Illustration by John Holdcroft

IT was a rainy February afternoon in Perth. That was unusual. I was tired, late, and looked like something recently dragged out of a swamp. That, unfortunately, was not unusual. Standing with a trolley full of groceries – half of which I’d never use but felt good about having in the pantry – I grimaced apologetically at the woman in line behind us. My two year old was biting the trolley in a rage, furious I’d made him return the KitKats he’d swiped while I wasn’t looking, while my four year old twirled in her Elsa cape, shouting “Ana darling, don’t forget the tampons!”

The woman looked at my spawn and smiled with the wistful grace of someone who’d been there, done that, and made it out the other side.

“It’s the best time of your life, you know,” she said softly to me.

I almost keeled over. I love my kids and all, but if this was it, I thought silently, if this was the best life was going to get, then for God’s sake just let me off here.This was not the first time I’d been reminded what a precious time of my life this is, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Is it some kind of Stockholm syndrome, I wonder, where you come to love your captors even though they torture you daily through sleep deprivation and covering you in bodily fluids? How do people seemingly forget how exhausting it is to have small children?

Some days it’s hard to get past how tiring it is, how messy and monotonous, requiring the kind of stamina only seen (ironically) in a toddler on birthday cake. It’s frustrating to hear otherwise when I’m sleep deprived and look like Elton John on a particularly rough day. But, as the wisdom of strangers gently reminds me, I probably will not always be sleep deprived and covered in bodily fluids. I will not always get to smell their hair as they sit in a trolley, or feel their hand in mine as I cross the road. I will not always be in the company of little children everywhere I go, even to the bathroom, and one day I might even wish they were with me to proudly hold up a boogie in the middle of a shopping mall.

Could these really be the best days of my life? Perhaps I should make a more conscious effort to enjoy my children, just in case. But only on days they’ve slept through the night, and only when I can shop alone. That seems only fair.


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