Not to boast, but I officially achieved next-level mothering last week.
You might think I am being smug, but, when I say next level, I mean the next level of anger: that shut-yourself-away-in-the-bedroom-and-take-deep-breaths-until-your-hands-stop-shaking kind of rage.
What did my daughters, aged 9 and 4, do that was so terrible to inspire such a reaction?
Nothing out of the ordinary. Earlier that day there had been a tantrum over a favourite pair of shorts being in the washing machine. I’d had to repeat myself 47 times before my kids listened to me. Throw in a bit sibling bickering – the kind that gnaws away at your soul like a power drill – and there I was.
Under normal circumstances this would be called “Thursday”. But this was no ordinary day. It’s school holidays for goodness sake: six weeks of panic, boredom and guilt.
Panic because I know the first thing my kids are going to say at the start of each day is, “What are we doing today?”
I had no freaking idea how to answer that question the first time they asked it, let alone the following 40 times. I can’t arrange play dates because apparently everyone is away at their beach house or some exotic holiday destination. And they are all having way more fun. Just look at their Instagrams.
Unlike our mother’s generation, it’s now illegal to kick our kids onto the streets and tell them to come home when the streetlights come on. Now you need to find school holiday activities, which match up with your schedule and that your kid actually wants to go to. Even if you manage that, they cost a small fortune.
And it’s not like we can let our kids watch TV for the entire holidays either (because, you know, mother guilt).
Instead, what I end up doing is being bored out of my freaking brain playing UNO for the 200th time, playing the same damn games at the same damn park, and telling/begging/screeching at my kids to go and find something to do.
And then, when they actually do what I ask for the first time all day, they get out glue and glitter or decide to bake something. Which means, after their 15 minutes of fun, I then have to spend the next hour and a half trying – and failing – to remove glitter from the table and the flour from the kitchen while they reprise their chorus of, “What we are doing today?”
As I am battling through the endless drudgery of domestic tasks, I think about the paid work I’d rather be doing right now but can’t. This leads to the final ingredient in the poisonous school holiday cocktail: guilt.
Don’t I know that kids grow up so quickly? I should be making the most of all these precious moments.
Every time I look at the news it’s strife: drownings, car accidents, disease. People are struggling through wars and natural disasters and here I am in my perfectly privileged middle-class life with my two gorgeous, healthy children, closet-eating my kids' Christmas chocolate to get through the day, and counting down the hours until bed time. How ungrateful can you get?
I project forward to the end of the holiday marathon and imagine all the sad-faced mothers on the first day of school lamenting that the holidays are over. “It was so relaxing,” they will say. “I just love not having to rush anywhere and spend quality time as a family.” And I will nod and smile and wonder what the hell is wrong with me.
When I shut myself in my bedroom last week during my fit of white rage, I wasn’t just angry at my kids: I was angry at myself for not being the type of mother that I want to be.
I shamefully admitted my out-of-control rage to my friend Emma, who also has two children. She just shrugged and said she feels like that all the time and can’t wait to go back to work.
Oh, the relief! The sweet balm of knowing I am not the only mother who spends countless “precious moments” with her children on the school holidays wishing she was somewhere else.
So, to the other mothers who are crossing off the days on the calendar like a hardened crim scratching off the days on their cell wall, take heart and know you are not the only one.
And, hang in there: we’ve reached the halfway point.