Too much excitement just might kill me!
Looking after a toddler all day every day is hard work. It is draining, and most days I feel like I’ve done nothing useful at all. But clichéd as it sounds, it is also the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I really do love it, and I am super grateful that I have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mum. But I fully understand why some people choose not to.
I often get frustrated with things I’d like to do that just aren’t really feasible while Monkey is awake and I’m on my own – things like writing software, painting the house, vacuuming, sewing or reading my book. There’s such a limited amount of time where Monkey is sleeping, and I have to try to prioritise and cram in as much as possible – although vacuuming can’t be done during nap time either.
Granted if I was really desperate to do any of those things, I could find a way. When Monkey was smaller I used to wrap him on my back to vacuum, but he’s quite heavy and much more squirmy now. Or I could put him in his playpen and ignore the screaming while I did whatever it was I wanted to do.
But that’s not how I choose to parent. I have the luxury of Hubs acting as Monkey-distractor on the weekend so that I can vacuum and clean the bathrooms. (Mopping has to be done during a nap because slippery floors and Monkey are not a good combination). We tag team to get things like painting done. Sure it’s a lot slower that way, but we’re OK with that.
We’re also heading into discipline territory. I choose to use peaceful parenting techniques, but I strongly believe that any form of discipline will only be effective if you are 100% committed, and always do what you say. So when Monkey throws dirt, I warn him that if he does it again, we’ll go straight back inside. Then the next time he throws dirt (usually about 30 seconds later, accompanied by a cheeky chuckle), we go straight back inside – even if I’m in the middle of planting my blueberries. It’s annoying to have to stop whatever I’m doing, but anything less would simply teach Monkey that he can just ignore me, since I’m not actually serious about what I say.
So I don’t really have much that is time critical. I like to get chores and errands over with as quickly as possible (doesn’t everyone?), but it isn’t truly necessary – I don’t have to rush out to work, or cram everything into evenings or weekends.
And I try to remind myself of that. I try to consciously slow down and take my time, so that I can engage Monkey more. He helps me put the key in the door when we leave the house. He likes to help buckle his seatbelt, put the water bottles in the fridge, carry in the shopping, and help me put the groceries away. If he seems thirsty I will give him a drink before I start the car, or I’ll spend a few minutes trying to figure out which toy he’s pointing at, so that the trip will be a happier one – even if we’re only going 5 minutes up the road.
All these things make everything take longer. When locking the door takes 3 minutes instead of 3 seconds, I try to take a deep breath and think about how good it is for Monkey’s fine motor development, about the sense of achievement I know he feels (I can see it on his face) when he gets the key in the lock.
I try to offer opportunities for Monkey to help, or do things in his own, as often as I can see them. Sure, it inconveniences me, but I like to think it is valuable for him to learn to do things himself, not just for the skills themselves, but for the self confidence that comes along with it.
Is this a revelation everyone has? I don’t know. I hope so.
Do you let your toddler help when you know it will make everything take longer? What kinds of things do your children enjoy doing around the house?