I have discovered, yet again, that I am not an award-winning mother. This is not entirely news to me but it is a little disappointing to discover just how far off the mark I actually am. Most of the time I can lull myself into a fall sense of achievement (they still have all their limbs after all) until I am faced with the kind of mother I can never be and, to really pour salt into the wounds, have no actual desire to be. Recently I was on holidays (with the children so I use the word “holidays” loosely”) up on the North coast of NSW to visit relatives. Before I left, every enquiry as to where I was going ended up with the other person declaring how relaxing it would be. I looked at them askance (I have always wanted to use that word). Clearly these people had never been on a beach holiday (or possibly any kind of holiday) with children. I’m not sure the word “relaxing” has any place in this discussion. However I can easily find space for “loud”, “exhausting” and “alcohol”. The other comment that almost made me wet my pants laughing was how it would be nice to do a long car trip for a bit of togetherness. What? I am starting to think that some people I know have lost their grip on reality. I very quickly disabused them of this notion and explained that the car trip would be spent entirely in our own bubbles to avoid the chance of anyone being hurt. The kids each have a set of ear plugs attached to a DVD player and I have music blasting out of the CD player so I can sing my way up the coast and pretend I am alone. This is the only way to ensure we all reach our destination alive. To be fair, it was going to be great to see my relatives but I just didn’t think I would come home from this experience with a Zen-like glow.
Once we arrived and all the cousins got together it became apparent that earplugs and wine were going to be essentials to survive the week. Trying to wander around shops with five children in tow, idly looking at lovely wisps of cloth with price tags the size of a CEO’s bonus is purely an exercise in frustration and should just not be attempted. I don’t know why I insist on banging my head against that particular wall every time. Will I ever learn? Not to mention the endless preparation of food. Why do children on holiday need to eat about 7 times a day? Looking at people holding lovely cocktails while lying on sun lounges next to crystal blue water makes me want to vomit with jealousy. I suppose I should try to look at the other side. Perhaps those people look at me and wish they were scrubbing sand out of bum cracks on a nightly basis and throwing back cheap plonk the minute the little bastards are in bed in a vain attempt to stuff some “fun” into the day. And perhaps I might win 50 million in the next Lotto draw.
Anyway, my failure as a mother was thrown into stark relief (as if I needed anymore evidence) when a friend mentioned a family she knows who always spend every minute of every weekend together so they can have “family time”. This also extended to holidays when they are all stuck together like glue every waking moment (and what’s the bet they’re co-sleepers to boot). Apparently this is the way they all like it. I couldn’t think of anything worse. The entire group immediately felt inadequate and suddenly felt the need to top up our glasses to cope. One friend confessed that she and her husband compete as to who gets away from the children first. All heads were nodding madly in agreement as she explained that weekends are spent juggling furiously to maximize adult only time. Usually this means each of them take turns to wrangle children so the other can have precious minutes of peace but every now and then they are all invited to sleepovers at the same time and it’s like Christmas has come early. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – I love my children to pieces but firmly believe that my time away from them makes me a better parent. If this isn’t true they can complain to their therapists after I’m dead. The other side of this is that I have fantastic memories of being a child and roaming around in groups of kids with no adults in sight. This time away from adults was precious and taught us so much about negotiation and diplomacy and calculated risk taking. What a terrible mother I would be to deprive my children of such an opportunity? So when I tell them all to go and play on the road it is purely because I love them so much and not because I want another glass of sparkling and some “adult” conversation.
I am of course truly grateful to have relatives who live on the North coast so that I can have a lovely “holiday” without spending the equivalent of 6 months rent. Cheers.
The management of the Burnt Chop would like to take this opportunity to thank the loyal readers for the time they have spent in Chopworld. We do hope it has been mostly enjoyable and occasionally thought provoking. The Burnt Chop has revealed that she intends to take some time away from The Burnt Chop Syndrome in order to focus on the novel she tells us has been “in her head” for the last 15 years. We must confess that it has been like pulling teeth over the past few months to get her to submit her work on time so we are quite looking forward to having more time to work with clients who are less flighty and unfocussed. She tells us she intends to use this site to preview snippets of her work so stay tuned for updates. We of course wish her well, while being more than a little relieved to have some time away from her “artistic” temperament. It has been hard.