parents

Dear Privacy, I miss you.

There is no such thing as an off-limits area in a home that contains young children. A door could be locked and bolted 24/7 with a huge neon sign on it blinking “NO ENTRY” and it would mean absolutely nothing to the seven-year-old who is desperate to show you the cartwheel she has recently mastered, or the proud three-year-old who has just devoured an entire punnet of blueberries and wants to wipe the remnants of them on your white t-shirt.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve done up shoelaces, refereed arguments or listened to my daughter read whilst I sit on the toilet with the door wide open. And suffering through a nasty bout of constipation certainly isn’t the intensely private experience it used to be. One example of this was a few weeks after my second daughter was born, when my body was still enjoying some of the after effects of pregnancy and childbirth. I’d been in the bathroom for over half an hour with no joy – getting more stressed by the second as I listened to my four-week-old screaming her head off in the next room – when I finally ran into her bedroom, pants around my ankles, brought her in and began breastfeeding her on the toilet. Not the most hygienic of situations but I wasn’t exactly in a position to whack on some rubber gloves and fumigate the bathroom.

Throughout this entire unwholesome episode my then four-year-old stood a few feet away pressuring me to hurry up so we could “finish making the cupcakes”. Delirious with pain and fatigue, I was tempted to ice the half-finished cakes in the bathroom, but unfortunately our vanity unit wasn’t wide enough to hold the tray, so I reluctantly abandoned the second innovative plan I’d had that day.

I regretted our decision to have Santa bring the four-year-old a camera for Xmas when after forty-five minutes, fed up with the “whining at mummy” game, the four-year-old retrieved it from her bedroom and started snapping off photos of a red-faced mummy breastfeeding, one arm outstretched and screaming “Give me that bloody camera!”.

ADVERTISEMENT

A few years down the track and a recent attempt at a peaceful five-minute shower ended up turning into a scene from Dog Day Afternoon. While I showered, my husband brushed his teeth, the seven-year-old was splayed on the floor reading her school reader at the top of her voice and the three-year-old was banging on the glass door shouting at me to “JUST GET OUT NOW! JUST GET OUT NOW!”

Amidst the chaos no one noticed that our four-year-old neighbour had let herself in the open back door and, attracted by the three-ring circus going on in the bathroom, entered the room to join in the fun. As our seven-year-old would later tell anyone who would listen, “Mummy snapped”, and snap she did. “THAT’S IT! EVERYONE OUT!” This was followed by language not usually recommended for children under the age of eighteen.

My hair was still wet when I stormed into the local hardware store and purchased three tiny silver latch hooks, which I promptly attached to the bathroom and toilet doors the second I arrived home. Apart from the frequent “What you doin’, Mummy? What you doin’, Mummy? What you doin’, Mummy?” from the three-year-old, the family tiptoed around me as I hammered those little suckers in, aware that this was a ritual that needed to be completed with no interference or objections from anyone.  And sure, I probably should have used a screwdriver but Mummy needed to bang.

I don’t always use the locks because the masochistic in me quite enjoys the noisy chaos of a bathroom and toilet invasion every now and then. But at least when I am in need of a peaceful shower these days I can do so, safe in the knowledge that the lock is securely fastened. And unless one of my children has a funnel web spider hanging out of her arm or has discovered a new brand of dark chocolate… God help anyone who disturbs me.

Fiona Harris has been working as a professional writer, director and actor in the Australian entertainment industry for over twelve years. You can follow her here

How are you coping with the school holidays? Getting any alone time

00:00 / ???