It is the end of a long week. It shouldn’t have felt this way – I had Monday off. I am going part time after five months of five days a week. Coincidentally, the Raging Bull had Monday off too, because her pre-school was shut for a training day. So much for snatching a few hours for myself.
I thought, No big deal, we’ll enjoy ourselves. I think I have forgotten what a full-on day of uninterrupted mothering feels like. I realize, halfway through the morning, that my three-year-old is not about to leave my side. With her big sister at school, she’s looking to me to provide all the entertainment. This is not entirely without some challenges, since her attention span is somewhere between five seconds and two minutes.
But at least I have arranged to meet a friend for my fix of the day, a much-needed shot of coffee. Too late I discover that the pile of dirty clothes I put in the washing machine will not be ready to come out before I need to leave the house. I am more stressed than I ever am at work. If I leave the clothes in there for a couple of hours, they will come out more creased than the face of an 80-year-old chain smoker.
Twenty minutes later I am hanging up a bunch of clothes on these antiquated racks so that they’ll dry. (Americans won’t understand this that well, but a clothes drier is a bit of a luxury around here.)
So I am late, horribly late to meet my friend, and running frantically around with the Raging Bull. I forgot what this feels like. What I need now is not coffee but a tranquilizer.
After 30mins in the coffee shop, the Bull is rather tired of my rendezvous and starts punching me in the back, telling me that she wants to go. Over and over again. I try to placate her with chocolate, interactive storybooks and threats, but it doesn’t buy me that much time. At least I grabbed a few fraught moments with my friend.
Then it’s time to rush off and pick up the other child, who is at school. We are, of course, now running late. I catch a bus, which seems to be moving backwards. I am crushed next to a blind person and her dog, who is wet (it has been raining) and smells.
I run off the bus, with the stroller in full flow. As fate would have it, a plastic bag chooses this very moment to attach itself to the wheel. I don’t bother to stop as it swirls and flaps under my feet. Who has time to draw breath?
To cut this story short, the plastic bag ends up so tightly wound around the wheel that it seizes up and stops moving altogether. I have to unstrap the Raging Bull and plead with her to run the rest of the way to the school while I half drag/carry the stroller.
It’s now lashing down with rain and the wind is whipping my hair into my face. I am crouched in front of the stroller, tearing off bits of plastic, one piece at a time. But it’s completely in vain. No boa constrictor has ever wrapped itself more tightly around its victim. This plastic won’t come off without a very sharp knife and steely determination.
My hands are filthy as I push the stroller ahead of me, on two wheels, all the way home, with a screaming three-year-old behind me. It is then that the thought rises up unbidden, a thought I never believed I would have: I am better off at work, it’s easier.
This was my day ‘off’.