Boredom and Loneliness: A Modern Parenting Problem
Have you ever looked at your baby over breakfast and said, "well, what are we going to do today?" Or wished there were more programs on during the week?
We have made our lives so convenient that mums these days are struggling to know what to do with ourselves. How are we going to entertain the baby all day today? And tomorrow? And oh goodness - is this what life looks like for the next three years?
There is a huge imbalance between the early years of motherhood - filling our days with baby and toddler activities and struggling with boredom and depression; and the middle years - being so busy taking our children to all their important activities and not having any space to think, relax or just have fun. Both leave modern parents feeling lonely and like their lives are lacking purpose. Something just isn't quite right.
When reading old books written for mothers and wives, or old books with mothers/wives in the stories, it's clear those women weren't spending their mornings going to different baby activity classes to make sure their kids got enough stimulation and exercise (or to cope with the boredom and loneliness of being a stay-at-home parent). They weren't putting their kids in daycare because daycare was more fun for kids than being at home (which is actually becoming a thing!).
Mothers used to spend their days cleaning (no washing machine in sight), fixing worn clothes, growing food in the garden, cooking everything from scratch and more. I know we have come a (wonderful) long way in women's rights, and with technology, but for the modern stay-at-home mum, these advancements have left an empty void.
Recently I've been learning about sustainability, minimalism and a mix of other things. We aren't supposed to have nothing to do all day. When everything is done for us (machines doing our cleaning and cooking, shops bringing all our foods to us in supermarkets all year round, online shopping, etc), instead of feeling satisfied with all this free time, we find ourselves wondering what on earth we're going to do. And we end up spending our time entertaining our babies, as if that's what motherhood is all about. Instead of having our children join in our lives, we find ourselves revolved around theirs.
On the weekend, I went to my local farmer's markets. We bought lots of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables and chatted to the local farmers. When we got home, I prepared some fruit and set it up to be dehydrated, so we can eat homemade snacks instead of plastic-wrapped, chemical-laden store-bought food. A small step, but a big step for me. Why dry fruit? Well as part of my personal War on Waste challenge, I'm trying to buy local, seasonal produce. That means I'm not going to have certain fruit available all year round anymore. I need to start saving food ahead. Today I sliced a bread loaf and made hummus with my daughter. We watered the garden and pulled out weeds, and then made our own tea. Small steps, but I didn't once get bored or wonder what I was going to do with my toddler, or how I was going to help her learn/develop today.
When we get back in touch with our roots - growing our food, being in our community, living in alignment with the natural seasons, saving water and electricity, making/recycling/repairing things instead of constantly buying new - something about life becomes more colourful. When life is too easy, it becomes dull. I'm not surprised mothers these days have high rates of depression. I'm not surprised we have the highest living standards in history and it coincides with the worst mental health stats on record. We have lost touch with nature and our own humanity, and we have lost some sense of purpose and meaning along with it.
And so instead of taking our babies to new activity classes, or giving our babies tablets with new technology designed to 'educate' them and fill in time during the day, perhaps we should look backwards instead - to what our ancestors were doing to fill their days. Personally, I'll leave the long days of cleaning in the past, but I'm also keen to leave those dull modern lonely, bored days behind too.