Last week I left Beans overnight for the first time ever. For the whole thirteen months of her life I have been there when she wakes in the morning, to put her to bed at night and all the bits in between.
There have been times over the last year where I have sat surrounded by her toys and listening to her contented snuffles across the baby monitor and wistfully thought, ‘What would a few hours off be like?’
We don’t live close enough to family to be facilitating an afternoon with granny or a night at nanas. I speak to friends while they are luxuriating in their regular Friday afternoon ‘off’ while their little one is looked after by their grandparents and admit I feel a bit hard done by.
Selfishly, I longed for family to be near enough to allow one ‘date night’ a month or the odd afternoon’s break when I have things that need to be done. Time to just be ‘me’ and not ‘mummy’.
Before I became a parent I knew that this baby thing is a full time job, no lunch breaks or time to enjoy a cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change things for the world but on those awkward days when I have a list of things to do longer than my arm and three appointments that have me crisscrossing around town frantically trying to be on time, I’d be thankful of a couple of child free hours.
The time did roll around for me to have a few days to myself though and as well as excitement too they were met with trepidation. Did I really want to leave my baby? What does a full night’s sleep feel like? Would I have anything to do or would I find myself idly singing nursery rhymes under my breath?
Nothing could have prepared me for saying goodbye. I felt a heart wrenching pain like no other as I gave Beans about 4,729 kisses and closed the door behind me.
A few hours later, having managed to swallow back the tears by telling myself I would see her again very soon I relaxed into my own time. I drank tea while it was still hot, I read a book for longer than five pages, I put my feet up and ate a whole sandwich without a little person scavenging around my knees with pleading wide eyed after some of my crusts.
That night I climbed into bed, relishing the silence and excited about some uninterrupted sleep. Bliss.
At 3am I woke up with a start and sprung up like a meerkat. I could hear Beans crying. Rubbing my eyes and remembering where I was I lay back down and fell into a restless sleep.
Every hour or so for the next few days I kept having moments where I was sure I could hear that familiar ‘mama’ and I was on high mummy alert until I realised for the millionth time that she wasn’t there. And then I missed her.
I called home every day and my heart ached as Beans gabbled down the phone at me; if she cried I wanted to be there to cuddle her and make it OK. By the end of my time away I was sleeping worse than I do at home and wondering how on earth I used to fill the hours in the day before I was a mummy.
I mean, there are a lot of hours in a day. What did I do when it was just me? Did I really manage to do nothing for hours on end when in the same span of time I can now do at least fifty different things in fifty silly voices and sing fifty different songs?
I was so ready to go home and I arrived to a toddler so excited she stamped her feet and grinned bigger and harder than she ever has for at least two hours. She had grown and was steadier on her feet and could do so many new things since I had last seen her – proof, if I needed it, that we had existed on different time frames for a few days.
My time suddenly took on meaning again and sped up as I rushed around trying to get everything done while keeping everyone happy. Even the washing up happens in the blink of an eye when you’re making up stories or having a silly face competition with a one year old.
Does it ever get easier to leave little ones I wonder? What I am going to be like when she starts school or goes on holiday? What if she moves away for university or goes travelling around the world with friends? Oh God, I don’t think I could bear it!
Being a mummy is a multitasking, worrying, twenty four hours a day, demanding, crazy job and although I sometimes wish for more hours in the day or twenty minutes to myself, it’s the best thing in the world.