We’ve all heard the expression, The Fog of War. The lack of clarity replaced by chaos, uncertainty in our own capabilities when you’re right in the middle of it.
Sound familiar? We should re-appropriate that term for motherhood. The Fog of Motherhood.
Now I’m being deliberate in saying “Motherhood” and not “Parenting” because I have had different parenting experiences to my husband.
Admittedly our household did fall into the common stereotype of mother-stays-home while father-goes-out-to-work for several reasons.
- I was the one that was pregnant and gave birth, I needed to recover from that.
- I was the one that was breastfeeding. It worked for us. I don’t object to the idea of bottle-feeding. I personally object to all the sterilising and measuring that goes with it. Breastfeeding seemed like the path of least resistance. I got very good at sleeping and breastfeeding.
- Yes, I co-slept. Jury is out on this one whether it interrupts sleep or not.
- Just as baby number one was becoming toddler, baby number two was on the way. Rinse, repeat with babies number three and four.
So I stayed home and worked on a contract basis from home when time permitted. Because mothers do what they gotta do.
But this Fog of Motherhood theory also works for the women who went back out to the workforce – bless them for doing so and keeping the debate alive.
And it’s no surprise to anyone that women, working full-time or not, still do most of the household chores.
All of this contributes to The Fog of Motherhood. And I think The Fog is strongest when you have at least one kid that’s under five years of age.
Walk with me a little here.
For 14 years I’ve operated under this fog. With all the little itsy bitsy things that go on every day repeatedly and you know if one of those itsy bitsy things screws up, it tends to screw up the next itsy bitsy thing and the rest of your day and/or week is one domino falling exercise.
Some favourites include:
- Quick get home before the toddler falls asleep in the car because transferring isn’t an option.
- The juice has to be in the favourite cup otherwise it’s simply toxic to drink.
- Don’t let the bolognaise sauce touch the pasta. Not one little bit.
- Don’t wash the comforter. It may be a haven for colonies of germs but the smell is what the toddler wants.
- Don’t lose the comforter. Enough said.
- Don’t drive down the street where the Golden Arches are. Because if you don’t stop, there will be tears. From everyone.
- Rinse, repeat. Every. Single. Day.
Feel free to add your own variations on the themes above.
You spend so long operating under these conditions that they become the new normal. You get used it. Well, as best you can. You know what’s coming so you become very adept at minimising the likelihood of a tantrum. Forward thinking and contingency planning become your strengths.
But don’t doubt for a minute how exhausting it can be. But hey, that’s parenting, that’s motherhood.
Or so I thought. Well okay, the mentally exhausting thing remains around a little longer but the physical exhaustion starts to disappear, as the kids get older and you start to have a regular full night’s sleep.
The thing I started to notice last year when my youngest was four, and now a preschooler heading close to five, is the stress levels started to drop. It didn’t matter if my preschooler fell asleep in the car because that wouldn’t throw out his evening bedtime.
- A bit of sauce on the pasta is dealt with a chat.
- Juice tastes the same in different cups. Who knew? Well, I did.
- Golden arches…well that’s a sometimes food. Onya Cookie.
- The comforter, however, still can’t be washed.
And now because all the itsy bitsy little things that helped create the fog have gone, so too has the fog.
I’m less stressed. I’m less wound up.
Hell, sometimes I even let the kiddies stay up a bit longer. And eat that extra sugary treat. The fallout from straying from the norm isn’t as great. The consequences are less traumatic.
When you’re in the middle of The Fog of Motherhood, it’s hard. Making decisions during the fog is trying and tiring because every decision has a consequence. It’s a balancing act.
It’s the greatest irony of all. When you’re sleep deprived the most, the decision-making comes in thick and fast. No-one functions in those circumstances.
But once you’re through it, dropping the balls every now and then is okay. Deciding to drop the balls can be liberating.
Surely the insanity of raising teenagers isn’t anywhere near as bad. Right?