To get to my laptop just now I had to step around toys, over books, and through drifts of scrap paper and crayons. There are hoodies and hairbands on the sofas. There are plates of half-eaten scrambled eggs and raisins and cucumber slices everywhere.
Naptime is precious. That hour to an hour and a half of quiet time in the middle of the day is often the only time I have to do any work, whether that’s copywriting for paying clients, pitching article ideas to my favourite publications, adding to the wordcount on my novel-in-progress, or research for my new business.
If I choose not to do any of these things, it’s often the only time I have to read. At the moment I have on the go: a Marian Keyes novel; a non-fiction book about the craft of writing; a non-fiction book taking a scientific look at cannibalism and the evolutionary advantage it may or may not offer; and an Audible book that keeps sending me to sleep (in a nice way). There isn’t really enough time, ever, but if I don’t get the chance to spend a little time each day in a book I feel bewildered and unfinished.
Which is why my house is a tip. There isn’t enough time to play and write and read and also do all the housework that a family of three seems to need doing.
The people who live in my house wear freshly washed clothes and eat (usually) wholesome, (mostly) homecooked food from clean plates. The floor is normally hygenic enough that I don’t feel I have to smack dropped food out of my toddler’s hand. Nothing else is that important.
Sure, I don’t particularly like it when people come through my home and find themselves in the midst of what looks like an Early Learning Centre explosion. I wish I was someone who knew how to do the dishes as soon as the meal was done. But that’s just not the reality at the moment.
I, like other parents of little children (and I assume slightly bigger children too), am trying to learn to let it go. There isn’t enough time to do it all. That’s a lie we were fed, and an impossible standard men don’t have to live up to.
My most-quoted fact about parenthood is that parents these days are doing almost twice the amount of childcare as our grandparents. In 2011 mothers were, on average, doing 14 hours of childcare per week versus 10 in 1965. Fathers had increased from just 2.5 hours to 7. This is a good thing to keep in mind when you start to feel guilty about letting your sprog watch another episode of Hey Duggee.
The other thing that leaps out at me from this set of statitics is how much time is spent doing housework in relation to either childcare or paid work. No matter which parent you look at, no matter if it’s 1965 or 2011, more hours are dedicated to keeping the house clean than interacting with the kids. And that just feels wrong.
So when you next pop round for a cuppa, which I’d love for you to do, please don’t judge the mountains of laundry, the errant Megablocks. I’m spending my time playing with my toddler, and writing my novel, and reading books to keep myself whole. I promise the plate under your home-baked cookies is clean. Probably.