“Mum, why are you cutting her toast like that?” my 12-year-old son asks as he watches me make a sandwich into three specific heart shapes for his toddler sister.
“She likes it this way,” I reply.
“Looks like an epic waste of time to me.”
I agree. It does. Odds are she will still only eat one or two bites and then chuck it on the floor.
But that’s just what mums do.
We do weird things that never in a million years we thought we would do. In fact, we promised ourselves before we had kids that we wouldn’t do these things. Like cutting bread into heart shapes just to appease a child.
And here we are.
Planning life around naps, washing dummies we said we’d never use while our kids watch YouTube that we said they’d never watch and chow down on Happy Meals that we said we’d never buy.
Sniffing bums and smelling baby heads and sometimes using our teeth to cut our baby’s nails.
That’s just what mums do.
We leave keys in fridges and sometimes resort to breast milk in our coffee because that’s the only milk in the fridge and the baby is finally asleep and we’ll be damned if we’re gonna wake him up just for a coffee!
We stress about our children not sleeping and stress even more when they do. We shush and pat and bounce and rock until our arms are weak, our brains are numb and our hearts hurt from frustration.
We get excited about outings. To drink coffee in a crowded playcentre instead of at home. To find a bedsheet that matches the dinosaur-theme pillow we’ve just bought. To cook a meal that actually gets eaten.
In fact, we get so excited we make triple the amount next day, only to have no one like it.
We give up our big comfy beds to squeeze into a toddler bed because they need mummy to sleep. We wake up with sore necks, a child’s butt in our faces but with a full heart.
We make daily checklists and colour-coded spreadsheets and schedule our own things around the kids’ things.
We bake cupcakes for school fetes even though we hate baking and learn three stupid new ways to add 534 and 234 because that’s just what mums do.
We visit three different Big W’s to locate an ugly AF orange T-shirt because our kid wants to be the Lorax at Book Week and only the Lorax will do.
We sometimes hate it.
We call our kids “ungrateful” and “spoiled” and vow to do less for them.
To put ourselves first more. We plan a weekend away and spend the majority of the time missing them.
We trade date nights for P&F meetings. Late-night movies for Sunday morning matinees.
Weekend festivals are swapped for weekend soccer carnivals. We find our joy, not in $9 ciders and dancing, but watching our kids do what they love.
We sit on the sidelines in our matching camping chairs and drink our coffees and cheer with the other parents and it’s just so cliche, but that’s just what mums do.
We watch our bank accounts dwindle and roll our eyes at the Christmas wish lists, the school fees, the dance invoices.
But we pay them. We buy the jazz shoes and the costume and the concert tickets. Then we sit in the front row with tears in our eyes and pride in our hearts and are reminded why this is what mums do.
We fret when they come home upset. We want to take away the sadness when a friend leaves them out. We want to steamroll the pain that comes with that first broken heart.
But we don’t. Instead, we listen, we stroke their heads. We hold space. We tuck them in and watch them sleep and come up with different ways to help them instead of sleeping ourselves.
That’s just what mums do.
We stress too much.
We try too hard. We make mistakes.
We cut bread into hearts and we often get it all wrong.
But my 12-year-old son isn’t correct when he said that cutting his sister’s toast into hearts was an “epic waste of time.”
It’s actually not. Effort, yes, but never a waste of time.
Because here’s what my son didn’t see – he didn’t see his sister come home from daycare with tears in her eyes. Or the frustration as she tried to take off her shoes herself but couldn’t do it. Or get angry at herself when she accidentally peed on the floor.
He doesn’t see me present her with her silly heart toast or how her eyes light up. How the sadness melts away and how she wraps her arms around me and calls out, “Oh I love it! I really love it, mummy!”
If something as simple as heart toast can make her world a little bit happier, then heart toast it is. Not just for her, but for all of my kids.
Some days we may have to move mountains for our kids. On other days we simply have to cut their toast into hearts.
Either way, we do it. Because that’s just what mums do.
What to read next
- Girl Mum Truths: 15 Things I’ve Learned Since Having Daughters
- No One Prepares You for the Transition From Being Needed 24/7 to Being on the Sidelines
- “I May Be Two, But I Still Need You” A Toddler’s Perspective of How They Really Feel