Call Me Sisyphus: Insights on Life with Small Children
*** Guest Blog by Ironwife, Karoline Newell ***
When the gods determined the eternal punishment for Sisyphus, I’m quite sure inspiration struck by observing the earthly lives of parents with small children.
Not familiar with the Greek myth of Sisyphus? Here it is in a nutshell - a notorious trickster and king of Ephyra, Sisyphus was punished upon his death for misdeeds in life and, in particular, the tricks he played on the gods by being forced to push a massive rock up a hill only for it to immediately roll back down the second it reached the top.
This he was damned to repeat FOR ETERNITY.
Sounds fun, right?
Now, I’m not suggesting that parenting small children is any way a punishment or equivalent to what one might actually experience in hell (well, not most days, anyway), but for me, there are definite parallels to the tale of Sisyphus and my days as a mother of four.
Seem like a stretch? Allow me to elaborate…
Picture it - you’ve just spent the first part of your day picking up the playroom - putting toys in baskets, folding blankets, rounding up rouge crayons, vacuuming goldfish crumbs and pencil shavings when WHAM, your five-year-old sneaks up behind you and pulls every last item out of the dress up box. Covered in everything from Elsa’s earrings to Aquaman’s wig, the play room is back to square one.
The kids do not excel at putting away their costumes
You’ve somehow managed to scrape together a random assortment of food to make a dinner that you hope and pray most of your family will eat. Before the food even hits the table, your five-year-old says he hates it and your seven-year-old asks you what’s for dinner the next night. Congrats - you get to figure out dinner again tomorrow night. And every night. Forever and ever. And as a bonus, almost every meal will come with a guaranteed protest.
You’ve just spent two hours sorting, folding and putting away a literal mountain of laundry only to realize another two hampers are already magically filled to the brim with grass-stained sweatpants, food-soaked dresses and a variety of clothing articles and toys that fell victim to the baby’s latest massive diaper blow out. And the rock rolls back down laundry mountain…
Laundry Mountain rivals Everest
You’ve finally stopped nursing your third and final baby. After nearly seven years of continuously being pregnant or breastfeeding, you’re ready to ditch the crappy, stretched out nursing bras, burn your breast pump and maybe - just maybe - hand the kids off to their dad and go on your first child-free girls’ weekend since becoming a mother when - BLAMO - you learn you’re surprise pregnant with your fourth baby. Get ready to re-board the baby train! You’ve just been SISYPHUSED.
Remote learning & serving as IT support adds another wrinkle to parenting
I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
Of course, motherhood isn’t all push, roll, repeat. Between these Sisyphonian (that’s a word now) moments, parents are at least guaranteed variety in their days. You never know when the last-minute school project will derail your entire evening or when someone will have an accident in the middle of the grocery store or your toddler will get into the fingerprints and create a masterpiece all over the downstairs bathroom.
And, unlike Sisyphus’s eternal plight, you know the time with these little crazies and the long days of pushing those boulders up a hill is all too fleeting. One day, the playroom will stay clean and the laundry mountain will shrink back to a manageable hill. But gone, too, will be spontaneous costumed dance parties, the Friday pizza and movie night, the scribbly ‘I love you, Mommy’ Mother’s Day cards sent home from day care, and the little outstretched arms asking for ‘uppies.’
I'm sure this won't be as cute when they're teenagers
Parenting is hard, sometimes tedious and often frustrating. It’s also the greatest thing ever.
Yes, the days are long. That’s never been more apparent than these past several pandemic-filled months when parents and kids have had to live, work, learn, and play in the same space together day after day. Still nothing compares to watching your kids grow and learn, reach new milestones, bond with each other, mimic your words and actions (for better or for worse) and become actual real-life people that you literally made.
I’m continually reminding myself is to embrace those moments of joy between the nonstop chores and sleepless nights because I know some day I’ll miss them.
Laundry mountain, on the other hand, not so much…