Things Fall Apart: Families can be any number of people

When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves


You forget when you are in the middle of it with kids that things can suddenly shift hugely, the landscape of your life change entirely, and everything become so much easier. They sleep through the night (six hours; parenting grinds your expectations down) or leave the house no longer carrying several items of luggage. They are out of nappies or will eat food other than pasta, or sit for entire movies on a plane.

My daughter tidying-shamed me this week. Which is to say that all of a sudden, she’s mad for the tidying. Firstly, she told me to close my eyes until she said I could open them again. Given that I was still in bed and trying to convince her to play while I lightly snoozed, rather than getting up and going downstairs (it was the weekend, obviously), I was fine with this command.

I could hear her moving about her room, moving things, it sounded like.

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"Open," she shouted delightedly, with a flourish of her arms. And I did, to find she had proudly tidied her room. Reader, I almost cried.

An incredible turn of events

Obviously, I then began to fawn heavily in delight, hoping this might help this new habit to stick. I haven’t lavished such praise on an act on her part since the potty-training days. My approach is twofold. I’m praising, but also attempting to inculcate within her the belief that she is a natural fan of a tidy house. That this is her inclination, rather than something I’ve nagged into her.

And so it turns out, part of this strategy is now tidy shaming her mother. Me. Yes, she says as I soliloquy over her efforts. My room is the tidy one Mommy. Yours is a mess. Which is in part true, as mine doubles most of the time as a laundry room, given we don’t have the utility room that is now the pinnacle of my dreams.

It’s harsh, to be told by a five-year-old that you, or at least your room, are a mess. But I will take the hit, given it comes with this most unexpected, but incredibly welcome, turn of events. Developmental leap, as I would have said when I was still parenting a tiny child and aware and awaiting such events with equal parts delight (new skill: exciting, and things are about to maybe somehow get a small bit easier), and dread (the broken sleep that comes with the acquisition of each new skill).

A family unit of two

Last week I listened to a podcast interview between two single mothers, in which one described having a six-year-old. She had been a single mother all the child’s life. Now six, it is so much easier, she said. I thought maybe when she got to four, she said of her daughter, it would feel like this. Like a little person. But no, six.

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None of this is to wish children’s lives away. Or to say I don’t, or didn’t enjoy the baby years.  More to say that as things go on, and we progress further into being this unit of two, it simply gets better and better.

That there are new aspects of being a unit of two in our house, which are nothing to do with being only, or just, a twosome, and all to do with feeling like a perfectly complete self-sufficient unit of two. No lack. Two people going about their life together. Morning routines, tidying the house, having our meals together.

This week she helped me carry the food shop in and then we unpacked it together (admittedly parts of this strayed into the kind of helping from a child you could live without, but the thought).

People tell you lots of lies when you become a parent. One of them is that it gets dramatically easier at six weeks. This is not true. It’s six months, but nobody tells you that at the start because you’re too fragile to hear it. Six months with a new-born after all feels like years, god knows what it would do to you. Break you maybe.

Another thing they tell you is that it gets better and better, being a parent. This, it turns out, is true, coupled parent or single.

Lia Hynes' podcast series, How to Fall Apart is available to stream on multiple platforms now.

Photo: The Honest Company via Unsplash

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Read more: Things Fall Apart: The joys of being totally alone

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