The Boredom of Motherhood
I call my sister… “What are you doing?” Would you like to come over and watch ladybugs with us?” a note of desperation in my voice. We’ve been at this ladybug watching for a while now and I’m finding it hard to stay interested. I’m craving adult conversion. Happily Dana obliges me and comes over for the visit.
Whoever thought that mothering would be boring? I sure didn’t when I signed on. I assumed I’d be busy. And I am, overwhelmingly so sometimes. But what I never imagined was that I could be busy and bored at the same time.
So much of the work of parenting small children involves activities that are fascinating for them, yet rather uninteresting for us as adults. There are so many repetitive tasks that go along with taking care of little ones, that it can seem like time is inching along at a snails’ speed. These tasks like feeding, burping, putting to sleep, changing diapers, playing, dressing, and then changing and dressing again because they puked, or peed through or played in the dirt, they are never ending. For a mind that is used to working on more complex ideas, it can feel brain numbingly dull.
I remember when I was a kid our favorite babysitter would always play hide and go seek with us when she came over. My siblings and I LOVED this game. So much that we would ask to play it the moment she walked through the door. Then one time, shockingly our babysitter refused the game. We pestered her… why didn’t she want to play? “It’s kind of boring” she replied. We stood there with mouths open in astonishment. Hide and go seek was to us the epitome of fun. We simply could not wrap our young brains around the idea that something so fun to us, was so boring to her.
Yet the other day after 45 minutes of playing ponies, I’m on the other side of that fence. Julia and Ahren are trilled. They love playing ponies. I’m bored out my mind and I’m starting to count the minutes until Harlan will come home and there will be another adult in the house.
I know the solution to my boredom but sometimes it’s hard to attain because I’m unwilling to change my perception. When I get down to their level and I fully immerse myself in their world and I allow myself to be as curious about every bug as they are, then they allow me to see the world through new eyes, and time doesn’t matter so much anymore.
There is a famous Zen saying that goes like this.
Before enlightenment: Oh the sorrow… chop wood, carry water,
After enlightenment, Oh the joy… chop wood, carry water.
It’s a good reminder of how our external experience does not matter near as much as our internal one. Of course my version of this maxim would be more along the lines of… feed, wipe spit up, change diaper, repeat!
So what happens when we embrace the boredom; when we embrace the feed, wipe spit up, change diaper routine? Is there value in the boredom?
I think so. The simple action of bringing your full attention to what is happening offers an opportunity to slow down and smell the roses both literally and figuratively. The everyday tasks of parenting can take on a new more meaningful quality. I had one yoga teacher who would always remind us… if you are bored in the posture (or in life) then you aren’t paying enough attention.
But why is it so difficult?
Most of us have spent years training our minds to think, evaluate, compare, analyze, solve problems, organize and the list goes on. Our education systems do not prepare us to find meaning and satisfaction in the everyday mundane stuff of life. So most of us are wholly unprepared for the type of mental focus and emotional fortitude that parenting babies and toddlers requires. All of our intellectual training is no match for the small demanding infant that steals our hearts, scares us to bits and whom we love with an intensity that we never believed possible before. But babies don’t need our superb intellect or ambition. They need the multitude of repetitive tasks of caring for them, and they need these tasks preformed with the fullness of our awareness and love.
When we let them, our children can bring us back to the wonder of the moment… the wonder of running barefoot on the grass, the wonder of hearing the sound of their own voice, the wonder of a story. When we embrace the boredom, a wonderful thing can happen… the boredom transforms itself into something rich and meaningful.
So the next time you are out for a walk or running an errand with your little one, let her lead the way, literally. To a child the journey truly is as important as the destination and all small details along the way are irresistible.
But the key here is balance. While we are working our way from “Ah the boredom, wipe spit-up, change diaper” to “Ah the wonder, wipe spit-up, change diaper” it’s important to know we might not get there all at once. Changing from unenlightened to enlightened is a process. So go easy on yourself. Embrace the boredom for an hour… then go call a friend.
That’s my plan at any rate.
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