I’ll tell you what astonishes me – how much quicker I can get out of the house without two children who slow me down with their inconsistent demands and illogical thinking. I have spent what I fear are hours trying to get the Raging Bull to understand that tights don’t function in the same way as leggings. She insists, though, on walking out of the house half naked. Normally this daily routine – she cries, I lose it – slows me down by about 2o minutes.
But, with the English Husband in charge of the kids in the morning, I walk out of the house to work on Day 2 feeling remarkably unencumbered. I am not holding three coats, a change of clothes, two bottles of water, a huge bag, an empty stroller, two umbrellas and someone’s toy monkey. I’m only holding my handbag. A miracle.
My feeling of lightness lasts about one minute. It dissipates the moment I see the bus pulling away from the stop. I spend the next 7 minutes staring at my watch and cursing the rain. Bad commuting memories come rushing back.
My life is full of these little contradictions. I am loving looking in the closet and wearing clothes I would normally reserve for a special night out. Some of these clothes have been worn so rarely I’ve almost forgotten why I bought them. I no longer have to fear that someone is going to come along with sticky fingers and smear my top with hummus (my default lunch staple for the kids).
Yet I feel a little sad that I’m never there in the morning when they eat breakfast. Or that I no longer hear the Raging Bull chant her refrain – ‘I want cheese’ – for the thousandth time before 11am. She could give Tibetan monks a run for their money, I tell you.
I love the novelty of adult conversation. I have discovered that people in the office listen to me and laugh at what I say. I don’t have to repeat myself ten times, wondering whether I have suddenly become invisible or mute. The kids have a remarkable ability to tune me out.
But around 3 o’clock – the hour when I would pick up the Chatterbox from school – I start pining for a bit of time with the mini terrors. I even start to get nostalgic about doing an art project with them. What has possessed me? A three-year-old with sharp scissors and a stick of glue can do more damage to a house than most hurricanes, and yet here I am, almost wishing for it.
This kind of reverie doesn’t last long. Within minutes of picking the kids up, it comes flooding back – exactly why I was desperate to get out of the house in the first place.
The worst thing about my new, responsible working life is that the minute I get home the REAL WORK starts. You know those days when you used to get home from the office and flop on the couch, fix yourself a bit of salad and finish it off with a big glass of wine. That’s OVER.
I get home now and it’s like the day ramps up a notch. The kids need their dinner. There’s nothing waiting in the fridge, naturally, because I never know more than five minutes ahead of time what these kids are going to eat. Then it’s the usual dinnertime disaster, with the kids getting up from the table several times to wander around the house mid-spoonful. Despite my six+ years experience in motherhood, I still don’t know how to get them to sit. I suppose there are always chains, but it does feel a bit cruel…
Then it’s the misery of bathtime and getting pajamas on before bed. Before I had children, I naively assumed that you told a child to put on his pajamas and, lo and behold, the child would do it. Ah, what an innocent I was back then. I laugh at the child I was. Everything takes three times longer than you think it should and normally there are a few threats and tears before the kids are ready for their storytime. I’ve blinked and it’s 8pm.
Then it’s our own dinner, our own dishes and several other chores before I can actually sit down and rest. By this time I’m literally ready to drop into bed and start the whole thing over again.
Some nights I don’t even have the energy for an evening drink – so I know that something is seriously askew with my body clock. I never say no to a drink. Ask the English Husband. But this week I’ve had less than my normal take-the-edge-off-my-day dose.
Today is Friday, though, and I feel like rewarding myself with two vodkas, some wine and good food. I have already indulged my shopping habit and bought myself a new sweater. And I have arranged a night out with a friend. And I have the money to pay for it! How will I manage with so much excitement? Yes, the perks of working life. I hope my eyelids don’t droop by 9pm. That’ll just spoil the fun.