For all Mothers – the organised and disorganised

“Mum you have inspired me for when I become a mother,” said my eldest child, a few weeks ago. She has my full attention. She is not talking about her Spotify playlist, growing by the minute with hip hop artists singing about their girlfriend’s butts, she is not telling me why she needs to go shopping because all her clothes are too babyish, or could I please not buy the rice crackers for school snacks as everyone else has chocolate biscuits. She is talking about how I have inspired her. I’m all ears.

We sit at the kitchen bench, where all important topics are covered. I wipe a space for her elbows. “You see,” she begins nervously; I can tell this is important to her, or difficult to say. I wait, head cocked, with the listening face. “I’d like to be an organised mother,” I nod for her to continue, but also to acknowledge the rare praise she is anointing upon me for being organised.  “I want to have in-trays for all my kids, so they can put their school notes in and we can make sure we pay mission money on time and have the notes signed for the teachers.”

I’ve seen this too in a magazine. White in-trays lined smartly along a hall table with the children’s names inscribed. She found it on Pintrest. I remember seeing it and thinking it looked like a great idea, a sensible, structured idea. Until I realised, as a mother, I’m neither of those things. I ditched that idea soon after my first child was born. I waltzed into the hospital with a four page birth plan, outlining my need for no pain medication, no medical intervention, a six CD play list, scented candles, incense and a novel. The medical staff must have had the same knowing look I had with the organised mother comment. Let’s see how this goes, shall we? I emerged traumatised, two days later, after a 27 hour labour failed to progress, I had an emergency caesarean, a smorgasbord of drugs, the intervention of several doctors, one wearing white scrubs and rubber boots like he had come in from the dairy, and a small child. I learned a few lessons at the Mater Mothers.

  1. Life is unpredictable
  2. Children don’t follow a schedule
  3. No amount of planning can prepare you for some things that just happen

I think about how I am organised in life. I’m quite organised at work. My appointments are documented, client notes are entered on the system, I have a check list of how things go, my to do list of what I have coming up. I schedule times, book appointments, manage reminders.  I check in, follow up, research, share information. I think about how this year has unfolded, how I have relocated my business to a new clinic, across town, how I need to manage my hours around my children’s activities, fit in some after hours appointments and weekend workshops, how things are beginning to take shape.

Home is a place where things are allowed to slide. Our bags hit the floor, we eat, I put the washing on, we  watch TV, play music, eat, tidy up, read, sleep, shower, start the next day.  Groceries are usually on the fly, exercise fits in where it can and sometimes we just rest. Home to me, needs to be a place of sanctuary, away from the structure and constraints of work and school; a place to recover from straight rows of traffic and the enforced lining up, of running late and lugging bags full of equipment.

I have signed many notes, ticked boxes and given medical details for the gazillilonth time but sometimes these remain stuck under a fridge magnet while other notes pile on top. Some I have remembered to return, tucked into smug little envelopes with the monetary amount written on the outside and addressed to the office or teacher. Sometimes I have had to sidle up to the teacher at school, and give verbal permission for things. Sometimes, they don’t make it out of the school bags at all; until they are scooped up at the end of term clean out, stained pink by mystery lunchbox swill.

The mission money did go to school eventually, after the reminder emails were sent out. As for the raffle tickets for last year’s fete which were put in the first aid box when we renovated the kitchen, that was a legitimate mistake. For which I had to send an apologetic text to my friend, who had posted me a notice on school letterhead stating I needed to have a stat dec. signed because they were raffle tickets and fell under some government or catholic legislation to do with numbers and gambling and competitions. When I did find them three months later, it was too late.

My daughter looks at me, I see her with her idea of how she would like to be as a mother and I know about the best laid plans. I begin to defend myself and realise it is futile. I have missed things, I accept the blame is partly mine, I realise it can be shared by a preoccupied mother and worn out children. I understand there have been other priorities this year. I don’t want in-trays in my house. In my study and at work, sure, but I don’t want them lined up in my home suggesting the military precision of the Von Trapp family.

I’m as organised as I can be. I have sticky notes in my handbag, a black board with last week’s activities on it, half rubbed out notes scribbled on my hand, a mobile phone with confusing appointments which sometimes start at 5am instead of pm, a diary with work appointments and two kids with multiple activities to add to the list of mine and the schedule of my husband’s work trips. It makes sense to me. We are loosely scheduled, which is how I like it. If one is too tired to swim on Monday, we go to the Friday session. We sometimes skip choir, because ten minutes sleep in is more important to tired leg muscles recovering from netball training.

I swing and sway with the activities, based more around compassion and the need for small parts of the day where we can switch off. Places where we can park commitments, obligations and have time for a hug or a snack together, or just hanging out. Time to connect, to chat, to play and laugh. I can’t be the in-tray mother, all white and wicker, all clean benches and 7 pm bedtimes. Life doesn’t happen like that.  Today we skipped choir, because last night we were all cuddled up watching The Voice together, after showers and a leftover meal. Bedtime was later than normal, because they decided to share a bed together which was followed by giggling and laughter for twenty minutes longer than usual.

We don’t fit into the busy, scheduled, in-tray life where kids have structured play and down time. Sometimes life offers up opportunities to gather and connect with each other and these fall out of the discipline of schedules. The time we have with our small children has an expiry date, some day they won’t have time to sit and snuggle with me.

Soon, I won’t have their sleep warmed bodies crushed close to me in a morning hug, their tangled bed hair to brush out, and their teeny underclothes on the line. They will have their own homes, children, jobs and schedules, where they will choose to find time for me.  I will no doubt be where they left me, drinking lukewarm coffee at the kitchen bench, with a half open book beside me, scribbling down a shopping list or to do list, with the curled yellow edge of a reminder note from their primary school camp peeking out from under the fridge.



2 replies
  1. Roger Britton
    Roger Britton says:

    I suspect you learnt the art of dis-organization from Mum & Dad. Can you remember everyone packing for holidays? If it didn’t fit into a milk crate, to slide under the bus seat, it wasn’t going! The canoe on the roof racks and the tandem pushbike in the aisle and the camper-trailer on the tow bar…and all dressed alike so we knew you belonged to us. Mum, the Domestic Engineer and Dad up for adventure. I look back on those times and miss our babies who have now turned into wonderful parents themselves.

  2. Marg
    Marg says:

    Great article. You always make me laugh.
    Yes, I remember Roger. I used to love hearing your combi arrive when you called in on your holiday journeys.
    It did look a bit like the van tramps though, when you all piled out haha. ?


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