Today I would like to talk about Alice.
(no, not the song, although I do love the song)
To me, Alice represents “the village”, the support, the family, the friends; all those things which help a parent raise a child. Because yes, parents DO NEED HELP.
We are probably all familiar with the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. That saying is a saying for a reason.
For generations, child rearing has been something which was done not only by the parents but by the grandparents and the aunts and the uncles and the family friends and by the peers. The mother would be on complete bed rest for 40 days after birth, required to do nothing more than bond with the baby. The family would take care of the rest. And there was absolutely no guilt attached to this whatsoever.
It was quite reasonable for a mother, who stayed home caring for her children, to have “someone” come and help a few times a week. Like you know, clean the bathrooms and the floors and dust and iron and stuff like that. This was not seen as failure, this was seen as normal.
Mrs Brady, of course, was the luckiest of the bunch, to have Alice live with her full time and run the household so that all Mrs Brady needed to concentrate on was charity work, idle chit chat and children’s squabbles. Oh and always looking well groomed, of course.
And “back in those days”, children were well behaved, well mannered, respectful to adults and knew their place. Not all of course, but I’m going to say it must have been the majority because that is how it is represented these days. All I hear about is the good old days and the “young people of today” not having any respect and behaving like the world owes them a favour.
Let’s have a look at parents today as a comparison, shall we?
More often than not the family unit is the parents and the children. The grandparents and the rest of the extended family are all over the country, if not all over the world. More often than not, the mother has to go back to work weeks after the baby’s birth. More often than not, she is out of bed days after childbirth, cleaning the house, doing the washing, cooking and looking after other children. We rely on childcare to look after our children while we work long hours so that we could pay for that childcare. The notion of having an Alice on one income makes the mind boggle!!!!
So we have these children whose parents are stressed out from before they are born. Breastfeeding or formula? Disposable nappies or cloth nappies? Does mum stay at home or does she work? Is it even a question? Does dad stay at home and mum goes to work? If it’s childcare, which childcare? We are made to feel guilty by the society regardless of which decision we make.
And the kids end up in day care for long hours every day because the parents are trying to make ends meet; and they are irritable and they can’t tell us why. And the little time the parents do get to spend home between work and commute to and from, instead of spending it reading their children stories and kissing their fat little fingers and toes and giving them bubble baths; the parents have to spend that time getting ready so they can repeat the whole process the next day. And they miss out on the every day things, the falls and the smiles and the tears and the a-ha moments because someone else is looking after their child, someone who probably cares a lot, but not as much as mum and dad ever would.
And then we wonder why they grow up distant and aloof and thinking that life is unfair?
Or, if a parent chooses to stay at home and rear the children on their own with no help because the family is unavailable, how does that work? When you have to clean and wash and cook and help with homework and be a taxi and a bank and a budget advisor and a savvy shopper and a dietician and a nurse and a confidante and a bargain hunter and the payer of bills and organiser of parties and the cupcake maker and the dog walker and the dog poopy picker uperer and the last minute everything? Not to mention be a wife/husband, a friend, a daughter/son, a sister, a brother? How about personal sanity and a moment for yourself? Like going to the toilet without an audience? You know, the little things.
One could say that as a stay at home parent you could “get organised” and “follow a routine”. Really? Nothing quite disrupts routine like a child taking their nappy off without you noticing (since you are busy being all of the above, you are not able to watch your children like a hawk every second) and then the said child proceeds to poo and pee sporadically not only all over the inside of the house but also the concrete outside as you discover some time later when it’s all dried up and you need to get the chisel out. There is nothing like the time later on the same day when you are in a room and although you have thoroughly cleaned it, you still can’t help but notice a particular smell. Then you go on a hunt on your hands and knees for the source of this particular smell because you cannot rest until it is located. After some time you realise that innocent looking raisin over there is in fact not a raisin at all.
So what I’m saying is routine is all good and well as a concept, but the reality is very VERY different. “Best laid plans of mice and men”; great book, very tragic but it helps put the concept across.
I remember reading in the Celestine Prophecy that we are meant to have one child per adult so that they are given all the attention they need to develop into a really cool adult. “What a great concept!” I thought at the time. L O L
Now I have five children fighting for my attention at the same time. And I mean fighting. And this could possibly be while I am on the toilet, on the phone, in the shower, cooking with hot oil, baking things in the hot oven…they can strike at any given time….it is never safe to relax…
Quite often I find myself at the shop buying milk in the mornings dressed in my pyjamas. Sure, the mornings can start off well organised. And then, you know, one thing leads to another and I realise while paying for the said milk, that my teeth are a bit on the furry side.
Even as I write this, William is climbing on my back waving my laptop case in the air (because he IS Batman!) and Phoenix has got the vacuum AND the broom out in the lounge behind me and is trying to knock down the objects he can’t reach with the broom. (I think he must have tried the vacuum cleaner first, but it must have been too heavy)
So, understandably, there are times when I will say to my husband “dear, I need an Alice”. And he will lovingly reply, “dear, we can’t afford an Alice”.
I don’t know what the answer is, I really don’t.
All I know is that I am doing the best that I can and the best I know how. And if the kids have thrown their bowls of pasta all over the floor and I let the dogs in to clean it up, don’t judge me. I choose not to judge me. My OCD cleanliness standards have gone out the window a long time ago. I want to be able to sit and kiss each and every one of those little fat toes and fingers while they are still little. And I want to snuggle up and watch a gazillion episodes of Batman, because Batman is cool and I do love those snuggles!
Yes, I will make sure I pick up each and every one of those raisins but if the day gets away from me, I will not feel guilty for feeding my children toast and tea.
I know I will never be able to give them all the attention they need all of the time but I will give them all of my love all of the time.
I know they can be naughty and I should discipline them better but sometimes I just don’t have the strength so I just don’t (even though I know it will come to bite me on the arse later).
There are days when I am just so exhausted and I feel like the weight of the whole world, past present and future, rests on my shoulders and I just want to run far far away and hide and pretend I’m a tree.
There are days when I want to paint my nails and let them dry before I have to go and do something.
Every day I wish I could actually finish one cup of coffee before I am interrupted.
Parents everywhere will say, “oh, but the REWARDS are so worth it!!!”. Kiss my arse. The rewards are NOT going to mean jack shit to me if I run myself into the ground and end up sick or depressed because I have failed to take the time to look after ME properly.
So, in a nutshell, Mrs Brady had it right. And I want, no I NEED an Alice. And so do you.
Not being able to have extended family around is sometimes due to geographical reasons but sometimes they can also be people you don’t want to be around with (let alone have them around your child); whatever the reason, you always get to choose who your Alice is.
Now I just have to figure out a way for every parent to be able to afford an Alice…maybe it will work like fashion styles do? They all come back. So maybe the concept of actually having and needing and getting and not feeling guilty about having help with the household chores will come back into fashion too?