Motherhood can be spectacularly boring.
I sat in the shady garden, idly splashing water on my daughter's bare skin as she squealed and laughed in the baby bath I'd brought outside on this sunny summer's day. My mind wandered elsewhere, to the road where I could hear a car driving off from next door to go somewhere, anywhere… to the faint drone of the plane above that I imagined was full of excited passengers off on their vacation of a lifetime.
It wandered away over the trees and hills in the distance to the city and to my old, pre-SAHM, job dealing with grown-up issues which meant I had to dress in suits and speak to adults all day long and could drink coffee that didn't go cold before I could get to it….
A shriek from my baby brought me back to the present where I realized I had mistakenly thrown water over her head and now had to get her out and dry her before the whimpering turned to a full-blown meltdown. I glanced at the time as I hauled her out on to the waiting towel: 3 pm. Only another two or three hours to fill before my husband got home.
Sighing, I started tickling my daughter's toes and was quickly rewarded with a smile and a giggle that could melt any mother's heart. Except at that point in time, all I could think about was what on earth I was going to do with the rest of the afternoon.
The hours stretched ahead of me, a yawning gap of emptiness that I knew I would be filled with cuddles and tickles and baby-talk, with passing the same ball back to her over and over again, singing the same songs, reading the same books.
It's one of those secrets many women don't like talking about but that I suspect most of us feel at some point. Motherhood can be spectacularly boring.
Okay, let me explain: I realize how lucky I was to be able to stay at home with my child instead of having to rush back to work like so many others. Circumstances changed for me after giving birth and I ended up leaving my job even though at first, I went back. So I wasn't really expecting to be at home on my own with a baby while my husband drove to an office 50 miles away early every morning, returning in the late afternoon to a wife who sometimes hadn't spoken to another adult all day long.
It was always a relief to chat without having to use a sing-song voice and there was nothing better than being able to hand the baby over and then take a nice long shower on my own.
But because I hadn't really planned to be a stay-at-home mom, I hadn't really thought about what it would be like to be at home all day with a baby. Not that I would have been able to do anything differently even if I had known in advance—it took me about 10 minutes after returning home from the hospital two days after giving birth to realize that actually there isn't much you CAN do with a baby except hold them, feed them, and try to persuade them to go to sleep anywhere except in your arms. But perhaps mentally at least I would have been more ready for it.
As my baby grew, she became more interesting, there was more to do together. Getting that first smile is very special, and who doesn't love the silly sounds they make as they begin to learn to use their voices? But there's only so much joy to be had from listening to your cute daughter blow raspberries for the umpteenth time that morning as you try to get another spoonful of baby rice in her.
Finding solace with other mothers with children of a similar age was the key to coping with this period and I did join as many local parent-and-baby groups as I could find (oh how I really didn't like singing those nursery rhymes and keeping that false smile plastered to my face as I sipped coffee with the other tired moms!).
And through these groups, I found fellow-passengers on the new mama ship: women like me at home with a non-speaking baby, desperate for the lifeboat of another grown-up to cling to. We started hanging out and life became more bearable. But ultimately most of the time I was still alone, at home, just me and the baby.
It ends eventually. Once you get past the point where everything has to revolve around the nap-feed-bath-bed daily routine (that as a new parent you believe you have to stick to in order to ever get your life back), you can start to venture out more often and for a longer time. Then your baby starts to walk, and talk. And you can go to parks and take them swimming.
Before you know it, they're in nursery or preschool three times a week and help! You're pregnant again! Yikes, you think, as you look back over those long, dragged out days of nothingness, do I really have to go through all of that again?
The good news is that you won't because if you have your two children as close together as I did (two years and three months, to be precise), you'll never be bored again. Caring for a baby at the same time as a toddler means your life will be a non-stop blur of feeding and wiping and potties and cooking and juggling.
In fact, for most of us, this will be the time when we look back enviously to the person we were when we only had one baby. When everything seemed so easy, so quiet, so peaceful, so serene.
And now they are older. Now they are at school, both mini-adults with their constant chatter and their full schedules, their social lives that I have to fit my own life around, packed lunches that need making, problems that need solving. And so I look back (perhaps with my rose-tinted spectacles on) and think, Bored? What was I complaining about?
On our busiest days, I find myself wondering: What I wouldn't give to be a little bored today… 😂