PHOTO – Fetes + small-talk

Teacup ride, primary school fete || Photo by Tseen Khoo

The other day, I was reading this post about fool-proof parenting and, though I didn’t always agree with it, the final item has stayed with me and encapsulates how parenting is reliably made easier for me: “Revere play.”

It’s an exhortation that is hard for me to follow most of the time, feeling as I do that there’s never enough time to get my own things done, or craving down-time as I always do.

The kids’ exhortations to come and play often catch me when I’m just home from work, or I’ve just settled down to read something (possibly browsing junk-mail – I’m not that ambitious). My immediate response, which I often tamp down, is ‘No’. I’m slowly training myself to be better at embracing the moment because, when I do ‘revere play’, it can be (and usually is) grand and energising. And the kids’ pure delight at having me join in their games is precious.

Since having my first child at the end of 2006, one of things people keep saying to me about our family outings is that they are chances to “relive our childhoods”. It’s the kind of small talk that people indulge in when they see me with the kids, or hear about one of our child-friendly jaunts. I never say it, but I often think to myself, “It’s not really reliving my childhood; I never did those things” (e.g. went camping or had expectations of Santa [cf. this post]).

Other well-intentioned small-talk includes “that’s such a good age” (at any age) and “they grow up so fast”; both  clichés are absolutely true, as is the way.

Kindergarten pick-up and drop-off times are prime breeding grounds for these kinds of conversation. I rarely partake because I’m not the primary carer, so am rarely there. When I do turn up, it’s awkward. The mummy cliques are already in place and I’m not in any of them, and probably never will be.

Many don’t even know whose mother I am, and those who place me often initiate conversation as if they’re talking to my partner (i.e. mid-conversation). I don’t have the energy to tell them that sometimes I don’t know what they’re talking about (along with not being on kindy shuttling duty, I’m also not on dance class shuttling duty, or fully briefed on all playdate options).

I also don’t know the names of all the kids, or their parents, or who the grandparents belong to. I feel slightly ashamed that I don’t know, then am quickly irritated that I should feel I have to know these things (welcome to my psychological spiral!).

Strangely enough, like many things these days, this post has turned into a discussion about parenting and the odd spaces that mothers who work full-time outside the home sometimes occupy.

I’ve had two conversations recently (with other full-time working women) where this topic took up an hour or so of intense consideration. Much of it involved divulging our mutual, guilty, and traitorous thoughts (e.g. each wanting ‘a 1950s housewife’…).

Perhaps I should give in and devote a whole post to it.


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