I once read this tip from a working mother: dress your kids in their clothes for the next day the night before. That way you don’t have to worry about what they are going to wear in the morning.
It might sound more extreme than throwing yourself down a mountain on a board, but the advice comes from some high-flying chief executive. On bad mornings, though, I do wish the kids would wake up miraculously ready, like robots that just need to be switched on and marched out the door.
So I am facing another working week. On one particular evening recently I had just picked up the kids from the childminder after yet another stress-inducing commute on the tube. Knowing that there is nothing to eat in the house, I drag the kids into a local supermarket that mostly sells pre-packaged food. I tend to fall back on the packaged food at 6pm on a weeknight.
I stare at the aisles, my eyes hoping to alight on some inspiration. I end up buying fries – they call them ‘frites’ here to make them sound posh – that you just pop in the oven. The other part of the meal, I figure, will come to me like a blot of lightning. It doesn’t.
I get home at 6.15 with a small selection of random groceries, the Raging Bull’s artwork, two water bottles, one child’s backpack and a change of clothes stuffed into a plastic bag. Since becoming a mother I’ve developed some sympathy for mules.
All I could think about was sitting on the sofa and watching House of Cards on Netflix while drinking a glass of wine. But instead I knew that one of my chores would be putting out an array of black socks on a drying rack after they’ve come out of the washing machine. (I don’t have one of those fancy things called ‘tumble dryers’.)
There was no English Husband at home, so I’d be lucky if I sat down by 9pm.
I must have hinted at all these chores or given the impression of exhaustion when the four-year-old Raging Bull asks me earnestly: ‘Are you fed up, Mommy? Do you think you’re fed up?’
The Raging Bull, now four and a half, has reached the climax of her cute phase. I fear that this is the cutest she will ever be and then, like the fragile spring blossom on a tree, it will be gone.
I laugh, knowing that one day I will wish for this moment to happen again. No matter that I nearly lose my sanity every week, that I run around from one place to the next, often barely catching my breath. Or that I never quite know what homework is meant to be turned in on which day, or when the ‘reading day’ is meant to be or the PE day.
Never mind that family dinners are fraught affairs in which I don’t even have time to sit down with the kids. I just go from kitchen to table, ferrying food, fruit and water, hoping to get it all done by 7pm so that they can have their bath.
But one day in the distant future I will wish for this all over again, just to hear a four-year-old tell me that she loves me.