“Oh, you’re so good at always getting out and about with your kids.”
I hear comments like this a lot. In real life, on my blog and on my Instagram feed.
As you’ll know if you read Cardiff Mummy Says regularly, we do go out a lot. Some of our day trips are places we are lucky to be invited to because of the blog, but most of them are local places that are free or inexpensive to visit.
And no, I don’t think going out lots makes me a “good” parent.
In fact, the opposite is true. If I’m honest, I find parenting so much easier out of the house than I do at home.
At home, I can see the dishes, the washing, the cleaning, the toys that need to be put away.
When my children ask me to play or read, I find myself saying more often than I would like “Just a minute, Mummy’s doing the laundry,” or whatever it is I’m doing.
Or, being self-employed and working from home, I find myself getting sucked into work emails that I make myself believe are more urgent than they are.
Or, I know I really need to be catching up on the housework, but I want to play with my kids instead. So I ignore the chores and focus on my children. And then when my husband comes home from work, I look around at the sight that meets him and I feel like a lazy, slovenly, excuse for a wife… even though that’s not what he’s thinking at all, because he has been the one solo in charge of three kids and knows exactly what it’s like.
There are days when I find myself feeling like I’ve tried to do everything but have accomplished nothing. I’ve kind of played with the kids, but not properly. I’ve kind of tidied up, but not properly. I’ve kind of done some work, but I haven’t been properly working. Like that old saying, Jack of all trades, master of none.
As a yoga teacher, I think a lot about mindfulness and focusing your attention on one thing. I try to do this, I really do. I set timers for the housework. Blitz the bathroom for 20 minutes and then read them stories. I turn my phone off for an hour so I can’t be interrupted. But then when I do turn it back on I am greeted by hundreds of notifications on every social network and dozens of emails too. The downsides of working in social media.
I think it’s important for children to have unstructured time at home, to play and use their imaginations, to read books or have stories read to them, to play hide and seek or shops or Lego or whatever, to snuggle up and watch a film, or even binge watch their favourites TV show.
However, I also find that my children often argue more on the days we are at home. Someone wants a toy someone else has got. They all want to watch different things on the TV. And if I’m trying to get on with something, I get asked to help find something, or fix something, or stop someone doing something. It can feel relentless.
That all changes when we are out though. There’s no cleaning to be done. The smartphone has to wait. Even better if there’s no internet signal and I can’t be contacted. The new surroundings and fresh air seem to inspire my children and we have the most amazing adventures exploring. I’m more patient; I shout less. I focus on them wholeheartedly and I love it.
Granted, in the days of breastfeeding, it was sometimes chaotic being out and about, with a baby on the boob and a toddler running off in the opposite direction. But even if it was just a couple of hours at the local softplaty or toddle group, I’ve always loved the ability to focus when I’m out with my children rather than being at home.
The housework, the washing and the freelance work is all there when I get back, but I feel happier having spent quality time with the kids, and I can tell it makes a difference to them too.
I do love getting out and about anyway; not just because I find it easier. I love finding new places, exploring and the rest of it. I’d do it even it wasn’t the easier option. But, for me, getting out the house makes me a better parent.
I mentioned this recently on Instagram. I often wonder if I am a crap mum (yes, I know I’ve already written about how we shouldn’t call ourselves crap mums) because I find being at home harder than being out. But it seems I’m not alone. Although some mummas confessed to being home bunnies, a lot were in agreement.
“Yes!” said Marebearmom. “And the kids are in a much better mood. Sometimes hard to get everyone out the door, but worth it in the end.”
“Life seems easier taking them out,” said Dearbearandbeany.
“I feel like this some days,” said Mebecomingmum. “Outside they are happier and I can pretend that our home doesn’t have things needing doing.”
Bearandcardigan said, “Agree with you totally. So much easier being out and he gets more of me without the distractions at home.”
And Jenniferjain said, “Some fresh air always makes everything better doesn’t it! I find mine are much calmer back at home afterwards too so I can get on with some jobs.”
She has a great point. Spend the day at the park or the museum and when we come home they’ll happily watch TV or play for an hour while I get on with things. It’s far more productive than the alternative of spending the day at home because you have so much to do but not accomplishing anything.
And one day, there won’t be any little people at home because they will be making their own way in the big wide world and I’ll be able to work and tidy with no distractions at all.
I know I’ll miss it, so I’m going to keep on embracing the day trips while I still can.