Posted by: mindyourknitting | April 4, 2011

Entertain Me. NOW. (Dammit implied)

The combination of a toddler, a newborn and a Canadian winter could potentially equal DOOM.  The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far on this maternity leave has been finding ways to entertain Abigail while leaving time to meet Spencer’s needs, all in weather that precludes spending much time outdoors.  It was somewhat easier when Erik was home for a few weeks immediately after Spencer’s birth, but since he went back to work I’ve come to realize that I have to schedule non-errand activities or outings for us at least a few days a week or Abigail goes bat-shit crazy (and so does her mama.  There’s  a proportional relationship there, you see).  When Spencer was first born, our friends were amazed that we were out and about so quickly, attending a Christmas drop-in and a New Years’ party within a couple of weeks of his birth.  But really, it wasn’t that remarkable – our survival depended on leaving the house.  So in the last three-plus months, in addition to the more pedestrian at-home playdates at our house or a friend’s,  multiple visits to both sets of grandparents, and the occasional walk outdoors when temperatures permitted, we’ve done the following: started Abigail in once-a-week nursery school and attended the additional playclasses they offer;  enrolled her in a  gymnastics class that ran January to March;  went to the large, Lord of the Flies playgroups at the local community centre;  visited the Experimental Farm (which was okay but since Abigail sees lots of horses and cows when she visits my parents, she was kind of underwhelmed since only the cow and sheep barns were open); went to the Children’s Museum at the Museum of Civilization twice (and it’s awesome, I highly recommend this place);  farmed Abigail out to a grandparent so I could take Spencer to stars & strollers; got family photos done; painted stuff at Gotta Paint in Westboro; and just started her in soccer last week.   Phew. 

As fun as it is to devise new and interesting ways to entertain my super special snowflakes, I’m struggling a bit with how to keep myself  “entertained.”   If I’m completely honest, I have to admit that I am not always that stimulated by playing “stickers” or drawing with crayons or watching yet another episode of Dora the Effing Explorer.  I love that Abigail loves these things, and I love that she wants me to play with her, but sometimes I just think, oh, seriously?  Again?  I know I am incredibly lucky to be able to share so much time with my children, and to have such direct input in the entertainment/education/stimulation of my daughter at such an impressionable age.  But the things that a two-year-old loves are not always the things that I love (I know, shocking), and because I have a pretty functional brain I sometimes miss using it for more complex tasks than piecing together MegaBlocks.  I sometimes miss my job for this reason, and it’s probably also the reason that I read a lot on maternity leave, mostly while nursing, even in the middle of the night.  I have to cram in some time for myself somewhere.  The thing I struggle the  most with when on maternity leave, aside from sleep deprivation, is the long days of little stimulation, when I’m expected to provide almost all the stimulation for another being (or two).  My husband works long hours, so I’m alone quite a bit with the kids, and while Abigail is getting better at entertaining herself I always feel guilty if I leave her to her own devices (or in front of the television) for too long.  I spend a lot of time engaging with her, reading, talking, playing, and it’s fantastic, but it’s also draining sometimes.  Some days I’m so bored, or so tired of the toddler power-struggle death matches, I want to punch myself in the face just for the sake of doing something different.  Often, those are the days when the weather is particularly bad and I have nothing planned, so we spend a lot of time watching cartoons and playing with her toys (she does monopolize the television so!).  So, for her sake and mine, I fill our days with activities and visits and pray for better weather when we can go for daily walks and she can play at the playground and in our backyard.  I feel like once I’m able to say “Abigail, throw on your sandals and let’s go!” instead of “Abigail, sit on the potty, then put on your boots – no, I said sit on the potty! – then boots, then we’ll put on your coat, hat, mitts, oh, you want your scarf too?  Not that scarf, a different scarf?  What scarf are you talking about??  Okay, fine.  I don’t know where your sunglasses are, where did you leave them?  Could you PLEASE GET ON THE POTTY?” things will be easier.

This maternity leave has actually gone really well so far, despite my griping above.  Some days are tough, but overall we’re doing really well, my kids are happy, and I’m enjoying it.  The fact that Abigail is old enough to actually talk to me helps, since it’s not the same as being at home alone with just an infant, which I found really tough when Abigail was little.  And like with my first maternity leave, things get better as we all get more sleep and our routine becomes more set.  (I hate to mention it because I believe in the power of the jinx, but Spencer has had a predictable 8:30 bedtime for a little while now, and twice in the past week he’s slept nine hours straight at night, so things are getting much, much easier on the sleep front).  An additional saving grace is that playdates with friends means I have someone else to talk to, I can visit with my friends while Abigail visits with hers.  Maternity leave can be terribly isolating, and on that one score I know I am very lucky to have friends on maternity leave at the same time I am, and to have family nearby. 

But sometimes I feel like most days feel like every other day, that we play the same games, sing the same songs, tell the same jokes (“Guess what?  Chicken butt.”) have the same arguments, etc. – has anyone else experienced this?  It’s like maternity leave and the weather ganged up to  do a little crazy-making.   Am I having a lactation-induced existential crisis?  A Treehouse-rooted bout of ennui?  I know that mothering is supposed to be completely selfless, and some people will likely tell me that I should shut it because it’s not about me right now, it’s about the children, oh sweet baby jesus think of the children!  That, by saying that sometimes parenting can be boring or taxing I am somehow betraying myself as a bad or selfish mother.  But, frankly, I kind of think those people are ridiculous.  Too few people actually talk about how much being at home with kids can occasionally suck.  It can also be gloriously fabulous, but if you try to convince me that every moment is sparkles and rainbows, I will ask you what you’re on.  And whether I can have some.  Raising kids is hard, and part of the challenge is setting aside your wants and desires and consistently (although  maybe not always) putting their needs and desires first.  I didn’t (entirely) take out my brain, or my likes or dislikes, when I popped out a kid.  And three months into this maternity leave, most days are entirely enjoyable and I take a great amount of delight in spending so much time with both of my children – I mean, have you seen my kids?  they’re adorable and sweet and charming –  but some days I wish for more free moments to myself to … well, I’m not sure what I would do with it, but I know it wouldn’t involve crayons, Max & Ruby, or stickers.

And what is it with toddlers and stickers?  I’m peeling them off EVERYTHING. 

SEE what we resort to for entertainment around these parts?

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Responses

  1. My dear, you are not alone. My last mat leave nearly killed me. 🙂 It gets better! 🙂

  2. Ah Trista, everything you said is exactly how I feel. I am glad we are able to have play dates together and chat..I need it desperately. Looking forward to and counting down until next week….


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