I’ve been asking myself this question since reading Rebecca Eckler’s column in The Globe and Mail this weekend. Picking up on Helen Kirwan-Taylor’s notorious article in Britain’s Daily Mail, Eckler interviews various mothers (tapping into the blogosphere for at least some of her sources) who candidly describe the unbearable tedium of hours spent in the company of toddlers while mommy’s brain gradually turns into Play-doh.
So. Am I bored?
Quick answer: all the time. I am a notorious multi-tasker, able to tolerate my children’s company only if I’m armed with a crossword in one hand and a Sudoku in the other. Before I began blogging, I could at least convince myself that there was value to my particular approach to child-rearing: I am setting the example of reading, I would tell myself virtuously – and then turn the page and dig back into Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year or maybe Catherine Newman’s Waiting for Birdy or Andrea Buchanan’s anthology of essays, It’s a Boy. (The irony is not lost on me that I find it far more entertaining to read about parenthood than actually to DO it.)
I can sit down with Bub and work on a puzzle for maybe three minutes before I get all restless and twitchy; I can read a book to the Pie once or twice, but by the third request I find myself remembering all kinds of household tasks that require urgent attention. (Unloading the dishwasher is scintillating work compared to singing endless rounds of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat.")
"My problem," I told my husband the other day, "is that I’m incapable of actually paying attention to my children, and yet I think about them all the time." In my head there is a constantly looping soundtrack of observations and anecdotes. My brain is full of language acquisition charts against which I anxiously measure Bub’s progress, and I’m constantly collecting data on the Pie’s developing personality, trying to pin down her Myers-Briggs type before her second birthday (right now, odds are that she’ll be an INFJ like her mother, but I like to fantasize that she’ll turn out to be an adventurous and warm-hearted ENFP, like Anne Shirley or Maria Von Trapp). I’m bored when I’m with my children, but I am never bored by them.
Nor do I see my boredom as a reason to spend more time away from my children. I do occasionally wonder if there are mothers who genuinely enjoy stacking blocks and tipping them over (and over and over), who take a sincere and wholehearted interest in driving Hot Wheels cars up the elevator and down the slide (repeat ad infinitum). Such women may exist (my home day-care provider appears to be one of them), and they are to be envied. But even so, I see boredom as an occupational hazard, not a sign that I’m ill-qualified for the job. Boredom is the price I pay for those moments of pure happiness that can’t be planned or predicted or (often) recreated – the sweetness of my daughter’s hand on my cheek, or the thrill of watching my son hesitantly throw a ball to a neighbourhood border collie, and then nearly burst with excitement when the dog bounds away in hot pursuit. I live for these moments … and I put in a lot of boring hours to get them.