By the time H walked through the door my patience and my stamina had worn so paper thin it was see-through. It wasn’t a particularly terrible day, just one of those days that comes at the end of a week of not enough sleep, and thanks to wakeful children, no awake time when I wasn’t parenting, and I was worn out, utterly touched out, and seconds away from sinking into a little sleepy puddle on the floor. My lovely husband took one look at me and scooped up the child from my lap.
“Do you want to go out for a bit? Just have a little time for yourself before supper?”
Oh yes please I really would. At least that was my first instinctive reaction, I almost ran out of the house at the idea. But somehow even knowing that I was going to get a little bit of quiet to just be and just think was enough to give me a boost and I pottered around the house, and sat down next to H where he lay smothered by the girls and cuddled and tickled Pip in my lap. And I thought perhaps I didn’t really need to go, maybe I was just being silly.
“Go on, we’ll be fine.” said the voice next to me. And so I got up, still holding Pip in my arms as he head butted me and tried to eat my hair. He snuggled in and I kissed his downy hair, burying my nose in his smell of baby and leftover lunch and thought that perhaps I’d just take Pip, maybe just having one child for a half hour would do the trick. Five minutes before I’d been longing for just a moment when I wasn’t holding one child, cuddling another and trying to persuade the third not to destroy the house/their sibling/the sibling’s dearest treasure, but now that it came to it I didn’t want to let Pip go.
H reached up and pulled Pip down for a cuddle and to the sound of a roar of giggles from my son I headed downstairs to grab my keys.
And I walked out the house.
I drove to Sainsburys, because going to the supermarket by yourself is the height of luxury, but it’s not as desperate as it sounds, Sainsbury’s has a Starbucks and I walked in all by myself, ordered a juice and a fruit salad all by myself, and sat down, all by myself and got ready to revel in the joys of the peace and quiet of a small hum of ambient noise.
But I felt horribly torn. On the one hand it was amazing to have that rest, to turn the parenting hyper-awareness “on” switch to “off” and stop continually scanning for the squeaks that mean a problem in the making, and set down the part of my brain that is always keeping track of where the children have got to, and on the other I felt terribly horribly guilty.
Guilty that H had just done a full day’s work and come home to solo parent three rather tired children, guilty that I’d ‘abandoned’ Pip into the loving embraces of his father and with that niggly fear that he’d be missing me and wouldn’t understand and mostly guilty with a side order of failure that I couldn’t hack it, that I must have done something wrong and that everyone else would have been able to manage.
It’s amazing what your subconscious can come up with isn’t it.
It took about half an hour for it to wear off. I sat and made myself eat and have some juice and not burst into tears and I pulled out my latest jumper in progress and knit a little to quiet my hands, and slowly but surely my whole self breathed a huge sigh and I let go of the irrational fears, let go of the feelings of failure and just let myself enjoy the time to think, the time to realise that I’d done my short rows all wrong and rip out half my knitting and start again (NB, I still got it wrong and had to rip it back again today but we’ll gloss over that), and the time to recharge, to be thankful for the gift of being kicked out the door and thankful for H and for the children themselves.
H sent me to catch my breath in this marathon of parenting, and it was exactly what I needed. And now I’ve done it once I know that I won’t hesitate to do it again, or to send him out the door for a break.
And so when that feeling of ease settled in I packed up my bits and bobs, and headed into the supermarket and bought them all chocolate mousse for pudding.