Forget The Do. It's Time To Just Be.


Back in June I was lucky enough to see the indomitable Dr Jane Goodall speak. Full disclosure, I don’t think I had ever used the word ‘indomitable’ before her show. Come to think about it I don’t even think I knew it was a word (it’s certainly not one of the Magic 100 words my 6 year old is learning). But Jane uses it a lot to talk about the human spirit and I think it’s a sensational word to describe one of the great humans of our time.

Her talk was amazing, but what really stuck with me (even 6 months later) was when she said that her ideal way to spend a day (and I paraphrase) was "to just be… not do… just be". I hastily wrote it down because it resonated. Goodness it resonated. It resonated to me as a mum grappling with being a mum. Because as a mum, I think I spend so much time doing the ‘job’ of a mum I forget to actually just be a mum.


I wonder if that’s why I tear myself apart every day – because I’m trying to get too much done. For instance this is my day before 7.30am (#nofilter):

  • 6.25am vibrating, silent alarm goes off so if by miracle anyone still asleep don’t wake them up.
  • Extricate self from various limbs and hot sweaty bodies that have migrated into bed overnight.
  • Go downstairs into kitchen. Pull out 3 lunchboxes and freezer blocks, start packing lunches.
  • Child #2 comes down. Make her breakfast. Interrupted by child #3 who needs help finding dressing gown sash that she lost last night because she was using it as a rope to rescue Dora.
  • Get breakfast on table for #2, start making breakfast for #3. Continue packing lunches. Forget porridge and it overflows in microwave. Clean microwave.
  • Get breakfast on table for #3. #2 still has insatiable hunger and now wants peanut butter on toast.
  • #1 comes downstairs and asks for iPad despite the year-long "no iPads in morning" enforcement. 
  • Start to make toast and boil kettle for cup of tea and turn on TV so I can make lunches.
  • Peanut gallery complain they can’t hear TV over noise of kettle. Poor them.
  • Get breakfast on table for #1. #2 complains still haven’t made toast. Finally make toast and get it on table. #2 nowhere to be seen and now does not seem to want toast.
  • Ask children to bring finished plates to kitchen. Success after 7th ask.  
  • Start to unpack dishwasher. Try and figure out why the dishwasher didn’t clean very well and realise a sticker was washed by mistake and is in the filter thingy. Clean out filter thingy.
  • #3 yells from bathroom that she needs a bottom wipe.
  • Get back from bottom duty and make cup of tea while simultaneously loading and reloading dishwasher.
  • Get back to making lunches, recess and crunch & sip (x3)
  • #2 wants a bottom wipe. Such joy.
  • #3 now wants toast. 
  • Ask #1 again to get dressed for school
  • #2 wants to play a game. Too busy. After the lunches are done 
  • #1 reminds me he has charity lunch deal today from canteen and doesn’t need lunch made. 
  • Fight ensues between #2 & #3 about which one of them gets to be Nella the Princess Knight. I’m sorry who is she and why?
  • Shout. Loudly. Why are they not dressed? Get ignored so decide to sweep the floor. 
  • Can’t find library books. Panic. Run upstairs before realising they were in bag all along.
  • Go to drink tea before finishing lunches, getting girls dressed, having a shower and tidying up from breakfast and realise it’s cold (of course it is).

That’s a lot of doing. There are always various points in my morning when the kids ask me to play a game or listen to them read or draw with them and my reaction is always the same. I’m in such a frenzy that I brush them off and treat their request as an inconvenience. I almost always say "yes of course after I’ve done the washing/lunches/breakfast etc". And at some point the morning ends up with some loud voices – usually mine.


I've also started to wonder whether I can actually just be a mum without having to do all the time. Can I? What would it take? Would I even know where to start? It might start with a hot cup of tea, but I doubt it. Could I re-write the mum job description? Should it really be a position description or more of a statement of intent? Intent to stop and be (some of the time).

I know there are some times of the day when a mum’s job is really just doing. And the morning is one of those times (and late afternoon and evening and 3am...). But then when is the time to be? When is that magical, mysterious time when the kids are home, not fighting and there isn’t a job to do? I don’t think it exists in my house (yet). Or maybe I’m so wrapped up in doing I don’t recognise the be times. I think I’ve sort of forgotten how to look for the good be signals.

Dr Goodall referenced animals being rehabilitated back into their natural environment post trauma, including modelling parenting behaviour. Maybe we need to teach ourselves how to let go of some of the do things and look for those be times. Often packing lunches and making breakfast can’t wait but sweeping the floor and tidying the toys can. I think we need to take on board the lessons that Dr Goodall herself talked about in relation to her own mother who metaphorically gave her wings to pursue her dreams. How will we know what dreams our children have if we don’t be enough to hear them? We owe it to them to spend some time just being their mum not the person in the house who just does. Listening and just being. #phonefreezone #itwontbeeasy #Ihavetotrytojustbe (at least sometimes) #imperfectmum

Josie Jones