Thursday, 6 October 2011

Me time


So, it's 10pm, I've just nursed my two boys to sleep, and I reach for the laptop, for an hour or two of internet shopping, fashion-blog reading, facebook catching-up and lifestyle envy! This is MY time, and woe betide the well-meaning husband who tries to engage me in conversation. I've done a 15 hour shift, feeding, dressing, diapering, washing, playing with and cuddling two babies. I've visited family, talked to friends, texted birthday wishes, commiserated, entertained, praised, defended and sympathised with one and all. I've caught up on laundry, tidied, cooked and organised drawers. I've laughed, cried, cursed, tickled, danced and made funny faces. I have given my all and I need to recharge.

I'm tired and I should sleep, but I'll be doing it all again tomorrow, so I need my time now. I'll stretch it as long as I can, til I'm bleary-eyed, til the battery runs down on the netbook, til I'm asked to turn off the light. I should draft that letter of complaint, I should text that friend, I should make a packing list, I should organise that laundry, I should clear those mugs, I should load the dishwasher, or at least put that food away so it won't spoil, I should pluck my eyebrows, I should find that plug, I should write those thank yous, I should design those workshops.

The baby wakes, he suckles, he sleeps. I'm thirsty but to go get water will rouse them both so I leave it for now. I read about a perfect mother in a perfect house with three perfect kids and I wonder is it real. Is her blog her ideal life? Is she depressed and hiding it really well? She looks so good, where does she get the time to do that make-up and co-ordinate those outfits, let alone take all those photos? Do her kids mind being featured so much? Is her house really a mess, and she takes the photos on the good days? Does she craft until 4am? Does she really have such a busy social life? Does she worry about money? Does she argue with her husband over who's had less sleep? Does she hate getting up early?

I shop, I spend money online that doesn't seem like money at all, it seems free. I click, I buy, I receive. I don't want to check the receipts I've gotten the last few weeks. If I totalled it all I could have had that designer bag. Small amounts don't count. Don't add them up. My plan of saving for the holiday vanished. I need a boost, a pick-me-up, another pair of trousers to slim into. I have no more nights out with the girls, don't get invited any more, too many refusals. I've traded social life for family life. Our "dates" have disappeared. Most of my clothes still don't fit, and instead of slimming into them I'm buying more in bigger sizes.

I make plans I have no intention of keeping: I'll read the classics, I'll join a dance class, I'll go to that concert, I'll organise that party, I'll write that thank you note, I'll make that phone call, I'll exercise every day, I'll paint the front door, I'll visit my gran. And the hours go by, and the babies cry, and I feed them, and I change them, and I wake and I sleep and I sort and I clean, and I shop and I dream. And I get older, and I find a deeper wrinkle, and I see a new hair in a new mole I never knew I had. And suddenly my neck's saggy, and I've a double chin, and that WAS a grey hair, and my knees need hiding.

And the babies grow, and my friends separate, and marry, and procreate, and I sing 90s songs to the radio and remember discos and coke in plastic cups for 20p, and kissing in the corner. I realise I'm driving on the M50 with my two children in my family car and my flat shoes and I forgot my lipstick. And I feel like an adult. I remember being nine and thinking fourteen was grown-up, but now I'm grown up and my parents are grandparents and my gran is a great gran, and we're all going to die, and I lie about that to my worried three year old, telling him I'll live forever. I'll always be his mommy, and I'll always cuddle him and give him baboos. And he sleeps beside me, content to have his mommy, the queen and prince. And I cry for the future when I won't be here, and he'll mourn me, and I'll be gone. And I want to pause this moment forever, to have his nose stuck to my hip, his breath on me, his curls touching my elbow. His new baby brother tucked in at my other side, sweating onto my thigh, both sleeping the sleep of innocence. And when they wake I'll feed them, and when they wee I'll change them, and when I turn off the light I'll curl into them, and feel my babies on either side of me, nourished by my body, comforted by my presence. I'll feel needed and wanted and loved. And all the other stuff can wait. But now I cry. I cry hot tears of release. I'm strong for 15 hours of the day, I've kissed away their tears, and now I wipe away mine. I cry with love, with overwhelming, heart-bursting sobs at the tragedy and joy of life. At it's cruelty, to separate mother from son, daughter from mother, husband from wife. At our tiny insignificance. At our loss. Who 'll speak our names in a hundred years? Who'll know my hopes and dreams? Who'll wear my wedding ring?

And I hear all the stories, and I catch the headlines, and I fear the wide world, and I fear the future. Because for now I am the world to my babies, I see their laughter and tears, I protect them. They are safe for now. But he wakes from a dream, babbling and sits up, so I guide him down and stroke his sweaty head, and he sucks at my breast and he's calm. And he sucks and sucks, and I realise that this is "me time". That I'm connecting to my past and his future, right now. And I cry the last tears that have been sitting there all week, waiting for an outlet. And he drinks my milk, and I think about the wide world, the Budget, the Presidency, the Recession, the Mortgage, the Unemployment, the Emigration, and I think "all this has to wait, I have no energy for this now". For now I suckle my two babies, and I comb their hair and I mash their potatoes with real butter, and I limit their sugar, and find their DVDs, and I may just venture out to book their place in school.

And the infant rouses and whimpers and kicks, and I lie down and feed him and type with one hand, and I reread this and cry a bit more. And I'm okay now. I touched the void, I felt my mortality and it scared me. But tomorrow I'll be back to normal and I'll just be mommy again.

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