Somewhere it’s written down as an actual genuine rule, that when you’re at your most busy, the exhaustion that runs with it only hits when you stop long enough to notice. My January has been dominated by two big work moments, one in the middle and one at the end of last week, and the sudden realisation that I was done, or rather that I had just a smidgen of breathing space before the next urgent deadline hit me with all the force of a month’s worth of late nights and my poor little brain had to be coaxed into action with the promise of our team goodie shelf (and the very welcome and now traditional Toblerone from my boss on his return from the Alps). I was so glad to see Friday, and even gladder to see 5pm on Friday and the train home.
I know when I was the full time at home parent, the weekend felt like the chance to do something or go on an adventure as a complete family, and it’s a mindset that I think I’ve carried across into going back to work. Add in the omnipresent lurk of maternal guilt and I have a default setting that weekends should be for adventures and for making enough memories with the children that they never look back on their childhood and think I was missing. It’s also a lot of fun, as our trip to the Chinese New Year festivities last Sunday proved, but sometimes you just need to have a really lazy day.
Well sort of a really lazy day. The viewings continue so we were up bright and early yesterday to get the house back to showing standard and then headed out for breakfast to wait for everyone to finish traipsing through, but once we got home, we were home. And part of me thought that on such a beautiful sunny day we really ought to go and do something, and the really tired part of me looked at the comfy sofa and the window open to let the sunshine, and knew that the furthest we were going was the garden.
And so we settled into one of the sort of ordinary days that I seem to have so rarely now; sat around the dinner table while the girls did some colouring, Pip drew expansive blue swirls, and I picked up his Christmas jumper (sadly neglected since the big day) in between fielding illustration requests, because why shouldn’t you have a hockey player, Pip watching hockey, a helicopter and a rainbow all in the same picture. With John home for a little longer thanks to a change in hockey plans, he joined the art club and it felt very peaceful, even in the noise of a family of five.
For lunch we gave the kids a carpet picnic, a favourite treat of theirs, and when we’d rescued cheese wrappers from the floor, they brought down their duvets and pillows and quilts and we set up the play frame to make a snuggly den.
But whatever game they were playing didn’t quite stack up to just cuddling up; I sat on the sofa with my knitting and one by one they came to join us; Kitty and Elma down the other end giggling and wiggling my toes, and Pip snuggled up by my side. We didn’t read stories or even sing, I just listened to them chatter away and caught up on snippets of all the vitally important things about school; Elma’s next playdate, how many teeth each of Kitty’s friends have lost, and where she sat to eat her carrots last week.
When I was all grown up and heading back to see my Mum she used to keep patting me, just to check I was real, and really there, and at the time I thought it was sweet and a little bit funny, but now I totally get where she was coming from. As the full time working parent in this family my arms are empty more often than they are full, even in the weeks where I wake up to find Pip on one side, Kitty on the other and Elma sleeping across my feet, and though all three kids are little cuddle bugs, I can’t spend all my home time clutching them to me to try to compensate. To spend hours just curled up together with no pressure to be anywhere or doing anything was one of those days that feel like Saturdays should; the days that drop into the “you’re doing OK” side of the scales.
As I’m writing this I feel bonelessly relaxed; definitely a feeling to hang onto as we head into another week.