Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Gallery - One ordinary day of astonishing brilliance and banality

I've found this week's Gallery amazingly emotional. 

Tuesday 8th February 2011.  Scottish Borders.


I know, I know. I'm going.  Out of bed.  B was up and out over an hour ago.  But just ten more minutes, please....? Oh, alright then.

Oh sod it. I'm sure I look fine.

Sunrise over the bypass.   Going to be a lovely day.

First nappy of the day

Wake up L!  She's overslept. Actually, we've all overslept. Now I've got to get them all fed and out in just over half an hour. How bad a parent would I be if I sent them to nursery with no breakfast?

However bad it is, I'm not that bad.  No time for toast though

Everyone out! In the car! Quick, quick, quick!

Back.  Builders have been here since eight.  Pop round to see how they're doing with our new kitchen.

Back inside. Dishwasher loaded. Breakfast table cleared.  What next?  Laundry.

Five minutes for me. Tunnock's teacake and a cup of tea. Who says Scotland doesn't have haute cuisine?  Very proud of my mug too. Lidl's finest.  £2.99 each. Or £5 for two. We decided two was extravagant. Regretting it now though.

Tuesdays are a working day (hence the nursery).  This is my orderly desk.  Aka kitchen table. And yes, I did raid the children's chocolate ten minutes after eating that teacake.  Apparently it's very good for the baby. Or something.

Work half done.  As usual.  Leave it til later.  Meeting with builder and architect about pipes and ducts (eh?  Did they really think I'd have anything to contribute?) fully done. Girls collected, five minutes late as usual.  Right you lot, out. Go and play quietly while Mummy has some lunch. And if I hear any whinging or arguing it's straight to bed. Go!

Lunchtime. I know it looks disgusting but it was left over and in the fridge and not cheese on toast for a change (Nigel Slater Chicken and Bean Casserole if you're interested).  Actually it was delicious. 

Sneak in ten more minutes work before the fighting starts.  Little ones off to bed. Protesting.

Remember the laundry.  And the dishwasher.
Convince L, briefly, that she wants to play a "game".  Finish playing the "game" by myself.

Play L's game.  She is a bird.  I am, apparently, a caterpillar.  I am required to wear the green spiral thing. Not a good look with a bump.

Accede to a request for "big painting".  Wonder where "big painting" is going to be possible when we have floors we actually like.

Big painting lasts about ten minutes.  Clearing up takes rather longer.  "Ticking" now the activity of choice.

Universal whinging indicates imminent starvation.  I attempt to resist the lure of CBeebies and cook with girls hanging off three of my limbs.  Fail. Give in.  This is happening more and more often.  Feel guilty.

Builders gone. Sneak out to inspect their handiwork leaving children eating, unsupervised. Bad parent. Builders still have a way to go but am unfeasibly excited by a big hole.

Three empty plates equals one happy mummy.

Tidy up time. Allegedly.

B home.  Bathtime.  So much easier with two.

Dry, dressed, into bed

B is reading L's story.  I have A&S.  L chooses The House at Pooh Corner.  I have definitely drawn the short straw.

All quiet from upstairs. Supper cooked and eaten. B out rehearsing.  Time to do that work I didn't get done earlier.

Decide I am feeling post-modern instead.

B off to Rome at 3 am tomorrow morning (via Amsterdam as apparently you can't fly direct to Rome from either Newcastle or Edinburgh.  Oddly).  Packing time.  This is everything he needs (minus the sponge bage of course) for three days.

All quiet.  So far.

Dull, wasn't it? Very like the day before, in fact. And, if my sister weren't coming to stay, very like today would be.  Very like most of my days, and, I suspect most of the days of many other women (and a good few men) nation-, if not world-, wide.

So why did I find it emotional?  The problem is, taking the pictures made me think about what I was doing, rather than simply getting through, getting by, getting on.  And I realised how mundane my life is. How full of little, unimportant, repetitive tasks.  How full of "must do this" and "no, not now" and "in a minute". And how, when I do have half an hour to spare, how little time I actually spend interracting with my children, sitting down and playing with them, doing what they want to do when they want to do it.  They asked to do painting, but I can't honestly say I'd have agreed if I hadn't known it would be a good photo.

It makes me want to weep.  I'm not sure how I got here.   I'm not sure I'm being the mother I want to be. I'm not sure, sometimes, that I'm living the life I want to live, even if I'm also not sure that being in London, being a lawyer, being stuck on the tube, or in a meeting, would feel any less dull, less mundane, less banal.

But when I stopped feeling self-pitying, I also realised how happy some of this quotidian life makes me. How amazing my children are.  How lucky I am to live in this beautiful place, in this beautiful house (or it will be).  How incredible it is that I have the choice to work when I want to, and am not tied to the nine to five, Monday to Friday.

So although it was dull, and it was pedestrian, it was, and is, also my 24 hours. My day. My life.

*Actually, that's artistic licence.  It was actually about half past ten, but midnight (or indeed one minute to midnight) isn't a time of day I voluntarily see very often anymore. I can't imagine it looked much different to this though.


