On Friday afternoon, something odd happened. I had a bit of an epiphany.
I was knee-deep in piles of dirty washing, I needed to put the kids' dinner on, and they also needed entertaining - the calls of 'muuuuum' chimed up the stairs at 20-second intervals.
I sat, deflated, surrounded by other peoples' dirty underwear, and thought.
I felt guilty that I wasn't playing with them (at this point the youngest was shouting unidentifiable words up through the bars of the stairgate like an angry chimp at the zoo). I should go and do some crafts, or bake some cakes, or crawl around on the floor with two children on my back being a pony. Again.
I looked at the piles of pants, and the bedroom beyond it. How the hell did it get into such a mess when it felt like I was always cleaning? I was embarrassed that I'd let my house get into such a state that the mere trill of the doorbell could induce full-blown Panic And Hide mode. Surely I should have the hang of this by now?
I stood up, traversed the colour-coded mountains of festering clothes, and plodded downstairs to meet the angry ape. 'Bukfust' she said, pointing to the kitchen - universal code for 'I'm hungry' when you're one-and-a-half. I picked her up, whisked her off towards the fridge and peered at its contents.
I'd run out of everything with an ounce of nutritional value, unless you count Prosecco. There wasn't a scrap of anything resembling a vegetable - just a faint whiff of one that might have gone off a long time ago.
I plonked her on the floor, opened the freezer and reached for the mini pizzas, potato wedges and frozen sweetcorn. I should definitely be feeding them something better - something proper. Something with actual vegetables, that I'd made myself from scratch. I felt guilty that we'd had a 'special dinner' last night, too. And that the three meals before that had been pasta alla something.
I was just about to start berating myself for not planning my meals ahead like a Grown Up when it happened: the epiphany. Something clicked, just like that.
I decided to stop feeling guilty.
I put the frozen crap in the oven and cranked the temperature up.
I put the tellie on, found an episode of Blaze and the Monster Machines, and sat the kids in front of it.
I went upstairs, finished sorting the washing, stuck a load in the machine and switched it on.
No guilt. No 'I should be'. No 'why didn't I?'
And you know what? I got the same end result, minus the guilt. The kids ate and enjoyed their tea. They watched two more episodes with wide eyes and half-open little mouths. Even the washing, eventually, got done. And we all had a much happier and less rushed evening as a result of me not trying to do everything to 100% perfection, at the same time.
This week, please, try it for yourself. Because if there's one thing I figured out last Friday, it's this: guilt doesn't change the end result one bit. It just makes the process of getting there a whole lot harder.
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