Friday, 24 February 2017

Childfree days!

So here we are, after The Parting. And we all seem to have survived. LittleBear and BigBear both said they'd had a lovely time away. And BigBear was only slightly shattered by the experience. I coped without my cuddles, and my giggles. LittleBear seemed none the worse for having been deprived of Mummy. Which I fear is a situation that I'll have to grow increasingly accustomed to over the next forty years.

But, I hear you cry, what did I do with all this fabulous free-time? How did I disport myself when liberated to do whatever I wanted, whenever and however I wanted?

Did I go to the spa? Did I drink cocktails till all hours of the night? Did I have a night out at the theatre?

Did I buggery.

I spent two days at work, in which I re-discovered what it had been like being a "normal" employee again, able to complete a piece of work and then go home, rather than dropping everything as the minute hand passed the witching hour, and dashing off to retrieve a small child, irrespective of what work needed completing and who else might be depending upon me. It was like winding the clock back five years, and it felt almost as though nothing had changed. I worked till well past 6, and didn't feel any sense of guilt or remorse. I was able to Get Things Done. And when I came home, though it was to an empty house (aside from a rather crabby cat, who views me as distinctly inferior to BigBear, Keeper of the Food), it was to a house in which I didn't have to instantly start preparing a meal, or playing football, or helping sellotape straws to toilet rolls, or engaging in a mock battle between a Therazinosaurus and a Giganotosaurus.

I ate tasty things that my other bears don't like. Gnocchi and scallops and tuna and marmite and leeks. Not all at once, and not at proscribed times, but instead I ate when I felt hungry and when I could be bothered to cook. I was in charge of my own destiny!

And then came the weekend. Surely there was a spa day, or cocktails, or cake or some manner of indulgence now? Surely...

Depends how indulgent you think the dump is. Or the local DIY emporium. Or weeding. Or pressure-washing the patio. Or pruning the fuchsia. Because, yes, I continued to Get Things Done, this time on the home front rather than the work front. The closest I got to pampering was shopping. Which was good, but more along the lines of necessary than luxuriant. When I got hungry, I stopped for a sandwich in a cafe, but it was busy, so I ate it sitting on the stairs, because I really know how to spoil myself. However, I bought jeans and shoes and underwear. Lots and lots of underwear. Basically I shopped for things that (a) really need to fit properly and therefore can't be bought online in a rash of optimism and (b) are really tricky to buy with a small boy in tow, without small boy getting immensely bored and fractious (rapidly followed by small boy's mother indubitably getting fractious too).

So, unlike all those mothers I see on the interwebs who appear to do amazing, delightful, relaxing and marvellous things the moment they are liberated from the shackles of childcare, I revelled in the opportunity to Get Things Done. And I realised that I have basically put Getting Things Done on a back-burner for the past five years. Initially, I was barely functioning. The idea of getting myself and a mewling, puking infant anywhere more than about 300 yards from the house was such a daunting prospect that it simply didn't happen. And then, time passed, I emerged from the impenetrable fug of post-natal depression, LittleBear stopped mewling and puking quite as much, and yet our habits were formed. We don't Get Things Done. We stay home and play. Or we go out and play. Or we visit friends and family and play. Our lives revolve, to an alarming degree, around playing with LittleBear. And only when released from the bonds of play did I realise the extent to which this is true. And it's made me realise that after five years, it might be time to start Getting Things Done again.

I'm not suggesting that I'm going to abandon playing and resume the life we had before LittleBear arrived and turned my world upside and down and rightside up. But I can't help but feel it might be time to start trying to achieve a little bit more than an epic battle raging across the Mesozoic era every Saturday. I think it might do all of us a little bit of good to grow accustomed to the idea that the world does not actually revolve entirely around the provision of entertainment for a small boy.

I see no immediate change to my state of being tied to the clock at work, however. I cannot see that I'm going to do anything other than drop everything to retrieve my LittleBear from school every day for some time to come. I guess in about ten years time he might be marginally more self-sufficient, and I might not have to rush out of the office at 2:30 every day. But it's hard to see that I'm going to be anything other than half an employee for many years to come*. And I find that a lot more frustrating and depressing than my inability to get round to the weeding.

So, my child-free days were illuminating, and refreshing, and rewarding. And they brought home to me, in ways I hadn't really considered so far, some more of the many ways in which motherhood has changed the shape and structure of my life. I wouldn't change it for a moment, as there is nothing in my life quite as brilliant, and funny, and lovable, and loving as my LittleBear. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't mind tweaking things a little. And it doesn't actually mean I can't regret the things that I've lost and that I miss. The freedom to work how and when I want and need. The freedom from providing umpteen meals a day, at the right time, and with the correct components that won't cause ructions. The freedom to leave the house on an errand without half an hour of haggling and cajoling first. The freedom to Get Things Done.

And tomorrow, nine days of single-handed parenting commences while BigBear goes on a business trip. So I think the Getting Things Done might have to wait...

* On the plus side, when I expressed my relief at having worked "normally" for two days, and my frustration at not doing so every day, my boss gave a remarkably sensitive, insightful and reassuring response. He told me that it was immensely helpful to the company that I was at work every day [instead of three days a week as it was until LittleBear went to school]. He also assured me that I should make the most of going home to play with LittleBear, as it would be over far too quickly, and I'd never get this time back. I am genuinely incredibly lucky in certain aspects of my working life, and that level of simply human understanding is one of the ways in which I am fortunate.

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