  1. I love the title to this post. And I love the way you analysed this project--I knew exactly what you meant about just moving through the day without being consciously aware of it, using automatic phrases. And I love how the project made you really think about what you were doing, even down to letting the children paint. I can so relate to your words.

  2. I used to describe motherhood as sysyphean. But it's not. I miss a houseful of little ones. My sister and I had 4 children between March 95 and August 97 and I can assure you that the big painting and cookie baking and mess mess mess is what they remember. They forget the other stuff, the dull stuff. They remember the zoo and the circus and the time we all went to Canada together or had Christmas in the US. It's harder with one - you are going to have a wonderful time with 4 little ones all of your own - honest - from a dozen years down the line - honest :)

  3. Wow what a busy day you had! You have your hands full there with those three don't you? Funny photo with the mug and teacake lol!
    You are right in that your day typifies the same for so many others. You should be proud of your mummy achievements you are doing a wonderful job x

  4. That could have been me writing that post! I am too one of those banal mothers living day in day out just like you and there are times when I wonder if there is something more 'out there' for me but then I wouldn't trade these moments with my girls for anything.
    Great post and fabulous title - I wasn't that inventive at all!

  5. You are indeed very very lucky x

  6. I am absolutely gobsmacked to find that I am not the only one with half-finished jobs and dishwwashers and laundry...

  7. Gosh, this is practically a template for my life!

    Excellent post and gorgeous photo's!

  8. I look at that post and think what a full life. And actually I'm thinking that this theme - 24 hours - is going to be the perfect post for people to look back on in a few years time when they've moved on and life is busy in other ways and see what day to day was like right now.
    My friend you have a gorgeous life filled with love and contentment and beeeautiful children.
    Thank you so much for posting this x

  9. Crying here.

    Just so true. Echoing what Tara said above.

    You're doing an amazing job.

  10. I guess we all question where we find ourselves in our lives once in a while but when the answer involves "amazing children", for me there is satisfaction and contentment xx
    QWERTY Mum

  11. This was a wonderful post :) The hectic, day to day life of a busy mum. Us mums are doing the most important job in the world and raising beautiful, happy children. That's a job well done!!

  12. Really interesting, and go you for being so honest. It is so useful to sit back and reflect, that's how we change and develop.
    It's an important job, I think sometimes we think it dull because society percieves it as dull, being at home with children should be celebrated, it is dull sometimes, but it great other times, but sometimes a lot of life is like that.

  13. Although I only have had one child at home at a time, as I think you will know from my blog, I relate to this whole 'is this what my life has oome to' feeling as you turn in the daily hamster wheel of getting nowhere fast and feeling slight resentment rising occasionally as you are subsumed under the domestic responsibilities of being at home with the children. Now my eldest has married and lives in London and my youngest is 11 and more self sufficient I can fill some of my life with things I want to do rather than feeling that I don't actually have a life of my own. But thinking back I did have fun with both my kids too, and my son, at his wedding, said that I was his best and only friend until he went to school and he remembered how we used to play rockets and cars with just a big cardboard box! All those expensive toys he had and that was the game that has stuck with him! I miss the times with my daughter when she and I would watch Disney princess films and then she would dress up and we would play our own story out....and yet, I love the stage we are at now, taking her to auditions and watching her play netball etc. Each stage of their lives offers new delights and challenges and, of course, slowly gives you back your 'freedom'. In the meantime, you are being a fabulous mummy to those gorgeous children, making wonderful memories every second of their lives when you do even the most mundane things. Enjoy each stage as time goes by far too quickly!!

  14. Dull? I really enjoyed that breif look into your life. What beautiful girls you have!

  15. You know I just looked at the photos and missed the fact that my boys are now older. Yes, that time is utterly exhausting and can feel like you're just surviving but how wonderful that a sheet of paper on the floor can amuse them, everything is an adventure. My favourite time of the day was story time, we'd read for ages, going through loads of books. Now the boys take their books to bed and read before going to sleep. I'd love to cuddle up with them again and read Wibbly Pig. You're right it's both banal and brilliant - but mostly brilliant!

  16. brilliant post. and I don't think your life is in any way dull :)

  17. Gorgeous girl please don't weep over this day or the many others which fit into the same pattern. You are as you know, not alone in the repetitive day syndrome but mostly, you are not alone in how you parent during these mundane repetitive days. You describe what is I believe, the norm for most of us. It doesn't make you bad and it certainly shouldn't make you feel sad. The problem with moving into a SAHM role (largely) when you've been 6 minute unit productive for so long is the sense of not achieving much. Do not go there. You are achieving more than you realise. You are creating a home, a routine, a life and a family. All of those things have boring bits and so what if the painting only happened to create a good photo. So what? Who cares. I don't. I care only that you feel good about yourself.

    Chin up my friend, those hormones are probably wrecking havoc at the moment. You are doing a sterling job and should be very proud of yourself.

