My little helper

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This blog is Day 17 of my 30 days of motherhood blogging challenge. Every day, for 30 days, I’m sharing diary-style snippets of my life as a working mum to one cheeky toddler. Consider this part creative experiment, part self-therapy. Feel free to play along at home! You can read days one to 16 here.

We’ve well and truly entered the ‘helping’ stage. It’s both glorious and tedious – depending on the task, the time of day, and how quickly I need to get something done.

Zoey’s favourite tasks are ‘folding’ washing, pushing buttons (e.g. the button on the washing machine or heat pump), putting her pram away (which involves pretending to push it while I actually steer it behind her) and as of this week, helping me prepare dinner.

The dinner one is tricky. There are hazards everywhere in the kitchen. For the past 21 months, my strategy has been to keep her out of the kitchen (we have a baby gate) and set her up with some toys (or more recently, The Wiggles) while I quickly prepare our food.

But when I tried this go-to strategy on Monday, she bawled her eyes out and begged to help – what was I to do!? I set her up on a chair in the safest spot I could find and tried to keep all sharp objects and steaming pans out of her reach. She revelled in putting raw mushrooms in and out of a brown paper bag and watching me chop carrots. It was actually pretty nice to have her ‘helping’ – once I mentally adjusted to the fact dinner will now take me about four times as long to prepare.

That’s the thing with toddlers – everything takes time. Activities that used to be quick and practical for me to complete become opportunities for connection and learning. Zoey barely touches her toys some days; she just wants to be near me and involved in everything I’m doing.

For the most part, I love this – it’s actually pretty fun to fold washing with a toddler who gets super excited about every piece of clothing you pull out of the basket. “Daddy’s shorties!!!” “Mummy’s bra!!!” “Zoey’s jumpin!!!” To her it’s like lucky dip – you can almost see her little heart leaping out of her chest with excitement. I know the day will come all too quickly when she’s no longer excited by laundry, so I’m trying to embrace her enthusiasm.

But, it does require a lot of patience. Sometimes, I just want to quickly wash a few dishes without turning the kitchen into a fun park or wash my hands without needing to wash her hands, too. I guess, like everything, there will be moments when it all feels blissful and moments when I want to hide in the pantry.

Also, I think this is the real reason why mums are tired all the time. The reduced quality of sleep is one thing (and obviously tough) – but the emotional alertness required to cook dinner with a toddler assisting you? That’s what leaves you feeling exhausted at the end of the day. Not only are you literally trying to steam vegetables without burning anyone or anything, you’re also teaching your kid about food and responding to their every question and comment. And not just at dinner time, but during every moment you’re together.

Take this morning, for example. While I was in the shower, Zoey was trying to flush the toilet. She hasn’t mastered this yet (thank god) but she’s getting close. When she got bored of that, she found some toilet paper and began to shred it into tiny little pieces (she just cackled when I asked her to stop). She also started chanting ‘Mummy fini! Mummy fini! Mummy fini!’ from the moment I got in the shower, to which I responded ‘just a little bit longer, it’s so nice in here!’ – basically pleading for her to let me enjoy just a few more blissful moments of steaming hot water in my safe little shower cocoon that she hasn’t yet managed to breach (but I know she’s going to figure out how to open the door real soon).

I laughed at the time – the ridiculousness of her chant, the pleading tone of my voice, the tiny bits of toilet paper I was going to have to peel off the damp floor. But moments like these can also feel crushingly exhausting when you’re not in the right frame of mind or when you lack adequate support. It’s not always easy to see the funny side.

To every mother, everywhere, I see you and I salute you. We’re all different, and we’re all experiencing motherhood differently, but I believe we find unity in the small things – like praying that our toddlers don’t figure out how to flush the toilet while simultaneously trying to teach them how to be the smartest, sassiest, most vibrant versions of themselves. Ah, the many paradoxes of motherhood.

Until tomorrow,
Jess x