“I want another mummy,” E1 said, while shoveling another spoonful of oatmeal in her mouth. I looked over at her, and waited — she would surely expand on this. Mouth still full, she continued regardless, “I want another mummy so she can do all the stuff, and I want yoooou…” — she stretched the word out for emphasis — “to just be with me.” I stopped doing the dishes and turned to her, smiling a little despite myself. “I want another mummy and another daddy, and I want you two to just be with me all the time!”
I was grinning now. This was lovely. This was one of the moments that a mother waits for, that she treasures. And yet, it was a message too — do I spend too much time doing “all the stuff”? Perhaps I do. Perhaps I need to spend more time just…
But at that moment, she reached for her orange juice and caught her elbow on her bowl, which flew off the edge of the table and smashed to the ground, throwing jagged pieces of white china and the remaining half of her oatmeal all across the dining room floor. Hmmmm… More stuff for Mummy.
I started with paper towels (four), then moved onto a wet washcloth, and finally just broke out the mop and did the whole floor. Then I turned to the table which, despite having suffered no similar disaster, was just as messy as the floor had been — my children don’t eat out of their bowls so much as around them.
The living room floor was crying out to be done as well, now that the dining room was suddenly showing it up. And then I was on a roll. Living room led to stairs, which led to landing, which led to E1’s room and our room, and onto the stairs leading up to E2’s penthouse bedroom. It was hot up at the top of the house and I was getting tired, but I’d got a bee in my bonnet now and so soldiered on and finished E2’s room as well. That was it, all the hardwood done. I congratulated myself and headed back downstairs for a much needed rest and a well-deserved cup of tea.
But I stopped at the bathroom… Really, it ought to be done too, oughtn’t it? Yes… and I grabbed the bleach and did the job properly too. And the things I brought out from lurking in the corners…! Yesssss, the bathroom floor had needed to be done. And… well… now that I’d got bleach on the mop, I might as well do the powder room too. And the kitchen. There, that was all the hard floors mopped and clean. I rinsed the mop in the kitchen sink and then, remembering what had been on it moments ago, bleached the sink out too. Then the countertops… then the cooker-top.
Exhausted now, I went back into the dining room — the room that had so innocently started the whole frenzy off — and sank into a chair. Sometimes motherhood feels like one huge clean-up operation from morning to night. It’s never enough… there’s always more to be done and I never seem to get on top of it. Sometimes I catch the wind in my sails and get a whole bunch done quickly, like those floors. But sometimes I don’t, or it just keeps coming, and then I am defeated. And sometimes all I want to do is hand the whole thing — kids, house, mess, husband — over to someone else and bury myself under the duvet. The kettle began to whistle and I dragged myself out of the chair to pour the tea, and then put two of my mother’s egg-free corn muffins on plates. I’d worked hard, I ‘d earned the chance to sit with my daughters and drink a nice cup of tea while they had their snack. We could talk and eat — civilised, social… the extra time that E1 had been asking me for.
“Girls! Come and have your cornmuffins!” I yelled, and E1’s thunderous footsteps were the immediate reply. She scooted into her chair and, even before her bum hit the seat, bit greedily into the corn muffin, which sent a million yellow crumbs skidding across the spotless floor. Inevitable.
E2 hadn’t appeared, so I went into the family room to fetch her. She was grinning at me from her place inside the empty toybox. “Have you come to ride the roller coaster with me?” she asked excitedly, hugging a teddy bear to her belly.
“No, it’s time for your snack,” I replied. “Come on.” We would have our time together, but I knew it would shorter than I had hoped. I lifted her up into my arms and walked back into the dining room. And I turned my back on the family room, where the contents of that toybox — the entire contents of the toybox — had been dumped out and strewn in a sea of mess across the floor while I had been busy upstairs.
It was more stuff… more stuff… There is always more. And never enough time for me. And never ever enough time for them.