Down In The Mumdrums


Being Down in the Doldrums was one of those phrases I never questioned when growing up. Kind of like Clean as a Whistle and Bob’s your Uncle – it just was.  Last year while lazing around at the beach house, my girlfriend Cath elaborated on its origins. It turns out that there really was a doldrums, it referred to parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean which were affected by a low pressure area around the equator. When prevailing winds were calm, sailors could literally get stuck in the doldrums for days or sometimes weeks waiting for the winds to pick up.

I have parenting/mother moments where the wind in my sails has disappeared, my Mumdrums. If you’re a father maybe they’re Dadrums? Those parenting moments which arise even though you couldn’t be more grateful to be a parent. You love your child and really want to be there with them – just not for this bit, because this bit is so excruciatingly boring and so what you don’t want to be doing right now.

I’ve seen mothers in the Mumdrums all over the world. Mothers staring vacantly out to no-where while waiting for half an hour for their child to finish that last triangle of their sandwich. Mothers who after two hours at the park are watching one more handstand, one more slide, one more impromptu concert. Mothers who read one more page, or one more book patiently waiting for eyelids to flutter. Mothers who pick-me-up-put-me-down-pick-me-up-put-me-down, while they shop for wildly exciting items like toilet paper, windex and tampons. 

In the early days my Mumdrums were often filled with unnecessary guilt. Guilt which comes from being given the gift of a large family and a choice. I had exactly what I hoped, how dare I complain.  But with any dream job there is always the mundane. A day at the office in the most fulfilling role can still include the monotonous: the early starts, proof reading for the fifth time, the refill of the photocopier. In these situations passive aggressive notes can be left: IF YOU SEE THE INK IS LOW PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO CHANGE THE CARTRIDGE, unfortunately the same cannot be done with a colleague who’s about to have their second birthday. Nothing you say will stop the finger marks on the glass, the drool on the remote and the fascination with the door stop. You’re just going to have to wait this one out.

So next time you find yourself breastfeeding in the car park because there was nowhere to sit, or waiting in line to sign up for swimming lessons, or scraping the dried spaghetti, rice, or cherrios from the floor for the third time that day – know that it’s okay if you’re not treasuring every moment.

Just remember that the wind will soon pick up and you’ll be sailing out of the Mumdrums at full speed. I promise.

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  1. sarahwaldin says

    As always … just LOVELY. thank you. not in them right now but been there, done that. xx

  2. yes, of course we can read “the Ravenous Beast” again, and yes, I will do all the voices…. arrrrgghhhhhhh!

  3. Thank you! I’m so going through this at the moment, coupled with homesickness (ah the joys of being an expat), it’s completely knocked me for 6. It’s always so good to hear that other people feel the same. We’ve been potty training too, definitely not a parenting experience to treasure…. X

  4. Joanne Greenhalgh says

    So very true! Particularly staring out of the window waiting for them to finish eating.

  5. Noprizesfornormal says

    So true and wise. The only decent advert I’ve seen (UK) about parenthood is the one that says,”trust us, you’re doing fine”. I used to say that if we were all dressed and fed, anything else was a bonus.


    When things are getting on top of me, I think of this article. And it reminds me that it is OK not to love EVERY moment of parenthood.

  7. I needed this today! Thank you.

  8. Love, love, LOVE this, Kirsty! You have explained a universal feeling so well. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it.


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