My children bring me utmost joy. But do I enjoy my children? To calculate how many minutes a day I enjoy being a mum, I’ve used my Joy-ometer, or JoyMometer, if I may. What’s your reading?
As with your temperature, your score on the parental joy scale obviously depends on what time of day the reading is taken. Kissing their sleeping brows just before you go to bed = 10/10 on the JoyMometer. Holding all three children at arm’s length as they compete to stamp in the poo the baby has just curled out on the carpet = -10/10. Joy comes and goes unbidden and may be fleeting or complete, but for the sake of the experiment, I broke down my day into sections. The reading surprised me. It seems I enjoy my kids for 9 hours of the day, while I un-enjoy them for 9 hours (I exclude my 6 hours’ so-called sleep). It’s a draw! So why do I feel like I’m struggling most of the time?
Daily Dose of Pure Joy
I was generous with the statistics. Anything above 5/10 I included as joy, but pure joy is felt rarely, and not for very long. In my typical day on the JoyMometer, I count three incidences of pure joy, lasting five minutes max each. Tellingly, each time it peaks is after an extended period of absence from the child(ren). Looking at it another way, if I took my children just at those three times a day, like a dose of medicine, I’d be as joyous as spring itself.
Joy Is In The Heart of the Receiver
Do I sound a bit mean and horrible? Why don’t I try and enjoy my children a bit harder? Is it my perception that is unjoyous, not their performance? This is a fair point, and one that is on my list of improvements for Mummy 2.0. I do try and start with a clean slate, to reset the JoyMometer each morning. It’s just sometimes I’m too tired to feel joy, too bored of sweeping under the highchair, too unsure of how I’m doing as a mother, too busy… I’m sorry if I seem like an ungrateful cow to working parents, but my point is just that the ratio of enjoyment to unjoyment is interesting, however many hours fall into each camp.
Who Says We Have To Enjoy Our Children, Anyway?
Fifteen minutes a day of pure joy is pretty good, really. You can’t enjoy anything all the time. It’s not natural for anything to impart continuous joy. Even sitting on a sun lounger in the Bahamas. You would (eventually) get bored witless, your skin would be like an ancient map, and you would get the most unsightly sunbed-sores. But if there’s anything that has the potential to provide joy on a consistent, if not constant, basis, it is your beautiful child. We just need to work on the dose.
My JoyMometer Readings On a Typical Day
6.00-6.05am JoyMometer reading: 10/10
First child to wake stumbles (or is carried, if the baby) into room; wonderful sleepy snuggles ensue.
6.05-8.35am JoyMometer reading: 0/10
All three children want to get up and on it. Big boys boycott breakfast because I cut their toast in half. Apparently, they only liked cut toast yesterday. And no, we will not eat cereal today! No one is dressed until 5 minutes before leaving house. Baby screams till he is literally sick as I run back into the house for book bags – damn you to hell, separation anxiety.
8.35-8.40am JoyMometer: 5/10 (utter joy, divided by guilt and lingering resentment at behaviour all round leading up to this point)
Howling, complaining mass in back of car transmogrifies into two little boys who want to nestle in mummy’s armpit before they are wrenched away to class. Two open, meek little faces look up at me and whisper, “Bye mummy.” And if I get down low and listen really carefully, occasionally, “Love you, mummy.”
8.40am-1pm JoyMometer: 7/10
Time to enjoy my baby. And do the chores. Chores reduce unfettered joy in delicious baby, who will not be put down for more than a minute and is a bit of a smashy-paws. Also falls over a lot. Smashing and falling inevitably occur while I’m emptying the bin / forcing everything into one load of the washing machine to “save time” – or make the clothes into weird sea creature shapes after “in basket” drying: my patented technique.
1pm-1.05pm JoyMometer: 10/10
My pre-schooler runs into my arms, a huge smile lighting up his beautiful face.
1.05-3.20pm JoyMometer: 8/10
“Mum, move the baby! Mum, I want a snack! Mum, play with meee!” – a repetitive, but generally pleasant period of baby-ringfencing and placing grapes into the mouth of recumbent child, while doing the Star Wars sticker books. Unless I attempt to take them out anywhere, in which case JoyMometer generally plummets.
3.20-3.40 JoyMometer: 2/10
Very happy to see biggest boy (age 6) burst out of school with a huge smile. Smile wiped off my face by 20 minutes of him letting off steam, a.k.a. the not-getting-in-the-car dance, in front of a studio audience of most of the parents and teachers, and if I’m really lucky, the Head. We are always the last to leave school.
3.40-8.40pm JoyMometer: 2.5/10 (oscillates wildly between 0/10 and 5/10)
Complete pandemonium as children are reunited with each other, their toys and the top of their voices. Snack-grabbing, homework refusing, remote-throwing, crumb-grinding, baby-barging, mummy-charging, tea-refusing, patience-abusing, drink-spilling, nappy-filling, sofa-bouncing, brother-trouncing…Will they go to bed? No, they will not.
8.40pm-bedtime JoyMometer: 7/10
Immediately starts rising when they fall asleep, held in check by laundry, tidying up and the usual daily Guilt Review, in which I reflect on my motherly shortcomings.
Bedtime: JoyMometer: 10/10
Those little eyelashes fanned out over their peaceful little faces. Tears of joy under my eyelids as I go to sleep.
Two fab bloggers who also posted on the two sides of mumdom this week: