Wish I were a country mum-kin

Mothers of a bygone era were blessed with a simpler life.

NEVER was there a more peaceful mummy moment – crickets chirped and frogs groaned through gently falling rain. I was full of warm chicken noodle soup and home-baked bread, lying between two sleeping children.

Little Miss had nestled herself into my ribs while Little Mr had flung his legs over the top of me. It all felt so safe and comforting, staying with someone who knew how to lavish country-style hospitality on you.

But it had occured to me earlier, as my son asked what the noise was outside (the noisy crickets), that there was a lot he was experiencing here that wasn’t part of our everyday life.

Here, the TV isn’t turned on until the news starts. At home, it’s only turned off if we’re going out. Here, he had to be content riding his bike, talking to birds and studying plants while we sipped tea and talked of the past.

Here, the soup is made from vegetables grown in their back garden. At home, we’re Fresh Food People – which means all our groceries come from Woolies, not our garden. Here, the eggs are collected fresh every day from the hen-house.

My own household routine seemed shallow by comparison. I don’t think I’d know how to start baking bread (funny since I used to be a Subway sandwich artist!), if it didn’t come pre-prepared and no matter how hard I try my linen closet NEVER smells as good as the one here does.

I obsess a little on nice-smelling clothes – growing up with my dad and younger brother, fabric softener never graced our shopping list. But while I’m content with the smell of my clean laundry, it never rates next to the pristine, crease-less, gorgeous-smelling towels and sheets we are invited to use here.

I got to thinking about the lost art of domesticity – baking, knitting and the like. God bless those who keep the art alive. I tried knitting once and had no patience for it, plus my doilly came out looking much more like a hanging basket.

I do bake on occasion and I even have a dinner dish or two I’m quite fond of – my husband told me the only quiche he’s ever liked is the one I make. I never thought, while I studied and worked nine-to-five, of the quiet joy I’d get from such a remark. It may not be the same as annoying a politician with scandal during election time, but still… quiet nice.

But then, I imagine mums who can use a sewing machine, make a full Sunday roast mid-week, and knit their children’s winter gear probably don’t also have to work outside the home (and if you do, puh-leeze keep it to yourself, I already feel substandard).

In our defence though, modern mums are seldom just mums but also the family bread-winner or the bookkeeper. We don’t just keep the home-fires burning anymore, we’re a vital part of the family income.

And if we’re not working, we’re pursuing non-mum related interests. As the boundaries blur on just what being a woman (let alone a mother) entails, maintaining your own sense of identity has become increasingly important.

For example, hands up who’s on the computer with dishes sitting in the sink? Don’t be shy, I believe it’s important to find ways of keeping your sanity in the thick of child-rearing (and what better way of reidentifying with yourself than updating your Facebook status – it’s quicker than keeping a journal!)

As I grew up, I always considered what kind of “woman” I would be, not what kind of “mother” I’d be. So I’m on the hop now, often rethinking my priorities as the situation dictates: “engaging news-story needs to be subbed in next 20 minutes versus screaming, hungry child making reading difficult”, for example.

But lying here, listening to the rain, between two children and underneath sweet-smelling sheets, I wondered if I’d made it all too complicated? Would it be nicer for my kids and would I be happier if I surrendered the working world and learnt to sew?

Well, scratch that. It would be cruel to make my kids wear something I made (unless hanging baskets are big in the fashion world)… But how different would they turn out if their mum was not just home, but actually available and not stuck working on the computer for hours at a time?

In truth, I don’t think it would mean more roasts, hand-made quilts or better-smelling linen closets. It would probably mean more hand-paintings on the wall, more grass growing in egg cartons, more fun at the park…

Maybe I do have my priorities set out after all. But I’m grateful that we can still experience this laid-back lifestyle where my kids can see me at ease, not swearing at the PC.

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