Parenting is difficult. It’s unrelenting and it takes its toll physically and mentally and sometimes you find yourself just doing things on autopilot. While this routine is often a good thing, there are times when you wonder about your state of mind. For example, the other day I was hurriedly making dinner on a stressful day while mentally reviewing the to-do list when I look up at my girls. Eating the dinner I’d apparently prepared 20 minutes earlier.
Some of these mistakes are caused by sleep deprivation (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has put orange juice on cereal and not noticed until the first mouthful), some by stress (occasionally my house looks like I’m losing a game of Jumanji) and some by the simple fact our muscle memory is doing what it normally does.
One of my friends recently went through the entire morning routine and it wasn’t until they pulled into a virtually empty school carpark she remembered it was a pupil-free day. Which is still not as good as my other friend who went shopping and got home only to realise he’d forgotten the groceries. He returned to the store and had to repurchase everything when the store couldn’t find his stuff. He angrily vented without success. And then a week later found the original groceries in the boot of his car.
It’s actually quite merciful our bodies often take over for our exhausted minds but it turns out our bodies can be pretty stupid without conscious guidance. And errors of routine aren’t just about the primary carer. I remember the first time I had to give uni lectures in the late afternoon so Sandra would have to pick the girls up from school. I stressed about it all day and rang her just before the 4pm lecture to see how it went. Her response? “What? The kids? What are you… oh s***! Forgot. Gotta go!”
Thankfully most of the stories are humorous rather than dangerous and we can laugh about them afterwards. Often over booze. Which, now I think about it, might not be helping those tired brain cells. Unfortunately there’s no easy answer here. Stress can be managed but rarely eliminated, and sleep deprivation is simply part of the job description. Autopilot is our body’s way of trying to help. All I can do is try to be more focused and efficient and do better.
And accept there is a possibility I already wrote this column 20 minutes ago.