Its Monday morning, her partner is getting ready for work. The toddler is having breakfast and the infant suckles hungrily in her arms. She sips on her coffee, willing it it to work magic and take the tiredness away. She lost count of how many times she had to wake up in the middle of the night to resettle the infant. The toddler drops his spoon and starts having a melt down. Her partner continues to sip his coffee as he stares at the computer, oblivious to his surroundings. She waits for him to attend to the toddler, his phone rings, he answers and walks out to the balcony to avoid the screams from the toddler. She gets up from the feeding chair, infant still suckling. She picks up the spoon from the floor and gives it a quick rinse before giving it back to the toddler. The infant loses her latch on the breast and starts crying. She helps her reattach and gets back on the feeding chair. She picks up her coffee cup and tries to take another sip, but not before the toilet training toddler announces that he has to answer the call of nature. The cup is placed back on the table, she unlatches the infant and puts her down, takes the toddler to the bathroom but before they can make it, his trousers get wet. He is visibly upset and starts crying. In the next room, the infant is laying on the floor, arms flaring, screaming her head off. She consoles the toddler and reassures him that accidents are part of toilet training. She completes changing him and as they step out of the children’s room, her partner meets her in the hallway and hands her the screaming infant. His meeting has been changed and he needs to leave. She takes the infant and wishes him a good day.
She looks at the time. Seven thirty in the morning. She has been up for an hour and a half. Time to get ready for the day. After a quick freshening up, she packs healthy snacks for the toddler and pureed food for the infant. By eight o’clock, the kids are too restless. The toddler is climbing on furniture and trying to wrestle the sister. She is exhausted just from telling him what he cannot do. Time to leave the house. She heads to the local park. The infant will have her morning nap in the pram while the brother runs around the park. She will then get back home in time for lunch and afternoon naps. Or so she hopes.
At the park, she rocks the pram with one hand, trying to get the infant to sleep. She pushes the toddler on the swing with the other. She scans the park and studies other care givers. She makes eye contact with a mother rocking her baby in a carrier. They exchange a knowing look. No words are needed. They can both recognise sleep deprivation when they see it. Next to her, a grandmother is negotiating with a boy who is about five. Grandmother is ready to leave the park, but the boy is not. She knows how it will end. She moves on to a group of new mothers with their babies in their arms. She cannot hear what they are talking about but she guesses its about sore nipples and where to find the best lactation consultant. “Mommy, I want snacks”. Her toddler has had enough of the swing. She walks over to a picnic table and lays out the spread she prepared before leaving the house. Her son takes the bowl and flips it then starts crying. The watermelon and blueberries are so yesterdays snacks. Today, he wants grapes, cheese and crackers. She handles it just like any mother who has been in the business of serving toddlers would. It takes about fifteen minutes before he settles down. By this time, the infant is awake and rendering an ear piercing scream. She rocks the pram with one hand as she rinses the few blueberries and watermelon that she rescued of the ground. She looks at her watch. Eleven O’clock. One more hour at the park. The infant stops crying. The toddler takes off to chase some birds. She sits on the bench and lets out a big sigh.
Its been seven months since she started her maternity leave. Some days are great and she feels like a good mother, like she is on top of things. The kids are thriving, the toddler is saying please and thank you and having less tantrums, the baby is sleeping longer and seems happier. Other days, her trending hashtag is #mumfail. The books “Raising boys’ and ‘Save our sleep’ take up all the space on her night stand. Waiting for her to peruse the pages and learn how to be a super mum. They come highly recommended by friends who have preceded her in this motherhood journey. Friends who swear by these books and proclaim how their lives were transformed by them. She hopes to find time to read past the first page.
The screams of her toddler bring her thoughts back to the park. She has been mechanically rocking the pram. The toddler seems to have engaged in an unpleasant encounter with another park visitor. She can hear a carer repeating the all too familiar phrase. “Share your toys please”. She walks over and convinces her toddler to walk away. A bribe is involved. She used to frown at the thought of having to bribe children to get them to do things. Oh how she judged those who did, and how she wishes she could say to them “I get it”. Bribery is what gets the toddler back in the pram for the walk home.
Its lunch time. There is another tantrum from the toddler, screams from the infant and a lot of coffee for her. She manages to feed everyone lunch, clean the mess, read a story and put the toddler down for his afternoon nap. The infant seems to have other plans. No amount of rocking will make her go to sleep. Time goes too quickly. There is dinner to be made and laundry to be folded, all the while rocking the infant and trying to get her to take her second nap. Before long, the toddler is up again! He wants to go to the park and ride his bike. There is a please in the request, she obliges. In two hours, they will be back in the house having dinner. There will be another mess to clean, baths, story time and negotiating bedtime.
At the end of it, she will sit in the dark all alone, cup of tea in hand, tired but unwilling to go to bed. Aware of the fact that tomorrow will be a repeat of today. The parks may be different, the people may be different, tantrums less or more,naps longer or non existent, but the day will follow the same pattern. She picks up the remote control and turns on the TV. Its not time to hit repeat yet, she turns on Netflix.