Thursday, 3 January 2013

An Unnatural Mother

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? 

30 comments:

  1. I am MOST DEFINITELY an unatural mother!!!! Love this!!! So funny!

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  2. In December I had a night away with a friend. Just one night. On my return - after afternnon reading, evening drinking, morning sleeping and unfettered shopping - I was greeted by two angels who showered me with kisses and cuddles and told me a hundred times that they loved and and missed me.

    There's a lot to be said for staying at home, but that moment taught me the value of coming home.

    Xx

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    1. What a lovely way of putting it. Those are wise words.

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  3. Oh dear. I now discover that I am natural, as I have not had a child-free day or night in nearly 11 years (unless you count school - I almost home-educated until I saw the error of my ways). But now I've read this, I think an unnatural evening might be in order!

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    1. Your naturalness might actually be constraints of circumstance. It's quite probable that there is an unnatural woman inside you just longing to leave your kids for three days and to come and have a lager with me. It's a question of biddable babysitters!

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  4. I think it's vital for one's marriage and sanity to have time away if possible (though obviously some people don't, and are happily married and sane, so I guess that's just my opinion). I only wish I could do it more often.

    It always strikes me how long a day is, when you don't have children around. The afternoon seems to go on forever, and then there's the evening! I suppose that's to do with not having to provide a meal, and bedtime routine. Or do children gobble up time just by being around.

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    1. Goodness, I find the opposite! Afternoons without kids in fly in a eye blink before I've done half what I planned, whereas afternoons with the kids can sometimes crawl interminably towards bedtime.

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  5. I know that feeling so well - not from lots of nights away from my kids but from plenty of days shouting at them and then peeking in to kiss them goodnight and melting at their beautiful sleeping forms. Each night I promise I will be the perfect parent the next day - and it lasts until the first argument or tantrum next morning. All natural I'd say..

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    1. That happens to me nightly too. I realised long ago that I love my children most eloquently when they are asleep or absent! But I recall you describing the joy of bedtime cuddles and it made me feel even more unnatural because I hoof mine to bed with bottle opener in hand.

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  6. I still get stick for leaving our not yet 2 year old to go on a honeymoon thousands of miles away to Cuba. I had a brilliant time, missed her hugely and was able to almost appreciate her epic tantrums on my return. There's nothing wrong with needing a break!

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    1. One should regularly treat oneself to the luxury of missing ones children. And vice versa.

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  7. Definitely, it is not even a question for me. I can't wait until tomorrow, the last two children at home go away to university tomorrow. They will be 9 to 12 hours away depending on traffic, and I am overjoyed! Yep, I am a bad mother.

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    1. Goodness, is that their first term at uni? Not sure I'm looking forward to that. I like the kids out of the house but also like a daily reunion.

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  8. I love my children best when I am not with them! Haha! Oh, and when they are sleeping, bless them! Xx

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    1. Oh how I ditto that! And how glad I am to find I'm in fine company!

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  9. Oh I dream of a day & night away from my son with my OH! What a pleasure it would be for us.
    Everyone needs a change of scene! Alas I have no takers for my small boy.
    Happy New Year x

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    1. And a happy one to you too. That's a wretched state of affairs to have no chance of liberation.

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  10. As we live 2,500 miles (or is it kms I can never remember?)from my family, I have never spent a whole night away from DD who just turned 4. My sister told me yesterday that when we are in London in the spring, she'll look after her so that I can go away for a few days. As I don't have any money to actually go away, I formulated a great plan whereby DD stays at my sister's for a couple of nights with her cousins while I stay with my parents (2 miles away) and, as you say, read novels in the afternoon, go to museums, shopping, have coffee with a friend... I can't wait.

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    1. I think that sounds a splendid plan and should energise you for your 2013 ambitions.

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  11. Utterly genius! I love your blog, but this post and its conclusion is now my favourite!

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    1. What a delightful thing to say! I suspect, from your title, that you share my feelings!

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  12. Well you have certainly set the tone as Little A grows into a child - I too will be the most unnatural mother there can be just so that I may maintain some equilibrium and mental clarity! Fabulous post and a sage reminder about balance - I do love your writing. X.

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    1. And I do love your comments! Hopefully our shared unnaturalness will bring us together again in some glamorous place one day.

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  13. I would get away if I could, it's just that no one will have them ;)

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    1. Oh poor you! We're lucky to have obliging family.

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  14. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this post - I can so relate! Personally, I relax in the knowledge that I'm doing us all a favour by loving the odd break away from my kids. Those Mothers who can't bear to spend any time apart are probably doing more harm than good *waits for backlash*....

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    1. That's just what I hoped someone would say. I feel loads better now, thank you!

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  15. I can't wait for mine to go back to school and then I feel guilty and then I read you and I don't. Ta. :)

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