If I was in any doubt as to what my children think of me then my daughter has put me entirely straight on the matter. Aged 4 she has become rather obsessed with the bigger questions in life – how do we die? When do we die? Where do we go when we die? I have tried my best to answer her questions in a way she would understand, reassuring her without looking totally clueless. However, it would appear that her concerns were slightly more mundane – nodding sagely as I told her about the ins and outs of Heaven, she asked “when you die, who will do the laundry?” If ever a question could bring one crashing down to earth from the contemplation of the esoteric delights of Heaven, then this is it. My daughter sees me as a washing machine. Her concerns about me dying are not about losing a loved one but rather focused on who will ensure she has a clean school uniform for Monday.
I would like to say that my sons who are older (and therefore supposedly wiser) can appreciate the finer points of who I am. This is not the case. My elder son seems to think that I do nothing all day and his regular accusation is “Mum, you don’t do anything for us”. I can honestly say that there is hardly anything that I can imagine that my son could say that annoys me more than that particular accusation. It is guaranteed to send me into a rant about the usual “you don’t know how lucky you are” stuff and an endless list of examples of my activity on his behalf. Rant over, I always ask myself why on earth I felt it necessary to justify my existence to a 9 year old…but I can’t stop myself. My extreme reaction to his statement always bemuses him and my humiliation is complete when he says “it’s ok, mum, no need to get all stressed, I didn’t mean it”.
My middle son is trying to get his head around the fact that I did have a career before I accepted this long-term, badly paid, hideously long hours position of mother. He asked what I did before I had children and when I told him that I had worked in an office like his father does now, he looked incredulous. He asked me what my job is now, “Cleaner, taxi driver, cook, children’s social diary co-ordinator” I replied. Incredulous look again. “But when do you do all those jobs? Do you do them when we are in bed?” he asked. Clearly my description of my current job status did not ring any bells with him at all and I am slightly concerned that he now thinks that when he is tucked up in bed, I am busy driving around the county with a 2 way radio, taxi-ing random people from here to there before returning to cook 40 covers in a restaurant and finishing off with a few hours cleaning. Perception that I was working those sort of hours would at least explain why my daughter recently asked me if I had been 100 years old yet.
Does it bother me that my children perceive me like this? No, not really, after all this is what I do at the moment, at this stage in our lives. Yes, it would be nice if just once a week, one child picked up a wet towel abandoned on the floor after a bath, folded it and put it back on the towel rail in the bathroom – but I know this is just a pipe dream. Yes, it would be nice if just once a month, one child attempted the highly difficult and dangerous task of placing a plate in the dishwasher – but I know this is beyond all expectations.
What does bother me a little bit more is my own perception of myself as only the sum of these things. 2014 needs to be the year when I put this to rest and strike off “professional procrastinator” from my CV. Of course I shall continue to be a fairly average cleaner, taxi driver etc for my children, but also this year is my year to start something for myself. This blog was the start of it for me – this writing lark, and now I’ve got to get out there and do something with it….if only to see the incredulous look on my children’s faces if I do something that surprises them, something that falls outside of my usual job remit!