    This looked like a perfect family weekday.

    MD xxxx

  18. My older three are at school now but I once had three girls at home too. It gets easier, and harder as well. Enjoy the moment and try not to worry if you are doing it right or wrong.
    Lovely photos :)

  19. I think this is a brilliant post. Thank you. Your life looks so full and the children look so happy! I think it's OK to wonder 'what if'. I work and I wonder what it would be like not to. If I don't work, I'll probably wonder if I should work. I think life is what you make it and your photos speak volumes about the life you have made for your family. xx

  20. Loved this - especially the text that came with it.

  21. I love the way you're so honest, and are always qualifying statements made in your posts with digressions in parentheses, and asterisks! It's the lawyer in you.

    That's a heck of a lot of soft toys in the first picture.

    I think this day has been a real opportunity for you. You've stood back and taken stock of your life. The "just getting through the day" feeling is so common when the children are this age. But how right you are that that feeling can come in other places and phases of life.

  22. WHat a great post. I had ambitions of similar but forgot opps. x

  23. As per usual, I'm late in replying to all these lovely comments, but they are no less appreciated for that. I see them all as they come in on my phone - I just haven't worked out how to reply to them from there and they all made me nod, or smile or generally feel a little supported, so thank you.

    And a few specific answers below:

    Notes to self - you could still do it! I enjoyed your diary of the day, so lets see the pictures too!

    Iota - you're right, it is an opportunity, so thanks to Tara for that. One thing I have done a lot less this week has been to turn on the computer during the day - it's meant less blogging but more playing, and I think that has to be good for all of us. As for the soft toys, that was the night before the long night of the soft toys. We are now down to four after a five am hunt round the bedroom for a teddy I didn't even realise existed...

    Nickie - thank you! The words were harder than the pictures...

    Linds - The great what if... I'm not sure if it's a human thing or a female thing, or what, but I am very bad for imagining all those parallel lives instead of just living the one I've got.

    Jacq - thank you! Will be looking to you for tips in the future!

    MD - The tyranny of the six minute unit! aaaaaargh! And thank you for reminding me about the hormones too. I do keep forgetting that I'm pregnant and wondering why I'm so tired/cross/being kicked...

    Tiddlyompompom - It is, believe me, but then it's also, on a micro level, wonderfully varied and interesting. I suppose it depends on how you look at it, as with so much.

    Lorna - Wibbly Pig was the one redeeming feature of that collection! Not so keen on Iggle Piggle and the less said about the Toy Story sticker book (how do you read a sticker book?) the better!

    Herding Cats - thank you!

    Diney - really interesting. Thanks. I often wonder about people in your situation - how you go from an almost independent child back to the hamster wheel we've both experienced. One of the reasons I've crammed all my children in together was because I thought that once I was out of the tiny stage, I'd never go back, but I can see it gives you a great perspective and a much better ability to look at the grand scheme rather than the hideous guddle!

    Gemma - very true, and I suspect that in my more self-pitying moments (of which this was one) I forget that actually very few people are living lives of unadulterated excitement (and that I'd find that totally exhausting anyway!)

    Wendy - many thanks.

    Paula - you're right of course. Am trying to concentrate on the amazing children. Even when they're being less than amazing.

    Alison - thank you. And sorry. But consider it revenge for all the multiple times you've made me cry!

    Tara - thank you so much for the opportunity to post it. You are absolutely right, although I've loved doing all the Gallery posts (struggling with tomorrow's incidentally) I think I'll remember this one much more than many of the others. You've really given me an opportunity to take stock. Thank you again.

    Mom on a Wire - thank you!

    Domestic Goddesque - clearly there are two of us...

    Kelloggsville - I am, aren't I? I think I need reminding of that more often (especially when I start whinging - I wonder where my eldest gets that from...?)

    Mari - thank you! Belatedly off to check out your post (and others). Looking forward to it!

    Jenny - glad you liked my mug!

    Nikkii - Sysyphean is exactly it... except that now you tell me it's not. I think I need a time machine so that I can have the benefit of your dozen years down the line while still living it... Would be good, wouldn't it?

    Michelloui - thank you. I think that the moving and living without actually stopping and seeing phenomenon is common to all of us. I'm trying to take stock and feel a bit more so that I remember these times because I do (kind of) know I'll miss them when they're gone...

  24. Brilliant post. You've really given a flavour of your day, & then written very eloquently about how it's made you feel & how you feel about it. And good to see you included a mention of Dads in there too!

    Also: "quotidian". That's a great word :)

  25. JallieDaddy - thank you! And I didn't even have to look it up! Glad I put in my "dads" reference too. Wanted to make sure you know we mums appreciate you occasionally!

  26. Just catching up. Love this post. Love the way, as someone else said, this project made you stop and think. That is so important. With two of mine now at school I'm already missing those intense pre-school days and beating myself up that I spent too much time moaning about how hard it was and just not enough time enjoying it. But it's hard to do that when you are in that life day after day. I think we all just do our best!


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