The Highs and Lows of Escape

imageI got back yesterday from a really bloody brilliant weekend. My cousin got married and it was a much anticipated, wonderful weekend of celebrations. I got to stay in a hotel room on my own, spend time with my lovely extended family and have bucket loads of fun-filled, drink-filled, child-free frolics.

As I left the kids at home with my husband early on Saturday to get a train to the Kent coast, I felt such a sense of liberation. It has been a pretty tough few weeks for one reason or another and I have been desperately craving some time out. I’ve been excited about this weekend for months and I was out the door with a spring in my step and without a backward glance.

I’m sure most parents of small kids, particularly the ones who do the brunt of the childcare, recognise that absolute – at times desperate – need for some time away from their offspring. I crave my rare escapes, to be able to let my hair down and remember that I am more than Mummy, wife, worker. That there is, somewhere in there, buried deep down under piles of small clothes and nappies, a bit of a party animal who still loves to behave like a kid and dance like a crazy thing whilst bellowing along to 80s anthems.

Besides, weddings with small kids totally suck. I’ve done my fair share and they are always a trial: at one particularly memorable one I ate my cold dinner sitting on a curb in a car pack while my devil child finally slept in the car, having been driven around for half an hour during the main course. Fun.

Seeing other people’s kids at the wedding on Saturday made me feel like I was floating serenely past little mines of trouble that had absolutely no power to rock my own personal little boat of joy. Every time one of them kicked off or dribbled on their parent’s posh wedding outfits I wanted to do a little freedom dance, so great was my sense of relief that they weren’t mine to watch over, shhhhh and wipe. All I had to do was get another drink from the bar and enjoy myself. It was heaven.

I got chatting over dinner to some parents with younger kids and, as you do, I ended up having a kid-related conversation. They were really lovely people and I enjoyed talking about my babies with them. I find I can get much more doe-eyed over my kids when they are not actually in the same county.

I also enjoyed the “Wow! I’d never have guessed you had three kids” line, which I had a few times over the weekend. I’m not claiming this is anything to do with looking good after three kids but it is massively to do with feeling relaxed and appearing to be entirely trouble-free. To be mistaken as footloose and child-free when you are usually up to your eyeballs in pesky little nippers is quite a boost. It is almost like a badge of honour, that you can still pass as a member of normal society, just like you used to before you were zombified by exhaustion.

On Sunday morning, I woke rather early after very little sleep and with a stonking and well deserved hangover. And I have to admit I had a few moments of seriously missing the morning cuddle I always have from my warm, cosy Baby T first thing in the morning. He needs a good 20 minutes on my lap, still in his sleeping bag, before he is ready to face the day, which suits me just fine as we are both half asleep and he is at his least wiggly and most cuddly at that time of day. So yes, I definitely missed that moment as I sat on my bed drinking tea. But I was allowed to drink it whilst still hot, and without being nagged, so I got over it pretty quickly.

But, before I’d even packed my bags to check out of the hotel I had a serious sinking feeling. I do totally adore my kids but I had a deep sadness about heading back that afternoon. Back to the homework, back to sorting out three little piles of clothes for Monday morning, back to the chaos of Sunday night bath time. As with anything long anticipated, I was gutted it was over but it was more than that. It was that I had deeply loved being able to reconnect with the me I can be when I don’t have kids in tow. I was able to spend time with my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my parents, my sister and brother-in-law – so many wonderful people that mean the world to me but who I usually see in isolation or with kids hanging off me. It was just such enormous fun to be all together and free.

There were seaside windmills on the tables at the wedding and I grabbed three for the kids on the way out the door, knowing how much they would adore them.  On the way home, I was looking forward to giving them their windmills and to having that lovely cuddle of being missed and reunited. But I was also thinking how much nicer it would have been if I could have stayed another day. Not at the wedding necessarily, but anywhere. Anywhere else.

As I said, I adore my kids. As the cliché goes, they are my world. I just sometime wish they were more like 90% of my world, with a bit left for me. You see, I also adore the rare escape. I just so enjoy being me again. I miss me.

I’m reliably told that having small kids is brief phase, and that things will improve as they get older. But, just 20 minutes after getting home, when they are already nagging and things have entirely slipped back to how they were before I went, I find myself wondering just how soon things will be easier. How soon the kids will be old enough for home life to be a bit less hectic. How soon we can leave them behind more often (or perhaps crave it less). When will we be free to have more solo time each and more relationship time, something we both know we need?

It was a fantastic weekend but, as always, I’m more knackered than before I went away. Well, when you have to go crazy and fit as much as you can into just a few short hours, sleep is not high on the list. And I’ve definitely landed with a bump, as I’ve returned to Baby T deciding that, just shy of two years old, naps are no longer for him. Fun and games ahead in that score, with an exhausted little boy and a very grumpy me.

So, I’m planning. I love a plan. Without plans for fun things in the diary, I get down. Better come up with another weekend away plan soon, to keep my spirits up. And I might see if I can make it two nights next time…..

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