Okay, let’s be honest. Let’s ditch the Facebook falsehoods and the Instagram image for a minute and tell the truth. Staying home with a toddler is boring. Not all the time. No. Not, say, when he’s careening at a million miles an hour towards the edge of the basement staircase, or threatening to stick a green bean up his nose to see if he can reach his brain. Not when he’s laughing uproariously at the way it sounds when you blow your nose, or staring in wide-eyed wonder at the butterfly that landed on his shoulder at the park. Not in the crazy, wonderful, frightening, fabulous moments. But in the other moments. The everyday, most-of-the-time moments. It’s boring. Be honest. It’s so, so boring.
We don’t like to talk about this. And, fair enough. It’s hard to explain. It’s hard to explain that I simultaneously love being a stay-at-home mom, and that I’m incredibly bored for large chunks of my day. Every day. It’s hard to explain that there is nothing else on this earth that I’d rather do than stay home with my son, and that I spend a lot of my day wondering how long it is until nap time. It’s not a pretty picture. It doesn’t fit the narrative.
But it’s true. It’s boring. Long stretches of my day are spent repeating the same three-second imaginary scenario over and over and over again. (Splash! Oh no, Thomas the train is all muddy! Let’s clean him off. Okay, he’s clean. Splash! Oh no! You get the idea.) We also read the same (terrible) books over and over again. (Why are his favorite books the stupidest, most repetitive, most mundane ones? Here is a cat. The cat says meow. Here is a dog. The dog says woof. Shut up.)
I mean, come on, he’s two. His idea of a good time is poking around under the couch to see if he can dislodge anything dangerous, and asking for juice boxes. My idea of a good time is a cup of tea and a book. In many ways we’re really not compatible. It takes him a hundred years to get ready to go outside and a hundred more to get ready to be inside. Two hundred if he notices something interesting (like a fuzz ball) lying on the stairs. His conversational efforts are valiant but they boil down to “What’s that?” and “I’m hungry.” I’m hoping to discuss the latest episode of Secrets of the Six Wives on PBS. See what I mean?
Boredom is why so many toddlers attend all those classes you’re always hearing they go to too many of. Not their boredom. Ours. We moms need to get out of the house. We need to be around other adults. We need to compare notes and talk to people who use complete sentences. It’s what keeps us sane.
And, look, I could totally say something now about how worth it it all is (because it absolutely is) or paint a lovely picture of some completely non-boring moment in which my son and I did something magical like ride a pony down the streets of Brooklyn (which actually happened) in order to show you why I do this. But that’s not the point. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of the point.
The point is that the boredom is real. It’s part of the package. It comes with the territory. I could pretend that it doesn’t, and that things that are actually (objectively) boring are, in fact, interesting. But that doesn’t really help me at all. And it definitely doesn’t help other moms who are sitting around wondering if they’re the only ones bored out of their minds, and feeling terrible for not being absolutely riveted by the fifteen millionth rendition of The Wheels on the Bus.
Being a parent is magical, but every single moment of being a parent isn’t. Our toddlers are amazing, but not every single thing they do is. Being a stay-at-home mom is wonderful, but not every moment of every day is.
That’s the truth. The truth is complicated. And messy. And not completely positive. And boring. Very often boring. Which is okay. It’s totally okay. So why not admit it?