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The Boredom of Motherhood

June 28, 2009

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.



If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also enjoy these two posts.


A Journey to Myself

I’ve come to a place in my life where I can appreciate that the best way to connect to those I love is to first connect to myself. I have a stronger, deeper relationship with my husband, family and friends now that I have started diving deeper into my relationship with me.  Keep Reading





Benchmarks… is my baby meeting them? or am I making myself crazy?

Have you even gotten sucked into the myth of the Perfect Mother whose kids meet all the benchmarks on time? It’s so easy to do.

We all want to do this job of parenting so well. And I think we look outside ourselves and our families to judge whether or not we’re “succeeding”…. we look at benchmarks.  Keep Reading

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Melinda permalink
    July 6, 2009 10:24 pm

    Thank you so much for saying this out loud! I know there have been times when Ii think the “ugh not again!” but realize how important it is for them to do it over and over again. Plus most people think we are supposed to be love every minute of being a parent…how can we admit we are bored?
    I am working on being more “present” and living in the moment, but it always takes work and energy…not something I’ve had a lot of lately. So thank you for letting me know I”m not the only one!
    Keep up the great writing!

  2. Lynn permalink
    July 7, 2009 7:19 am

    What a wonderful way of putting things you have! I totally hear you. When Eva wakes up this morning and says: “Wee, wee, wee” and “boots” (this is her little way of telling me she wants to go across the street to the playground to the swings and she wants her boots on right now), I will look at it with different eyes!

    They really do grow up so quickly but along the way it can seem like forever sometimes so thank you for posting this!


  3. Sharleen permalink
    July 7, 2009 1:21 pm

    What a well-written piece! And so timely! I was JUST having this conversation with Cheryl on the weekend!
    I’ve really noticed that kid pace and adult pace are very different and that it requires a real shift in mindset when you are with them to not be driven batty by the slow pace, to really stop and smell the roses cuz that is what they are doing all day long and loving every minute of it. 🙂
    And while I enjoyed by few days of slower pace I will admit to being very eager to drop off our son at the Playground program when it opened for the summer!
    I’ll look forward to more great articles and ways to share with other mothers.

  4. Kim permalink
    July 7, 2009 8:39 pm

    Thanks for being courageous enough to share your thoughts and feelings. I can completely identify with what you are saying. You are so right about being in the moment and how boredom quickly disappears if you are truly paying attention.

  5. July 7, 2009 9:42 pm

    Hey Marie,

    I am definitely working on being more present and trying to appreciate what it is that my sons are doing. I am finding that time is slipping away on me and I have realized that there are so many things that my second son has done, learned and accomplished that I haven’t noticed because I am either too tired, bored or busy. Then the mommy guilt sets in.

    I am also finding it difficult to convey to my husband the importance of not wishing our childrens lives away…how to I get through to him that these small precious moments are so important, if not to him then to me and our boys?

    Baby steps is the answer I suppose. One happy “Mommy look at dat” at a time!!!!

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