Are these the best years of my life?
Sometimes I find myself envying mums of older children.
Stuck as I am in the physical drudgery of motherhood, it seems to me that mums with kids who are, say, 10+ are on a winning streak: They can take their kids on adventurous and exotic holidays; their kids can do homework without constant supervision; the mums have time and energy to have hobbies; and, most importantly, they get good sleep because they’re not being woken up in the night by dreams about witches or urgent toilet crises, neither are they being woken up by small people at 5.45am saying, “My clock’s still blue! Come and look!”
But if I talk to mums of teens, they say it’s just as bad, but in a different way. The worries change, of course – to things like walking home alone after school; crossing roads; being passengers in other teens’ cars; drinking and drugs; driving; staying out all night; and exam pressure.
In fact one friend I know whose kids are now in their 20s looks back fondly to the stage I’m now at. “They were the best years of my life,” she tells me misty-eyed, before zipping off to Istanbul, Goa or Singapore for the weekend, footloose and fancy-free.
And sometimes I wonder if she’s right. At the moment I’m excused from working full-time because I’m being a stay-at-home mum, which is something DH appreciates massively (in fact, every time I consider a return to work, he asks what’s the pay, then says he’ll pay me double to stay at home).
So, instead of sitting in an air-conditioned office, my days are spent dealing with tradesmen, running errands and dripping about in the heat. Yes, there’s a lot of drudgery, cooking and school runs, but there’s also something quite lovely about listening to the little ones chattering about their day in the back of the car.
And, when the tantrums and the sleep deprivation get out of hand (and that’s just me), I try to see the advantages of staying at home with small children:
- · Spending the afternoon sunbathing in the pool while the kids swim.
- · Having “playdates” with my friends on the pretext that our kids like each other.
- · Doing fun, “kid” activities, like ice-skating, all over again.
- · Taking the kids for dinner at cocktail hour and enjoying a nice glass of wine while they eat.
- · The feel of a squishy little hand in mine.
- · Lovely little full-body cuddles.
- · Being on the receiving end of all the love of a small child has to give.
- · The sweet, biscuity smell of children pre-puberty (I’m dreading the acne and BO).
- · Those throaty chuckles that I really should be taping.