This weekend I learnt two things. The first is that I can drop adulting sooner than you can say “the children have gone for their half term treat with their grandparents” and the second is that the reason why I feel like I never get anything done has nothing to do with the children.
I know it was a little while ago, and as I approach 37 this summer perhaps I should start to expect my powers of recollection to dim with what appears to be some quite considerable passing of the years, but I’m certain that before the children arrived John and I had managed to be good responsible grown ups for quite some time. We cleaned our house and folded our laundry (occasionally) and cooked delicious meals from scratch and washed up after them, and we got the house things done before we did the playing things. Clearly it was just a phase because the abandonment of these principles started the moment we were alone together in the house.
Meals were, well I’m going to say “invented” but scavenged is probably the more appropriate description; if we were both hungry we’d have a look in the cupboard and make whatever we could out of the contents and I’m pretty sure that when John left to play hockey my lunch consisted of a cheesy nacho ready meal side dish thing that I found in the fridge, a hot cross bun and a slice of cheese cake. It was amazing. We had sausage butties for our supper, on the understanding that I’d make us pancakes later if we were hungry again, and we ate snuggled up on the sofa together watching the telly that had made a rare appearance back into the lounge.
Even as students we had more decorum. But oh did we need it. What with the crazy of work and the crazy of house hunting and house selling and the joyful crazy of life with three small children, pure unadulterated down time is a rare commodity, and it’s hard to day who enjoyed their time more, Kitty, Elma and Pip, who came back happily exhausted, or their parents, happily slightly less exhausted.
But the other thing that I realised is that when I think I haven’t got anything done, or enough done, it’s not because of those three gorgeous little monkeys of mine.
When I first became a mother one of the hardest things I had to get my head around was the loss of autonomy. For me the sharpest distinction between my life pre and post the arrival of Kitty and her siblings wasn’t the lack of sleep or the explosion of baby toys in my house but the inability to make concrete plans. It was hardest with Pip; even when we finally got into some sort of bedtime routing the incredible non-sleeping baby used to fall asleep and be tucked up in his cot sometime between 7 and 8.30 and he’d next wake up sometime around 10.30 onwards, and sometimes earlier. And that wake up was my bedtime. There were no two ways about it with Pip, no-one but Mummy would do, and Mummy was not allowed to leave until the morning. He could be sound asleep, deeply floppy in my arms, and even snoring, and he’d still wake up the second his bottom hit the mattress. The only alternative was to put him on my back in the sling, and there are pictures of him fast asleep and drooling into my hair as I press on with some work that just couldn’t wait. But most of the time I’d go to bed, leaving half open blog posts, half written comments, clutching at the ideas trying to spill out of my brain, trying to mentally decode and order them with every upward stair so that they would still be there when I had time to get to them.
Even now, when Pip sleeps, if not well, at least acceptably, and the girls often don’t wake up until after we do, time to do exactly what I want without having to renege on obligations to anyone else in the family is so incredibly precious. From the moment that I booked my days off for half term I have been planning exactly what I would do in the time I had while the children were on their treat.
- Spend time with John including planning our strategy re house selling and house hunting and not panicking about the former or the latter;
- Finish all of my quilt blocks from the 2016 SugarBlock Club (September, November and December) plus make some sample blocks to consider in the overall layout;
- Knit on Pip’s Christmas jumper until I run out of yarn, and then order more if necessary;
- Place yarn orders for a couple of new projects;
- Listen to all queued podcasts and telly I haven’t watched yet;
- Write the next few chapters on my current story;
- Read and comment on lots of blog posts;
- Crochet several rows on the never ending blanket.
- Have a long bath.
- Read my new magazine.
I know, when I write it down on paper it’s laughable.
In reality I spent lots of time talking to John, we went on a trip to Homebase for stuff we need to prettify the house for selling and then when he went to play hockey I did a little bit of quilting. I wasn’t procrastinating, I didn’t have to keep stopping to sort out any one of a hundred things that I usually would when the children are home and I didn’t do any housework, and yet I barely touched my list.
I have never been able to achieve all of this inside a week, and all I can think is that my memory has been lying to me, replacing the real evenings pre-children, get home late from work, cook supper, do a little knitting, collapse into bed, with some paradise of perfect creativity, in which I whizzed off a quilt in one hand while doing the laundry and washing up with the other.
It’s not envy or even rose tinted nostalgia for a life that I’ve never had, but instead I’m diagnosing the product of several months of overworking and underplaying. All late nights and very little knitting apparently makes Carie overly optimistic. That list right there is everything that I’ve wanted to do probably since Christmas, and possibly a little bit before. And the feeling might be the same as those early baby days of bedtimes dictated by a tiny bundle of squish, but the cause is not. I’m oddly happy about that, even if it is a stark reminder that the balance in my life is clearly well out of whack.
It’s time for a little evolution; I don’t know quite what it will look like, and writing this I don’t even really know where to start yet, but it seems that if I’m ever to get to the bottom of that list, I need to start with pulling back a little more time for me.