In the last several weeks, a recurring theme has emerged in conversations I’ve been having with my other mommy friends. A few examples…
1. My sister recently visited for 10 days from Halifax. Somebody said to me, “It’s so great your sister is staying with you, it must be giving you a real break.”
2. The other day my friend’s sister put her two toddlers to bed while she ran out and got some groceries. Her mother-in-law said to her, “That was so nice of your sister – it must have been a nice break from the kids.”
3. When another friend complained about being burned out and wanting some time away from the kids, her husband said, “What are you talking about? Your mom was just here for the long weekend, and now you need another break?”
I’m sure you noticed the word that all these scenarios have in common. It’s funny how often people throw that word around moms with small children. As if any slight change in routine or extra pair of hands on deck is automatically a break.
Don’t get me wrong, all of the above examples were helpful. It’s absolutely helpful to get the grocery shopping done without having to haul Cora around in the sling and have Tristan trying to play hide-and-seek in the freezer section. But is it a break? No. It’s awesome to have company help with the kids, to entertain them, to bathe them, to read them stories. It’s helpful, but it’s not a break. Going to my mom’s for dinner so I don’t have to cook or clean? Wonderful! A break? Nope.
The thing is, parenting, especially part-time single-parenting, isn’t just taking care of the kids. It’s the kids, the groceries, the laundry (by gods, the laundry), the cooking, and the cleaning. Oh, the cleaning. It’s keeping the floors and carpets in some semblance of cleanliness because little hands and feet and faces are all over them. It’s keeping the tub reasonably clean because there are two baths a day in it and they drink the bathwater, even if they’ve just peed in it – especially if they’ve just peed in it. It’s having to clean the toilet every damn day because Tristan needs to empty his potty into it himself, and his hands are all over the seat and the bowl, and try catching him for a handwash before he runs to the fridge to get his reward of a yogurt raisin. It’s not having 5 minutes for a morning shower without playing peek-a-boo around the shower curtain. It’s the crazy hours from 5-8 when I have to bath Cora, nurse her, put her to bed, get Tristan’s dinner ready, eat with him, bath him, put him to bed, read stories, sing a song and kiss him goodnight. It’s the dozen little jobs that have been on my mind for six months, and I think maybe I’ll be able to check one of them off tonight but by the time I close his door, all I have the energy for is a half hour of something brainless and an early night. Because I’ll be up 2-3 times with Cora, plus 1-3 times with Tristan to fetch his soother, and 5:30 is going to come around awfully damn early.
So if somebody is around and helps me with one or two of those things, that’s great, it’s helpful, and I’m thankful, I really am. But unless I’m either a) out of the house, sans children, not doing chores; b) in the bath with a glass of wine and a book; or c) asleep, then it’s not a break. And by that criteria, I can count the number of breaks I’ve had since Cora was born on one hand. And still have a finger or two left over.
Okay, I’ve cleared the air and the pity party is now over. But while I think of it, does anybody want to babysit this weekend? I could really use a break.