tissue in my bra nowadays, if pockets or bags are unavailable.

Because of:

runny noses,

sticky mouths and hands,

messes on tables,

dripping gelatos, or just

suddenly something somewhere sloppy, slippery, slimy, slobbered over.

The balcony is a snow dome of slowly circling flakes.

I get out the dustpan brush,

telling myself to check the pockets next time for the thousandth time.

Playing shops

So, there is this little playground we often go to, about a 20-minute brisk walk along Hen and Chicken Bay. It takes a little effort to get there (especially now, with all the construction going on), but worth it, as it is under shade and has our favourite swings.

A few months ago, when S wasn’t walking just yet, we were there. S was enjoying his swings, and I was watching a game a grandma was playing with her little granddaughter, a girl of about 4. There is a little cubby ‘shop’ at this playground, with a counter and a register, and the little girl was huddling inside, being a ‘shopkeeper’. At first, grandma was buying fruit, then groceries, then bread and milk. Each round of the game had a pattern: greetings, some banter about what was on sale today, then requests for items and the items being given (twigs and leaves from the mulch ground), then the naming of the price, always a surprise from grandma (“So dear!” or, “So cheap today!”), the exchange of ‘money’ (more twigs) and then the goodbyes and seeyounexttimes. As the round ended, grandma walked off, and then returned to the shop, asking: “Is the shop open today?” and so the game continued.

This game went on for some time. We were on playground time, so we had a fair go of the swings, then tried the seesaw, the slide and walked around with S holding my hand – probably not less than half an hour, most likely more. I was not paying any particular attention, but could hear it at the background, the naming of items for sale, the negotiation of price, the “goodbye and see you tomorrow”. There was something reassuring and comforting in the ritual. What struck me was the number of turns this game took, and the patience and interest this woman took in her granddaughter’s game. She just kept on doing it, inventing new items to buy, new ‘haggling’ pleas, over and over again. Those with older children know this all too well, I am sure – the sheer repetitiveness of some activities kids like. I know it so far with reading books to S, the same books over and over producing the same smiles and delight from him every time.

Well, S started walking on his own now, and we found this playground a good one for building his confidence, as it has objects his height at just the right distance for his ventures out on his own. Last time we went, he formed a little circuit between the light pole, the monkey bars, the slide ladder and some single standing rocking horses and twisty fish. He was chuffed at being able to walk such a long distance, and completed a few rounds to my cheers and hoorays.

So, we walked over there this morning to try out our new circuit. It had been raining the night before, and there were only 2 kids there, a girl of about 5 and a boy of 2, by the looks. Their dad was there with them.

We walked in and went on the swing (our usual starting point). The little girl wandered over to us straight away and told us excitedly about a rotting apple she found further away, offering to show us how yucky it was. I said something back, she kept talking, as I kept the swing going. The father was off at some distance, I assumed, looking after the younger boy. “Lets play shops”, the girl then said to me, pointing to the play “shop”. “OK”, I said, “but my son had just started walking and needs my help. So we will walk over there slowly”. S, of course, started meandering off as he does, attempting to grab all the wonderful leaves and sticks off the ground, and to surreptitiously stick a piece of mulch in his mouth.

Eventually, we made it to the ‘shop’ and started the game. I ‘bought’ some apples, and bananas and watermelon, ‘paid’, and we said our goodbyes and thankyou’s. “Lets have another game,” the girl cried out. “What would you like this time?”

We had another turn, and another, while S was pulling my hand to go on his own venture. As I started walking off with him, the girl followed, jumping on the slide. “See how fast I go!” she shouted from the top, but we were around a corner where I could only see her from the corner of my eye. “I can see you from here!” I shouted back, but she was not satisfied with where I was. We walked all the way to see her, and she slid off, “Wee!!!” Sam went on his little circuit, and her father walked by, asking some perfunctory questions about S’s age and telling me his childrens’. He proceeded to walk off to sit on one of the swiveling stars, and got on his phone.

“Let’s go and play shops again!” the girl begged. By now, I was experiencing a niggling annoyance, as S wanted to walk in a completely different direction and I was torn between letting him walk me (what we usually do) and obliging the girl. We walked over to the ‘shop’ and this time, I was the shopkeeper, having to put S with me inside the cubby, so that he would not wander off. We had another round, and I said that we probably had to go now, as S was tired and needed to sleep. “Why doesn’t he just sleep in the pram?” she asked. As I started explaining, I had that slightly uncomfortable feeling I used to have often with other people’s kids, before S arrived. The strange feeling of being put on the spot by a little person who has grown up questions, but cannot understand a grown up answer. And the growing question in my head: “Where is your father?”

As S and I walked off having made our excuse, another mother arrived, with her daughter, a girl of about S’s age. The little girl I played with immediately went over to them, engaging them in similar conversation and asking to play shops. The woman obliged, getting into the cubby shop and putting her daughter inside. By this time, S was getting tired after his early start and a bad night before, so we were walking towards the exit gate. As I was strapping him in his pram, I could still hear the game going on. As we walked around the playground fence and found our footpath, I heard the woman calling out, and saw her running out of the ‘shop’ after her daughter who must have walked off on her own and ended up near a big puddle. I noticed the man walking over towards them from the bench he had been sitting on the whole time.

So, I became curious about the gamut of feelings I was now experiencing.

