mummypig 3593This week has been one of those weeks that have seemed full of endless challenges.  With two under-fives to care for and an ever increasing pile of article deadlines and other work to attend to  I have felt daunted and wondering how to get it all done. I often find the home-work balance a bit of a juggling act. This week, however, has been particularly challenging as there has been a stream of summer holiday activities for the girls to go to as well as me having to get ready for Hattie’s party at the weekend.  I regularly work in between children-related chaos and find myself stealing half an hour here and there for my work before the next stream of little ones’ demands.  Quite honestly, I now find it difficult to write in peace and quiet as this has become an alien concept.

I think that working from home is a mixed blessing: on one hand it has the advantage of flexibility being able to work the hours that suit and on the other hand it means that pretty much everyone I know thinks that you don’t have a ‘proper’ job and I can only assume they think the pixies at the bottom of the garden pay the bills.  Working from home also requires a fair degree of discipline and I am still coming to grips with this element. Let’s be honest, with children there are always plenty of distractions — whether or not they are welcome ones is another matter entirely.

By Wednesday, I am determined to have caught up on all my backlog of work, so that I can concentrate on my little girl’s fifth birthday party. I am transforming the back patio into a beach and it will become a tropical haven for flamingos by Saturday. I had no choice in the theme for this party. Hattie and her imagination have been the designers and I must admit I couldn’t have dreamed up a better idea myself.  I am making a three-tier topsy-turvy cake and I will have a multitude of children to cater for and it got me thinking: why do I put myself through this twice a year with my children’s parties?  As I was decorating a mermaid castle cake for a friend’s little girl it struck me that mothers everywhere put themselves under immense pressure through fear of failure.  I think it is an in-built gene that makes mothers feel that they are at constant risk of letting their little ones down. A need to perfect every little thing dominates and an inability to balance things in our fast-paced world is deemed a failure. In reality, everyone in our modern society in under so much pressure and I often think that it is the simple gift of time that children appreciate most.

Armed with a copy of the Best of Beatrix Potter and a notion of Enid Blyton in my head I have been one of those modern mums that have truly wanted it all. I have wanted to cherish every moment of my two daughters growing. I have not only wanted to remember those precious moments, but to create them. I have often wanted to capture the essence of childhood, motherhood and the nostalgic wonders of it all in more or less every task I have undertaken. I have dreamed of the wonders of raising chickens, incubating chicks, getting a family dog where we can take magical walks in the woodland.  The reality is that gardening with children involves whinging, nettle stings, scraped knees and seedlings being pulled out and that magical woodland walks means carrying increasingly heavy children up hills or else gathering every snail, stone or leaf visible.  With young children simple chores become major sources of stress and a quick nip to the shops is a daylong expedition.  There is no doubt in my mind that my girls are the source of my stray grey hairs and the bags under my eyes, but there is nothing in the world that could ever replace the joyful bliss I feel when they giggle at me, pick me flowers or in the simple knowledge that they are there.  I am continually astounded by them and honoured to be part of their development and growth.

The time demands of being a parent dictates that there never seems to be time to catch up with the washing and that every job we come to do has a constantly moved deadline.  I find that there is never enough time to get done all the things I want to do and need to do in a year let alone a day. The inability to keep up with things then feeds into the self-doubt gene that is activated when a woman becomes a mother. There’s an inbuilt fear that mothers have that they’re not doing a good enough job.  The truth is that all children are different and all mothers are different and therefore it is impossible to adopt a one-size fits all approach to mothering.  All parents and children are on a journey and we all take slightly different routes. Sometimes it is easy to feel like you have taken a wrong turn or are temporarily lost, but really all we need is to give ourselves some time.

As a mother I often find it difficult to make time and save energy to care for myself. Faced with the stressful demands of modern living, childcare and a growing list of things to do I often forget about me and I do think that we need to take care of ourselves to be in a good position to care for others. Sometimes to be at your best as a mother really does require a fierce demand for some time to yourself, but let’s us be honest it is easier said than done.  So perhaps the best we can hope for is honesty amongst mothers and an admittance that we all have days when we feel like sitting on the bottom step with a bottle of gin or else swapping our children for a milking goat, but we muddle through and do the best we can and reap the rewards of gazing at them when they are peacefully asleep looking angelic.

So I have made a pledge with myself this week that I will stop worrying about the dog hairs on the carpet and the dishes in the sink and that if the fondant flamingos on Hattie’s cake are less than perfect it really doesn’t matter.  Somehow my deadlines will be met and I am going to start commending myself on my juggling skills instead of feeling guilty for not being some sort of super-human that can achieve even more than I do. The most important thing in life is that I enjoy the journey and my girls are happy and healthy, the rest can all wait.

A fond farewell from a flamingo filled corner of Wales,