I always dreamed that when the time came for me to have children of my own, I would be living in a house with lovely large spaces in which to create the 'perfect' infant environment. I would follow Montessori practices to the letter, never be overtired or stressed and never let other people's opinions cloud my beliefs. I would keep the house beautifully clean, tidy and minimalist for the sake of nurturing my child's inner sense of order...
The trouble is, when you're living life, real life, it's very difficult to keep all these ideals alive. Lack of space and lack of sleep have changed my perspective somewhat. I constantly have to remind myself that the home environment is quite different from that of the classroom, and rightly so. Rigidity and over-zealous orderliness probably won't do any of us any favours in the long run.
So how do we strike a balance? It's something I'm still working on and probably will be for the rest of my child-rearing days. Our kitchen, for example, leaves absolutely no room for me to place Fin on the floor on a mat - and in any case, he can't see what we're doing from down there. I tried cooking with him in a sling but I was paranoid about bumping/burning/cutting him so I compromised and put him in a bumbo seat on the counter. Now, I know this goes against Montessori ideals for a few reasons. Firstly, by propping him up artificially in the bumbo I am restricting his freedom of movement and taking away the incentive for him to sit up on his own power. To add to my guilt, Marianne Hermsen-Van Wanrooy in her book Baby Moves, compels parents never to sit their babies up until they do so themselves, to avoid interfering with the development of muscle balance. I've weighed up these factors and I actually believe that the benefits outweigh the potential negatives. For very short periods of time (10 mins or so), Fin is able to experience us cook, clean, sing and chat. He watches with deep concentration every move we make, checks out the fruit on the bench, looks out the window or sings along with me. I love it when I look over and see his little hand resting on an apple or banana.
I also fret about our lack of space in this apartment. This has been our first Auckland winter and let me tell you, it's not only the cold that gets to you here - it's the dampness. And since we don't have a clothes dryer, our living room seems always to be filled to the brim with nappies hanging to dry. Everywhere I look - nappies. Every chair, table and door frame is covered. What happened to my minimalist, orderly infant environment? But does it really matter? It might drive me crazy, but he seems quite content and takes it all in his stride, watching me constantly hanging them out and folding them when they are (finally) dry. My only hope is that somewhere he is storing away the process of getting the laundry done, and when the time comes for him to help me folding he will have a deep interest in this part of Practical Life :)
So perhaps it's not the end of the world that things aren't 'perfect' and in fact, maybe it's better that they aren't. I hope that Fin will grow up able to make a beautiful home wherever he goes, no matter how big or small. One day, hopefully in the near future, we'll move into a bigger place where we can grow our own veggies and stretch out a little. But for now, we'll be grateful for the wonderful things we do have and make the very best of them.