Guilt. Because how could I refuse a child wanting to play or watch her slide down the slippery dip? After all, the thought immediately arose, this is the big problem with our society today, isn’t it, that we are not a ‘village raising a child’ anymore, but do our own solitary things. After all, haven’t I often observed in the past the women arriving at the playground with their children, all looking after their own, or the lone pram pushers, crowded yet alone in the shopping centres? Haven’t I thought, where is the community, the sharing of care, the looking after each others’ kids our mums took for granted?

But – this wasn’t it. This was no shared community. This was me looking after both my child and this man’s. I brought my son along to this playground, expecting to look after him, and sure, potentially look out for some of the other kids or engage in mutual play. Of course. But while I played with the girl, no one was playing with my son, or watching him – I had to do both. No one was watching the baby girl daughter of the other woman, while she was roped into the shop game. There was no introduction or negotiation of shared care, nor even the simplest of acts of joining, standing nearby, or being attentive to mutual activity by this dad. The man who brought his children to this playground was, for most of the time, nowhere in sight. In fact, at one point, he went outside the playground fence altogether, leaving both kids under my, and then the other woman’s watch, as he walked to refill his water bottle or get something from the pram.

Seems convenient. Sort of like, I guess, an occasional care arrangement.

So, why was that ok?

Is it because women, mummies, grandmothers are better at playing shops? Or watching a child sliding and cheering them on? Or expressing interest in their surprise finds and insights? Why would that be so? Is it because women just naturally don’t find stuff repetitive, that we are better with stuff that can get boring, because we are just naturally more patient and kind? Maybe it’s the breasts… Something along those lines anyway. It’s always about breasts and hormones when we talk about what comes naturally, don’t we.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s that we are conditioned and condition ourselves for all those things, and at the end of the day, well actually, we are left with no choice. Because who will look after baby?

Am I overthinking the whole thing? Maybe. Maybe the guy was just a tired dad needing a little break from juggling attention between 2 kids. But hey, who doesn’t? Who isn’t tired?

So we walked off home. Feeling kind of like something had been crossed. An ‘off’ kind of smell, as a colleague would say. Feeling annoyed for S not getting his walking done, for myself feeling guilty yet angry, for the woman now roped in to the arrangement. Thinking I should have said something, to the man, or at least to the woman. And a bit sad for the little shop girl.

On resentments of motherhood (initial thoughts)

Something my husband said to me during an argument, which made me think:

“You resent the things that all mothers do”.

So, this old idea that a woman naturally, effortlessly transitions into a “mother”, because she was always destined to, was geared for, so, how come a complaint?

Can men ever get an appreciation of what becoming a mother feels like?

Apart from a myriad other things, amazing, wonderful things, what springs to mind as the hardest is the necessary shutting down, putting away, of so many parts of yourself, to fit the hours of the day, the amount of energy available and the needs of others. A lopping off of bits and pieces, interests, pursuits, own space, room to think. And then, managing the expectation that this is just what mothers do.

One of my biggest gripes from the early days of motherhood has been my husband’s ongoing pursuit of swimming, one of his long standing rituals way before we met. For the first 7 weeks when he was with us at home, he religiously went almost daily, early in the morning, leaving me with the baby. It was for the good of the family, he said, as he needed to be healthy for both of us. It seemed to make sense. As time went on, and he went back to work, swimming became a weekend morning activity for him, with some grocery shopping or such tailing it off just on lunchtime. The day with him at home starts at lunch or after, and any family outings, well after 2-3pm, by which time I am exhausted and sleepy after looking after the baby. ‘My time’ (if it happens) will more often than not be slotted in at the end of the day. When I raised a question about this, my husband was quick to point out that he cannot go swimming during the week when he works as he gets up with the baby and lets me sleep (true and much appreciated), so he cannot give up all swimming, and mornings are the best time for him.

An incontrovertible argument. I get it, I do. However, the corollary of this is that ‘my time’ is whatever time is left over. Time for my swim, or art, or reading, or writing. It is nothing new, of course. Drusilla Modjeska’s ‘Stravinsky’s Lunch’ springs to mind here, Stella Bowen’s motherhood and sacrifices to enable her to continue making art. And many others. The third or forth shift, when everyone is fed and bathed and asleep. Burning the midnight oil at the kitchen table, to retain any sense of inner life other than in relationship with others.

‘My time’ is what is left over from the majority of time where baby belongs in my care, as a given. Baby is an extension of me, and I, of baby. It is a given that I will look after him, because that’s where I belong. So whilst my husband’s activities may be somewhat curtailed, he is still free to walk out the door to do whatever it is he wants or needs to do, whilst I simply cannot.

And it is this very difficult position, this new state of being, that is hardest to explain and that brings up most defensiveness and comments about resentment.

So what do I resent?

Certainly, not mothering my baby. Certainly, not my precious time with him. Certainly, not having this amazing gift in life.

I resent the expectation of willing sacrifice, and the reproach when I struggle with it and voice my struggle.  And in the bigger picture, the reduction of a ‘mother’ to a woman making do with whatever is made available after others have taken what they need. The burnt chop scenario, over and over again.

So, nothing new.

And so it goes…

Having had over a year at home with our precious firstborn boy, there have been many projects contemplated, mulled over, half started and abandoned, due to various reasons, the main one being the partial inspiration for the title of this blog. It is, of course, the essence of Virginia Woolf’s famous ‘A Room of One’s Own’, and the story of mothers all around the place and throughout time… How to find the space – physical space (a clear desk!), the mental and emotional space (when baby sleeps!), to create something as well as the daily things and people we nurture, make and bake.

So, this is it.

A space to write, ponder, share, and daydream.

Welcome!

Diana