On being a Stay At Home Mom, and Toddler-Mommy wars

Life as a stay at home Mom, as any stay at home would tell you, is not all honeyed sunshine, velvety roses and rippling laughter. It is chaotic and messy, sometimes downright stinky. It has its fair share of torrents and thunderstorms, and piercing wails and tantrums. I wish I could be one of those yummy Mommies on the glossy page of some parenting magazine gushing about how fulfilling being a stay at home Mom is. However, if I ever had to feature in a magazine it would probably be on one of those articles with the headlines written in bold : Is your toddler a spoiled brat? Accompanied by my picture at my harried best, because of course.

Okay, so it’s not ALL bad. And I think sometimes I make it harder on myself because it was my conscious decision to be a stay at home Mom instead of entrusting her care on a stranger in the form of a live-in nanny. As it was my decision to not send her to any form of preschool/play school before the age of three and instead provide the nurturing myself. Which is why sometimes I feel like I can never win. When doing household chores I always feel like I ought to be spending time with her coming up with a zillion activities to cover every waking minute of her time, and when I am goofing about with her I am thinking about dinner and what I need to prepare and oh dear why did I miss that spot of dust on the table!

A recent online quiz I took (while, ahem, taking a bathroom break) informed me that I am the optimiser kind of parent. “You start the day with the best intentions”, it said, “but you realise that sometimes you need to let go of routine” To be really honest, each day starts with a promise, more like a prayer: Let me not lose patience today, and please help me keep her away from gadgets. And just like the quiz said, I do try to follow through. But while some days everything works out fine and dandy, some days…. Not so much.

Like last Thursday for example. The little tyke woke up screaming for no reason, setting the tone for the day. Breakfast was a battle in itself, although I finally managed to get some toast in her along with the jam she insisted on eating by itself, by distracting her with alternate spoonfuls of egg.

Toddler: 0
Mommy:1

Deciding to tackle the huge load of laundry sitting accusingly in the bin for longer than I was comfortable with, I started a load in the washing machine. Miss Munchkin insisted, then whined and finally screamed until I turned off the stove, sat down with her and watched the clothes spin “round and round!”

Toddler:1
Mommy:0

Once the load was done, she started getting clingy, wrapping herself on my leg until I relented and picked her up and wondered how on earth I was supposed to hang the clothes to dry outside with one hand. And an idea flashed like the proverbial lightbulb. “Get your trolley, bub! We’ll play push push with our clothes!” I said with all the excitement I could muster. She slid down my arms, ran to find her toy tea trolley, upturned it until all her tea cups and saucers were on the floor and happily brought the empty trolley to me. Putting a couple tees on her trolley and carrying a few more on my arms we marched to the balcony while she pushed the trolley, waited for me there as I hung the clothes to dry and brought it back. We made it in three trips, and towards the end she insisted on grabbing clothes from the washing machine herself.

Toddler:0
Mommy:1
Actually scratch that. It was a win win. I got my laundry done and she had fun.

Miss Munchkin is at the stage where she believes that if she can name it, she can have it. So she goes about the house demanding random things, until she finds something that I actually let her have. That day it was Cheerios. Well, she’s a peanut so when it comes to food I usually let her have what she wants, and so I set her up in her highchair, gave her a handful of Cheerios to pick on and started cooking. It took me five minutes to realize that she had tossed all of them on the floor and was starting to stand on her high chair tray. The one time I forgot to put on her seat belt! I ran to her, almost yelling at her to sit down while she giggled and shook her head.

Toddler:1
Mommy:0

But later I made her pick up all the Cheerios on the floor and throw them in the bin so I make it
Toddler:1
Mommy:1

Nap times usually are hassle free if I hit the sweet spot when she’s just tired. It is usually the lunch that follows her nap and the long dreary afternoon that takes out the worst in both of us. That Thursday she slept for barely 45 minutes before waking up wide awake demanding pasta. So I plonked her on the high chair, gave her pasta and chicken soup and a spoon. After three bites she decided she didn’t want anymore. “Onjeres!” she demanded, having spotted oranges on our countertop. So I sliced up an orange and she nibbled on a slice for a minute, and said “Put back! Raisins!” So raisins it was then, and I handed her five, four of which landed on the floor before I could stop her from spitting them out. I groaned and picked her up from the highchair and told her lunch was over, all the while feeling miserable because mealtimes always stress me out.

Toddler:1
Mommy:0

I then decided to finally put edge Guards on our glass coffee table that she always keeps running at, escaping harm but just. Just as I finished putting the first one on, she suddenly spotted my phone. “Phone! Phone!” she yelled. “No phone” I insisted and by the time I had turned around to fix the second edge guard, she had pulled the first one off. I put it back again and noticed that she had her hands on the iPod this time, having somehow landed on the picture gallery there. I let her amuse herself while I attached all the edge guards and then took the iPod away from her. “Water! Water! Juice juice!” she suddenly demanded, and when I came back from the kitchen with her water all the edge guards were gone. The water she promptly spilled on the carpet, cheeky grin lighting up her face.

Toddler:1
Mommy:0

I then carried her for a good soak in the bath tub, and once we both were done I was too tired to do anything but slump on the couch with the TV turned on, the Video on Demand menu being thoroughly abused as she decided to watch bits of everything. I mindlessly let her do whatever she wanted while splitting a snack of goldfish crackers with her.

Toddler:1
Mommy:0

You do get a gist of how things are, right? So towards evening I do make her clean her play area (Toddler:0, Mommy:1) and let her have dinner with the TV on (Toddler:1, Mommy:1) and at bedtime, follow all her instructions until she finally falls asleep. Instructions include stuff like “Baby hoba?” (cradle me in your arms), “Mamma Hmm Hmm Hmm” (hum to me), “Mamma rock a bye baby” (sing rock a bye baby to me), “Mamma up up!” (stand up and rock me you lazy bum!) and finally “On the bed cuddles” (put me on the bed again with my head on my pillow and nurse me till I fall asleep) The entire process takes me nearly an hour. But just as I groan in frustration again she hold my face and fills me with butterfly kisses and promptly falls asleep.

Toddler: 1
Mommy: a million

Wouldn’t change it for the world now, would I?

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