Immediately after I drop my boys into another’s care, there is a frisson of freedom. A shivery feeling of delight when my window of responsibility shrinks to exactly one person. I love the boys, adore them, would do anything for them but I still crave time away.
Before my head fills with what the day will yield, I breath out. Long and slow. Relish the silence. Sink into the luxury of a quiet car and the opportunity to listen to Podcasts with swear words in them. I gather up my frayed nerves and let them settle.
On the very rare days where daycare and school means time to myself without work, I feel like a kid on the brink of holidays. The world is shining and full of potential adventure. Does the manic glee make me a bad mother or just a normal one?
Most days, in the moments after the long breath out, I’ll start making mental lists. Methodically go through what I need to achieve, who I need to contact and what needs to be resolved. As I shift the car into reverse and carefully leave the day care car park, my mind shifts into its work gear. I leave the kids and mother mode behind.
Work mornings mean a decent, hot coffee before I enter the office. I walk determinedly with my phone in one hand and a large takeaway (keep) cup in the other. Happy and present in this part of my life.
And then I see them.
A mother or grandmother with their child. Maybe the same age as my youngest. They sit together enjoying the slow morning. The kid is chatting non-stop, looking adorable in neat clothes that have yet to see play. And my heart stops. Lurches from work mode and dives straight back to motherhood.
I am overcome with an irrational but real desire to drive back to my boys, scoop them up and take them away on an impromptu adventure. In that split moment I wonder what I am doing. Why I am spending any time away from my great loves. What on earth could be more important than that?
I look over at the cherub that has sent me into an emotional tailspin. She is involved in one of her own. Pouting and a tantrum about to be delivered. Mumma/Grandma is on edge, her face stormy and impatient. The idyllic scene which I had conjured in my head is shattered. And I remember. The reality of children is not the fantasy that tugged on my heartstrings.
Mumma/Grandma glances my way and I give what I hope is an understanding smile. She looks slightly desperate. As though she’d prefer to be anywhere else. Holding a coffee, about to go into an office and talk to adults for instance.
Suddenly, memories surface. Being in a coffee shop with my boys and trying to negotiate an impending explosion over sharing a dotty cookie. Feeling at my wits end and catching a single woman in the corner of my eye. A woman with a coffee in her hand and not a care in her world. I desperately wanted to be her.
And this is parenting. This is life. Wondering whether the other side is really any greener. Concern over whether the choices we make are the best for ourselves and our families.
All the while, there are people envying the moments we are in while we are jealously eyeing theirs. Perhaps in this constant struggle for balance, the trick is to be happy in the moments we have chosen.
Do you have pangs of regret when you are working and see other people’s children?