They say the last child gets away with murder. While that sounds a little criminal, let's compromise and say the last child can drive most parents to an overwhelming feeling of parental fatigue.
My eldest child is 11, and my youngest is four. It's not the youngest, personally, who's propelled my desire to lie down and shut the door on parenting. It's the years on the treadmill; same run, different child.
My daughter started kindergarten (also called preschool or pre-prep, depending on where you are) in February this year. So this is my fourth year lining up at the kindergarten door, politely smiling to the other parents, asking how their day was even though I saw them five hours before. It's my fourth year of signing a child in, of authorising forms that seem completely ridiculous (yes, I allow you to apply sunscreen to my child). It's my fourth year of putting my name down for cake stall sales and weeding at working bees. Another year of carrying extravagant box-art to the car, calculating when I'll smuggle it into the recycling.
It's unpopular to admit, but I'm over it. I'm not over her, I'm over the repetitive drudgery.
Once upon a different lifetime, when I was fresh and new to this whole parenting biz, I oozed enthusiasm. I could talk the legs off those kid-sized chairs. I was involved, keen to help, willing to do regular kinder duty, cut fruit, rake sandpits and organise morning teas with other new mums. I constantly had a baby on my hip and despite juggling nap time, tantrums and assorted stresses that multiple children bring, it was nice to belong, and to have comrades in this crazy game of parenting.
Eleven years later, and I'm raring to jump off the game board.
I've participated in "meet and greet" sessions to embrace newbies, and met some fabulous women who I now call close friends. But I have enough friends. The limit has been reached; I can barely keep up with the ones I have. Perhaps I should stick a notice to my forehead: "Sorry, my inbox is full."
I don't want to cut any more fruit. I've seen the cores of 4,359,736 apples and don't care to see another one. My four-year-old gets a whole apple in her lunchbox simply because I'm sick of cutting them.
If I have to tong another mystery bag at a sausage sizzle and squirt tomato sauce onto another square of white bread, I fear I'll become vegetarian.
I avoid committees like Sarah Wilson avoids sugar. Pre-children I worked in human resources so I have useful experience to contribute to boards, but politics was not my caper when I was paid to do it, let alone in a voluntary capacity. Instead, I nominate my husband for "tech support". He's a whiz at restarting computers and pressing singular buttons on printers, watching them burst to life after everyone else has caressed, kicked and sworn at the machines.
Then there's swimming lessons, sporting teams, play dates and parties.
It's my own fault. I had too many kids and I've bled myself dry attempting cheerful small talk through all the kid-centric opportunities. I've run out of things to say.
However, my four-year-old hasn't. She cornered me the other day with, "You haven't had a turn working at my kinder." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. She was referring to kinder duty. She's all over it because that poor child was dragged along to not just kinder duty for her older brothers but reading sessions at school, sports trainings and piano recitals. She's wondering where the hell her slackarse mother is now it's her turn at this kinder circus. Fair enough, too.
Despite my current state of can't-be-bothered and my glass-half-empty purge, I shall shake it off (channelling Tay-Tay "shake it off, shake it off") and do kinder duty for her, just as I have for her brothers. I'll have courteous chats with the teacher, and (pretend to) happily glue leaves to baking paper and then iron over them for 25 students who call me "Amelia's mum". 'Cause the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake. I'll say yes to play dates 'cause the players gonna play, play, play. Okay I'll shut up with the Taylor Swift references. Are you yet sensing that this whole repetitious lifestyle (and repetitious music) has fried my brain?
If you're a new mum and feeling ignored by the older mum/the old hand/the has-been, please know, it's not you, it's me. Blame the last child parenting fatigue.
Do you have last child parenting fatigue? How do you get yourself out of the funk and motivated to do it all over again?