Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Sighing, I prepare to text yet another friend to tell her that I can't make a night out.
"Sorry" I say, "but I've got no childcare."
Sound familiar? It didn't used to.

God, how I used to grit my teeth as those apologetic, hurried texts from friends with children came pinging in, delaying brunches, days out, nights out, lunches, because the kids were ill, or they couldn't get a sitter, or the sitter had let them down. It all sounded rather dull. Well, now it's my turn.

Just as dull, it turns out, as it can be to sit on your own after a day with a toddler whose new favourite word is "no" with only Coronation Street and an M&S ready meal to look forward to.

Because one thing I am finding out in this still relatively new world of child rearing, is that one way (or, indeed, the only way) to get a night out is for you and your husband/partner/whatever to take it in turns, like hurried harried people in a weather house. One in, one out.

Gone are the hours of feeling giddy in the lead up to a big night out, scouring town for something new to wear, making hair and nail appointments and having hours to look and feel like the belle of the ball. There's a ticking time bomb toddler sitting in the pram, and time is allocated into chunks. Their boredom threshold is as low as your blood pressure is high as you hurry hurry hurry, and try to beat the clock.

I can now get ready in well under an hour: quick shower, grab a dress, accessorise with an enormous pair of internal-organ crushing pants, pull dress over head, and I'm ready. I was surprised to discover at the last night out I went on (after Middle East style negotiations over calendars) that I don't even think to bother with make-up any more; not that anyone's going to be looking at the 37 year old with hair badly in need of a cut and colour in a sea of taut-skinned, Lipsy dress wearing twenty-somethings.

The realisation is dawning: like my hair, I just don't cut it any more on a night out. I feel slightly invisible,much the way I sometimes do as I push my buggy, avoiding people and obstacles, pattering through town in flat shoes and a sensible coat, brandishing muslin cloths, snacks and drinks like weapons. Some days, despite my love of brightly coloured clothes and shoes , I feel like the world has passed me by. I've dissolved like a tissue in the rain, edged blurred, fraying.

"Sorry" I say to people barging through the front doors of shops which I have a perfect right to go through as well. I've even apologized to racks of clothes. Possibly even mirrors.

Don't get me wrong, I don't feel sorry for myself. What I am writing about is a feeling, an experience, a tiny bite of regret (like the taste of a bitter lemon) that my old life has slipped away. It went quietly, it left the room without me noticing, like a dress slipping from a hanger that is crowded between others in my wardrobe. Sometimes, it still whispers to me, beckoning in my mind like a glamorous ghost.

So, I wear it, this new cloak, of motherhood, and I still feel some days, like I am trying it for size.
I don't have a better life, I have a different life. I have a love I have never known for my daughter, so large it could fill a reservoir, so powerful I feel it's force could send whole armies into battle. A strength of which I am proud. I feel the same but different. If I'd read this blog before I was a parent I'd have rolled my eyes and laughed. Stupid cow, writing about the fact she feels a bit left out.

Milestones now are not mine. Heady nights out and spontaneous meetings with friends are few and far between.

There are new ones though. New words, new skills. Laughter and wonder as for the first time my daughter discovers sand, soil, friends, water, toys, puzzles, bath times, people and me. "Kiss my owie better, mummy" she says, holding aloft a plump finger nipped by a clothes peg. She doesn't want anyone else for that.

And then it makes makes sense, because to her I am complete, I am whole, and it is enough. In fact, it is everything.

I think my cloak just got a little bit more comfortable. But sometimes, the old outfits still need a night out.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Great Expectation of fitting it all in

"Rab Rab" says my daughter. "Rab Rab."

I rack my brains in silent desperation, wondering what has happened to the bug eyed, dirty plush toy with the weird expression. We're late, of course. And Rab Rab is missing.

Where is it? Under the cot? In the washing machine? Drowning in the loo? Hibernating in the coal scuttle? Lost forever in the wilderness of town? I hope not, because if it's option six, we're realLy in trouble.

The enquiry from my frowning daughter has now become a menacing growl. "Raaaab Raaaaab" hisses baby J, now, I suppose, toddler J really. 

Never mind the whereabouts of Rab Rab, (or Adi, which is actually Hello Kitty, another firm favourite) i don't know where the time's gone, let alone anything else. Between watching the clock and racking my brains about what to cook for dinner, I am breathless with wonder at my daughter. There are milestones which make you smile. The mashed potato, pushed into a hungry mouth with pudgy fingers, eyes twinkling as she masters cutlery. The words which have become mangled, so that mamp is milk, an orange is an apple and an apple....just is. The world is wonderful, the smile trusting, arms and heart open wide.

Since my return to work in February (which,,of course was fine, and I got to drink a whole cup of tea while it was still hot), despite the occasional longing to leave work just to smell Baby J's head, I seem to spend a lot of time running to stay still, as every mum, on the treadmill on the road to nowhere knows. I used to listen to colleagues who were mums wondering how they did it. Now I know. They're juggling. Spinning plates. 

Lunchtimes are spent speed walking through town, buying nappies and food. There is a permanent list of to do items on my iPhone notepad. The car (a sensible estate with the buggy clattering in the boot) always seems to need diesel. It is full of crisp packets, my staple diet some days. 

And the clock ticks on. Ticking so fast in fact, that I have not blogged for nearly a year. I lunge from home to work to home. From mum to colleague to mum. The transition is daily, this multiple shedding of skins, but nearly 12 months in, I'm not used to it yet. You know how it is. You love them, you adore them,,you can't explain the depth of your feelings for're juggling all the time, and it's hard. Some days, it's just hard. I want more time. But like everyone who does this, I find a way to fit it all in. I just juggle. And smile. 

Will I ever get used to this duality? I don't know. After nearly a year at work, I'm still amazed that I can get to work looking human, while, all the time, mind racing ahead to the lunch time tasks, the next deadline, the traffic, the pick up, the expectation. The transition, always the transition. I daren't stop for long. 

But the golden moments, like pure drops of water on a hot day, are enough to refresh the most tired of souls. Those come when my beautiful daughter, so precious in sleep, stirs as I sneak in to watch over her.

"Mama?" Says the voice from the cot, claiming my heart, and thoughts of tomorrow's deadlines fade away.

 "Mama here." I reply. "Mama always here."