Susan realizes why she’s so, so tired.
It suddenly hit me. I was exhausted. I was more than exhausted. The thought of trying to get through another day suddenly seemed insurmountable. And there was one main culprit. It wasn’t the constant running after Finn. Nor the frustrating nappy changes while he bucked and squawked. It wasn’t ceaselessly having to pick him up when he ordered ‘Mama Up!’ or putting him down again when he shouted ‘Mama Up!’
These were all tiring. But they had nothing on the biggest challenge of them all.
Roxi and I share the bathing, take turns getting up for the night wakings and share other household chores. But for some reason the enormous and frustrating task of feeding Finn was all mine. I don’t quite know how it happened. Only that the relentless mental effort required to come up with three nutritiously sound meals each day combined with the preparing and coaxing of those meals into an often uncooperative Finn, had depleted me. And suddenly I was furious! Why wasn’t Roxi sharing the feeding?
To be honest, there was a time that I viewed the feeding as somewhat of a personal growth opportunity. Daft, now that I think about it. But I was reading that darned book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and had a momentary lapse where I convinced myself that feeding Finn could actually lead to my enlightenment.
The writer’s struggle with sitting still in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time seemed not dissimilar to the inner endurance and intense patience required to convince a small child to open its mouth for teaspoonful after teaspoonful of sticky glob that so easily found its way onto your clean clothes before work or the newly wiped couch. It was the only thing I could tell myself that could get me through it: that somehow mastering this painful task would take me to higher planes. It would make me a better person. Instead it simply pushed me close to burnout.
It was a couple of weeks ago that Roxi made the mistake of insinuating that maybe she could do a better job of this feeding thing than I could.
‘When he says he doesn’t want food, why do you keep feeding him?’ she argued.
I tried to explain that it was hard to take no for an answer when you knew he was hungry or that more distressing the reality that if he didn’t have his daily quota of nutrition he would wake up throughout the night. ‘And why does it have to be so messy?’ Roxi wondered. The argument ended with me saying, ‘Well, you do it then!’ and Roxi confidently undertaking to feed Finn for an entire week.
I put my feet up as Roxi confidently whipped Finn into his high chair armed with an extra bib, wet face cloth and bowl of spaghetti bolognaise. I stayed out of it, pretending not to notice.
But by Sunday evening as I watched her, smeared in beige, hopping about on haunches after our darling boy as she tried to slip yet another blob of food into his uncooperative beak, she momentarily looked up and caught my eye. I smiled broadly. She had no choice but to admit it. She had become me. And so transcendence or no transcendence there’s no way I’m turning back now. Roxi and I are finally really in this together.
Which bits of parenting are the hardest? Who takes responsibility for them?