As a stay-at-home mother of three young children, I sometimes feel like I’ve been sentenced to house arrest. It can be lonely and isolating and right now it seems interminable. Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest in Burma for more than a decade and the duration of Julian Assange’s exile is anyone’s guess, but I bet he isn’t prepared for years of monotony. I am sure that it is peaceful at the Ecuadorian Embassy and to be honest, the mere thought of being arrested if I step out my front door is just a wee bit exciting to me right now. At least it would be something out of the ordinary.
When I was pregnant with my first child I was ‘warned’ about the restrictive elements of motherhood. “Your life will never be the same” people said, and “You’ll never be spontaneous again.” Surely they were exaggerating, I thought, as I fantasised about what motherhood would look like for me: leisurely strolls with my baby; mums and bubs movie sessions, baby-chinos at the cafe and lunch dates with my friends. Fast forward three years and life couldn’t be further from this fantasy.
When my third child was born and my eldest had not yet turned three, people made polite comments such as “Oh aren’t you brave” and, “You must be a super mum”. Read, “Are you out of your mind? You must be crazy!” I confess that I chose to have three kids and I also chose to have them quickly. My logic was this: I was already knee-deep in nappies and vomit, and a sleep deficit that had been lingering for years. I may as well add another to the clan and then call it stumps. I subscribed to the theory that having them close together would mean short-term pain but ultimately long-term gain.
The downside to my theory is that for almost four years I’ve been housebound for a large part of every day. Right now I am in the thick of it. My baby has a morning and afternoon sleep and my toddler has a sleep in the middle of the day. It’s widely known that children thrive on routine and repetition. I’ve learned that in order to manage multiple children, routines matter and sticking to them has an enormous impact on surviving the day. And my husband wonders why I do so much online shopping? If you can’t get to the shops, let the shops comes to you!
Getting out of the house requires meticulous planning. I used to manage international conferences involving hundreds of delegates and I thought that required organisational skills. Now, in order to get three kids out the door, every minute counts, and with an 8.30am kinder start time, seconds sometimes matter. The windows of opportunity for life on the outside are slim and an unexpected phone call, dirty nappy or sudden change in the weather can uproot the best-laid plans.
Recently, I was feeling ambitious and an opportunity for spontaneity presented itself during my day. After days of rain, the sun majestically appeared so we walked to a nearby park. With my baby in a sling and holding each of my toddler’s hands I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for achieving our escape. I noticed a mum nearby who also had her baby in a sling. I inwardly classified her as a “first-time mum” and envied her glow. “Is this your first?” I asked cheerily, and with a beaming smile she replied “No, my seventh.” I gripped my baby in her sling, almost to stabilise myself as I digested what she had just said. Struck for words, I mumbled something about feeling I had my hands full with three. I then asked how many of her kids were at school, to which she replied “I am home schooling them so there’s not a lot of free time.”(Why was this woman still smiling?) I quickly sought refuge back inside my four walls…I felt safer in there!
Unlike Aung San Suu Kyi, I am not under house arrest for the greater good of my nation. I am doing it solely for three tiny individuals. I hope they will thank me one day. When I get released, look out!
Do you ever feel like you’re under house arrest?
* First published on iVillage.com.au