I happened to come home from work early one day. My kids weren’t expecting me and I was able to slip into my bedroom before any of the 3 rapscallions noticed me. My husband was laying in the bed reading. The kids were off in their own corners of the house or countryside playing. I flopped on the bed and braced myself for the child-shaped disruption from calm that would inevitably descend in the next five minutes.
Miraculously the first five minutes slipped by and I was still flopped on the bed.
And another five minutes slipped peacefully by.
At fifteen minutes, I looked at my husband incredulously and said, “Is this what it’s like for you? Are you telling me that when you’re home alone with the kids, you get to do your own thing and they leave you alone? Uninterrupted? For 15 whole glorious minutes?”
Non-plussed, my husband glanced briefly up from his book and casually said, “well, yeah. They usually are either playing together or are in their own rooms playing alone. Sometimes I’ll have chimp with me or Kbear, but this isn’t unusual.”
I could have throttled him.
Part of me, I suppose, felt pleased for my husband that he could regularly enjoy moments like this. The other 95% immediately clouded with envy, spite, dismay, and a desperate need to make him understand that my life does not resemble this in the slightest.
You know those dog chew toys? The ones that are basically ropes with handles on two sides? The dog puts one handle in her mouth and the human holds on to the other and they pull? Yep . . . that’s my life. I am the human tug toy. Except I’m the middle of rope and there are 3 handles and each child is firmly grasping his or her end and persistently vying for the grand prize. Lying down on a bed alone for 15 minutes? Ha!
I don’t really know why it happens, but when I’m home, my kids want all of me, all the time. And, I genuinely try to be a very attentive and present mom. In fact, it seems the more attentive and present I am, the harder they pull on their tug toy handle to get even more of me! And, I homeschool two of them, so, unless I’m traveling, they really get to see me almost all day most days.
I’ve talked with other moms, and they seem to experience the same thing. One mom friend said that she actually spent one afternoon with her toddler gripped firmly on to her ankle. The little girl was pulled all around the house, but wouldn’t let go. Chafed ankle aside, my friend’s floor was nicely cleaned that day. Her husband? Both kids will be off playing on their own.
And I really don’t get it. My husband is definitely more fun to hang around than I am. He’s just as hands on as I am. The kids are just as connected to him as they are to me. They will seek each of us out equally to help with owies and sickness and tears. And yet, there he sits with his daily nap and peaceful hour of rest while I’m literally looking frayed from all the tugging.
And while I’m jealous, I really don’t want my kids to have a 6’4” human tug toy to join the 5’8” one they already own. I do, however, want my husband to get it. To understand why this mothering thing is so exhausting. I am not claiming that dads have it easy. I think dads are expected to be strong and intimidating and simultaneously soft and nurturing. That must be confusing landscape to navigate. But, I don’t think most dads have to deal with the tug toy dilemma very often. Years ago, one dad I know said, “I don’t get it. My wife will have all 5 of the kids surrounding to her and talking to her at the same time. It would drive me crazy. I just wouldn’t allow it.”
And that’s the thing. It’s easy to not allow something that doesn’t happen to you in the first place. Trust me. I’ve tried a hundred and two different strategies to not allow this mayhem. I have found none that work. If you have . . . please enlighten me.
I’m guessing, though, if you’re a mom, you are simply commiseratingly nodding along. Wish I had an easy answer for you. I guess we can set our minds to embrace the positives of this . . . our kids want to be around us. We must be doing something right. We are loved. Our lives are full. Blah blah blah. Most days, I’d rather they’d just trade in their human tug toy for a nice, cozy, quiet doggy bed.