Let's set the scene-it is lunchtime, cute 18 month old in her dungarees, hair pulled into top knot sits opposite me, her face smeared with hummus. With a half chewed piece of pitta bread in her right hand she begins to roll her hands in a circular motion; her way of telling me she wants me to sing 'Wind the bobbin up'. Again. I wouldn't mind except it must be the 400th time today. Just before we sat down to lunch we were heavily involved in a music session entirely based around 'wind the f-ing bobbin up'. We had tambourines, we had drums, she played along beautifully on the xylophone in between her dramatic actions. Most of our morning has consisted of me winding up an imaginary piece of sewing equipment, so right now all I want to do is sit quietly and just 'be'. I really would like to eat lunch without having to point and clap, it's midday and I'm already exhausted. However, she looks at me with her big, blue eyes and smiles sweetly with excitement, in anticipation of the start of the song. I smile in return and find myself going through the motions yet again. She is a toddler, wanting her mummy to sing her a song, it is a beautiful moment, I just wish I didn't have the urge to sing it through clenched teeth.
When joining the motherhood club five years ago, I gave myself a stern warning not to take a single moment for granted. I had it easy, I know I did, I became pregnant as soon as we decided to try, I had natural, straightforward births and both girls took to breastfeeding like ducks take to water, and I shall be forever grateful for these mercies. I know it could have been so different, and I am aware, in an instant it could all be changed beyond recognition. A year ago, on a day much like today, my smallest bundle of joy choked. She found something on the carpet while wriggling around and before I had even seen what it was she was choking, and I couldn't shift it. Her eyes were filled with such terror as I screamed at her with every back slap to just 'cough it up'. An ambulance was called, but sometime during my blind panic I managed to dislodge it enough for her to swallow it. She was safe. By the time the ambulance arrived we were fine, pale and feeling broken, but fine. The rest of the day was spent in A and E while we guaranteed the foreign object was not lodged somewhere further down and we went home, silent in the knowledge that the outcome could have been very, very different. And so once again I warned myself to never again take a moment for granted, and always embrace motherhood. But I have to admit, I invariably find myself walking a fine line between embracing it, and just wanting a teeny tiny bit of 'me' time;
-Bedtime... toddler refuses sleep. I have been sitting in a cot for over an hour with my white noise app on full volume while she sings loudly, and unzips her sleeping bag for the umpteenth time. I can't help it but I am desperate for her to sleep, I have work to do and dinner to prep and it's already ten past eight. My head has to remind me she won't always be like this. She is being so sweet just singing away, enjoy the show she is putting on for you, I warn myself. I push the urge to scream 'just go to sleep' as deep as I can and attempt to remain chilled out.
-The school run. Five year old still has no socks or shoes on, her water bottle is missing and we have to leave in thirty seconds, but she just wants a cuddle. There it is again, the nagging voice inside me that wants to be released... to shout, 'there is no time, get your shoes on, we are going to be late.' And yes, we may be late, but a little girl just wants a cuddle, and really, school can probably wait a couple more minutes.
-The 'One more story' moment. This is always a tricky one, as I know some days they are just trying it on... attempting to eek out bedtime as long as they can. I am weary and I know the toddler is still going to take an age to actually go to sleep, I want to tell them, no, it's bedtime. But they won't always want a story from me will they?
Of course, craving some 'me' time is entirely human, and an everyday part of motherhood. For so many years it is only you to be put first, and then suddenly you are entirely responsible for these tiny people. I can't pretend I am perfect. When these moments arise I often draw the line in the direction of 'me' time, I find myself telling them to sleep, and I know sometimes the sudden 'need' for a cuddle may be an attempt to prolong the inevitable, but I also remind myself daily that things could be so different, and are so different for so many people out there. So, at least once a day, when I am frazzled and just wanting some time out, I will bite my lip and put all my effort into embracing their cute, childish ways, because, no matter what happens, they won't be like this forever!