From time to time you recall all the good things about being single and childfree. They are numerous. Especially on the days you climb the stairs – complete with hot water bottle because you have a head start on bedtime and you are intent on making the most of it, yes, that is my life now – only to find the landing strewn with random jigsaw pieces. Obviously one of the gnomes had paused before falling dead asleep and thought – ‘Actually, just for the craic, I’ll throw a few jigsaws around the place. Mix it up a bit. Keep her on her toes’.
High on the list of things I quite liked when I lived alone pre-kids was parts of my home remaining just as I left them. A place of your own, in general, is a total joy – a door to lock behind you and keep out anyone in danger of discovering you wear your old college over-sized hoodie tucked into long flannel pyjama bottoms tucked into extremely old knee high camogie socks. Which you put on immediately after work to cook what you like (pasta) to eat where you like (sofa please) watching what you like (KUWTK obvs). Because you’re generally wrecked from living the high life, it’s your only night in this week and there are only two sleeps to the weekend. Yeah!
Other things include reading the newspaper, properly, thoroughly. Snoozing, ad hoc. Drinking a hot coffee. Openly eating a biscuit with aforementioned hot coffee. Waking up gradually and as nature intended (remember that?). Being able to store breakables under 5ft high. Having un-smeared windows. Cushions staying on the sofa. That sofa being cream in colour… etc. etc.
Perhaps highest on the list is the ability to get away from said home. To drop everything, and escape with total abandon and zero planning. Not just for a walk or a trip to the shops, but, like, a Bridget Jones-style country hotel mini-break – to leave no SuperValu weekend break un-ventured, no girls’ night out snubbed. The only prep required was a Friday lunch-time blow-dry and clean jeans.
And it’s not like I don’t realise that certain life decisions bring about life changes. I absolutely accept that my life can and should no longer revolve around me. Ever since L’Oreal debuted it’s ‘Because You’re Worth It’ campaign, we’ve probably become slightly delusional about the thin line between the importance of getting some time to ourselves and putting the needs of the little people we decided to bring into the world into second place. Being a parent comes with – wait for it – exhaustion, frustration, boredom and mess which you really do, a lot of the time, just have to suck up. And yes, I know, I get it, we can’t run on empty. But if the kids aren’t at the heart of our actions, we’re doing it wrong. After that, some kind of balance must be struck to avoid general head exploding on the part of the parents.
In terms of where my life is now, there are no regrets – but I am allowed to pine for my old life every so often. Particularly when I find myself picking up jigsaw pieces as my hot water bottle goes cold. Those were good, good times – times from which I wouldn’t mind borrowing every so often.
A night out is grand, but it’s never enough. You’re on a clock with the babysitter and one of you needs to drop her home afterwards and it’s all a big effort because at the back of your mind you know the 1 year old will be calling you at the crack of dawn, when you’ll immediately regret going to bed late. Relationship, schmelationship. We need sleep in this house – love is a bonus. We’ve been out to dinner at the end of long weeks, too weary to strike up a conversation with each other and the last time we got to the cinema the only half decent film in was ‘Hustlers’ (I reckon the 4-stars awarded by the Irish Times was a typo) which was, I can testify, totally awful. No cinema date should end with your husband saying; ‘If it wasn’t for all the stripping I would have walked out’. Super, same again next Friday night?
And so, the overnight getaway remains the holy grail for all parents of young children. Either together, with your pals or alone – however you do it, the ‘getaway’ part is key. You can sleep in, chat uninterrupted (or not), go for dinner, read a book, have a bath, go for a walk, phone a friend – all the things you once did without a second thought. It can be a tent, a friend’s house or a posh hotel (preferable, let’s be honest) – all you need is a ‘will relax’ attitude, some wine and maybe broadband – because every human needs to catch up on a few www rabbit holes now and then.
The logistics are, I’ll admit, prohibitive (is it really worth all this?) and finding a willing and suitable babysitter can be tricky, if not verging on the pushy side. But I can guarantee it’s the kind of brain / relationship / soul massage you need to keep the show on the road and everyone sane. The small ones might even appreciate you more when you get home. I may be a parent, but I too can dare to dream.
In between jigsaw-sorting…