Spinning plates

Laura Sllinn

I was never much cop at maths. You know you are never going to excel in a topic when your 3rd year maths teacher can only mention neat handwriting as the sole redeeming feature of my mock O level exam paper. So whilst I may not be able to add up five numbers without resorting to a calculator, at least I can write them down in a bloody straight column. Was I the only one driven to tears by the black art that was simultaneous equations? And here is another equation that is pretty much unsolvable: one mother, divided by two children, multiplied by a fucking long list of jobs, equals… Well, I can take a stab at what this equals, actually. A multitasking nightmare of epic proportions.

It is said that women are good at multitasking and I myself have taken pride in my ability to keep several task-based balls up in the air at any given time. Whether men are shit at this is a matter of debate that I do not wish to be drawn on. Let’s just say I have seen men drink, breathe, talk, keep an eye on the football on TV and appreciate the aesthetics of a passing lady in the pub, all whilst being seemingly engrossed in my inexhaustibly detailed description of my fascinating day. But I will not meander further down this discursive path, for fear of ending up in a town called Clichéville.

However, I now realise that previously I was merely playing at multitasking. I was a rank amateur, a pretender to the throne of job completion, a whipper-snapper amid the true professionals of getting shit done: with humble genuflection, all hail the real victors…  mums with more than one child.

On any given day when I am at home with both E and B (and let’s be clear here, this is two days out of five, which is probably one day more than my sanity would prefer) I am spinning plates like a lactating whirling dervish.

Last week, I was breastfeeding B. This activity in itself is a silent siren call to postmen, delivery men, neighbours, Jehovah witnesses and double glazing salesmen to ring the doorbell. It was all I could do not to squirt the window salesman in the eye with my breast milk and shove his sodding promotional leaflet up his nearest unglazed orifice. Meanwhile, B is slung under my arm, eyes agog, mouth open in a bereft ‘O’, thinking ‘hang on a flipping minute, I am sure there was a nipple in my mouth a second ago… where the hell has it gone?’ The postman narrowly avoided a full frontal breast exposé when I rushed to the door and forgot to pull down my top. It was only the breeze caused by my uncharacteristic velocity through the hallway that alerted me to the al fresco boob seconds before I opened the door.

So, half way through a feed E announces that he needs a wee and maybe a poo. I grit my teeth. Of course he does. It makes no sense that he would have wanted one in the three preceding hours when I did not have a hungry baby clamped to my breast. So I attempt to get up and shuffle to the bathroom with E whilst still breastfeeding B, which results in only minor agony and semi-permanent nipple dislocation as I inadvertently move B away from my boob as I walk.

With B in one arm, I hoist E onto the toilet seat using the other, poke his willy between his legs and perch opposite him, on the edge of the bath. Oh, and did I mention that I have a mobile clamped twixt ear and shoulder, on hold for the doctor’s surgery?  Apparently, I am informed by a recorded voice, I am third in the queue. Hmm, I know this sort of queue. This is the sort of queue in the supermarket where you think you have lucked out as there are only two people in front of you, and then one of them turns out to be a senile, arthritis-ridden, half-blind octogenarian who has split her shop into six as she is running (sorry, I mean crawling) shopping errands for her less able friends, can’t fathom out the chip and pin machine and then forgets her number, then her name, then her bladder control.

My arms are starting to ache as they support B as he feeds, and I try to disguise my impatience as I enquire of E if he is actually going to have a wee or if we are having a family outing to the toilet just for the sodding fun of it.

I stare at the wall tiles, thinking about the basket of wet washing that has been sitting in its present position, approximately ten inches from the washing machine, for over five hours. This thought depresses me, so I then think about the ironing, which I abandoned yesterday when B woke up from a nap and have not had a chance to go back to. Which leads me to consider the contents of the sink, wherein one of B’s vests is still in soak from the day before when he pooed so hard it squirted out of the top of his nappy. The utility room looks like the Mary Celeste version of a bloody laundrette.

And then my thoughts turn to my cup of tea. As I wince from arm ache brought on my prolonged bath-edge breastfeeding, I picture the now-cold tea on the kitchen table, abandoned as I answered the clarion call of B’s hungry wailing. I can count the number of hot beverages that I have finished on the fingers of one hand since he was born. Well, at least I could if that hand was not full of breast.

And there it is. My life with two children is just like the tea drinking. I have so many unfinished jobs, tasks and thoughts going on, and so little time to do it, my head is in danger of exploding every time I consider my predicament. I am spinning plates left, right and centre and to be honest, they are all looking more than a tad wobbly. Which reminds me, I must get round to finishing the washing up…

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