For three days I have been liberated.
I had left my handbag at the wrong end of London and so, without a purse, I was spared the exhausting compulsion to traipse round the sales.
I had mislaid my mobile in the under-stairs cupboard and so was sheltered from inconvenient phone calls.
My 10-year-old had lost my hairbrush and since my comb was 60 miles away in said handbag I was excused the bore of daily grooming.
And I was without my children.
'I've never left my children for a single night,' said the lady on the bus. 'I couldn't bear to think of anyone else doing their breakfasts and bedtimes.' We marvelled at each other like two opposing zoological species. 'I must,' I replied brightly, 'be an unnatural mother!'
Unnaturalness, the lady on the bus doesn't realise, has many advantages. It allowed the Vicar and me to walk 20 miles of cliff tops without whinging impediments. It granted us a nightly pint in a Tudor pub, unimpeded novel reading in mid-afternoon and the glorious novelty of silence. Why, it even inspired in me a Great Thought, although with my notebook trapped in my lost handbag it escaped me before I could write it down.
Above all unnaturalness brought me closer to my babies. During our unaccustomed lie-ins I realised I missed them. During my 10-year-old's unfettered browses round high streets with her indulgent grandmother, she realised she missed me.
Upon our reunion, I resolved to mark the New Year with unswerving patience. I vowed to rejoice daily in the priceless gifts that are my babies. 2013 would witness in me the type of mother who would cross continents for a goodnight kiss and defer ducal invitations to feed them Weetabix.
And, for twenty minutes, I was as good as my word. I read them a story, applauded their Lego theatricals and allowed them supper on a tray. Then the bickering began. Memories of the briefly-sampled silence haunted me and suddenly it occurred to me that it's the lady on the bus that's unnatural, not me. There is no greater joy than having children - but why is it so much easier to appreciate this from 60 miles away?
Are you an unnatural parent?