I find it hard to do anything these days. Apart from the most urgent tasks, like feeding and changing and disciplining the offspring.
The rest of the time, I dither between housework, taking photos, sewing, painting, craft projects, studying, playing and reading with the kids, drawing, blogging, writing.
No matter what I do, I feel like there’s something else more important. Nothing feels like the right thing to do.
When I was growing up, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do with my time. I had my studying, my chores, whatever my mum needed me to do. And then when I was finished with my jobs I had free time. I read – so many books, constantly – did a bit of writing, laying the groundwork for novels I still dream of completing today. I listened to music through my old earbuds and the clumsy player filled with burned CDs and tapes playing recordings from the radio, and never felt like I should be doing something else. I could sit and listen to a song or 10, my hands idle, and feel perfectly content.
The work, then play mantra doesn’t work quite as well as a mother. Your work is never done – there’s always a dusty corner or stained load of washing to deal with. And I’ve fallen into the trap of wanting to be productive.
It is not enough to be these days. You must be productive, earning money, ideally, but if not, you have to at least be efficient and productive whilst in the home. That is, I think, part of the reason why society has so little understanding or empathy towards parents who make mistakes, or whose children behave a way in public that the passerby doesn’t approve of – if you’re not earning money, in exchange for raising children, you should at least have perfect offspring.
People want to see the result of good parenting, not the parenting itself.
They want the end product.
For most mothers, especially stay at home mums, we don’t have much to show at the end of the day. Even when I decide to dedicate the day to getting ahead – or even catching up on housework, in order to have more free time the following day – I spend all day putting out spot fires, so to speak; cleaning the kitchen, only to turn around and discover a mess strewn from one end of the house to the other.
What have I done today? I ask myself at 7:30pm, when the kids are asleep – or not – and I’m falling asleep on the couch watching My Kitchen Rules and ignoring the pile of washing I haven’t folded yet.
What do you do all day? People ask me.
Your children are so lovely, you’re doing such a wonderful job of raising them! They say with their next breath.
I don’t know why it’s so hard to make the connection between my raising children and the fact that they are being raised. Shouldn’t it be obvious what I’m doing? Isn’t it a given, in the fact that my kids are alive at the end of each day? They’re alive because they’ve been fed and taken off windowsill and grabbed before they fall off the couch and had phone calls to the Poison Center and been taken to the doctor and had scissors and knives taken away and been told, over and over again, not to wander off in car parks.
The mother who is snapping at her 3-year-old in the Coles car park isn’t doing a poor job of raising her child. She is repeating herself for the hundredth time without yielding a visible result because that is parenting.
That’s what it looks like. You can’t teach your children something until you realise it needs to be taught. You can’t discipline them until AFTER they do somethung that requires discipline.
I don’t think you see the result of your parenting until your child becomes an adult. And even then, that’s no guarantee.
I think it’s an integral part of motherhood – parenthood, actually – that is isn’t productive. You don’t hand in the result to your supervisor and get the tick of approval. Our lives as parents, as creators of future generations, doesn’t fit into the sterile and uniform office cubicle.
It was decided, at some point, that the aim of human existence is to be productive. But to go to work, for a certain number of hours, and be paid for it, to receive feedback, to look at your work at the end of the day and say, “I did this, and I did it well” – I think that’s far easier than working, endlessly, without reprieve, without pay, without recognition or gratitude from the people closest to you.
So don’t mistake a lack of productivity for laziness.
Here’s to the unproductive, the unachievers. The ones who have found their calling (and their cross) in simply being.
Today I did nothing. And tomorrow I will do nothing again. And I will do important work, that nobody else can do for me. I will be useless, and irreplaceable. I will do nothing, and do more than an army of corporate worker bees can achieve in a year.
And I will practice doing nothing. I will try to stop worrying about my to-do lists and what I’ve managed to accomplish that day. I will try to be content in myself, in the simple everyday moments, instead of the Instagrammable achievements. I am trying to do everything, and ending up doing nothing.
So I will do nothing, on purpose, and see what happens.
We are more than what we produce.