Disney has a lot to answer for, as does Jaqueline Wilson. Both, it would seem, like to paint mothers in a rather negative light. Disney has a long standing tradition of killing off the matriarch. Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, all motherless. Jaqueline Wilson’s trick seems even darker. My six year old is currently obsessed with her books, it makes for some interesting bedtime reading. In the last month we have read of a Mother walking out on a girl and her father, only to return months later pregnant with another man’s child. Another abandoning her four kids to go on holiday for a week and a third showing a vile streak during a messy divorce. These books did not bode well for a week away.
I don’t go away very often. I work from home, I am at my kid’s beck and call twenty four seven, and I like it that way. However, when my sister suggested a quick flit to Europe, and my husband agreed, I found myself jumping at the chance, yet re-evaluating as soon as my six year old began reliving the stories from her literature. ‘But you won’t leave us ALONE will you?’ ‘No Daddy is here isn’t he?’ ‘You will come back won’t you?’ ‘Yes, in four days’. The guilt found me tearing up as I waved goodbye at the station.
As a sleep deprived parent I have envisaged a little escape many a time. Sleeping though the night without interruption. Exploring a far off city without worrying about losing small children in a crowd. Lying by a pool without fretting someone will drown if you prise your eyes away for a second. I had my trip all planned out, but things aren’t always as they seem.
I won’t lie, the trip was glorious, but I am not the well rested person I thought I would be. Sleeping without your children still has you waking up wondering why they are not waking you up (where are they, are they still breathing?) Sharing a room with someone else means you are still stirring with every noise, every cough, wondering which child is coming down with something.
Then there’s the shopping. We were in Italy, surrounded by beautiful designer clothes, Euros in my pocket ready for spending. I had a lovely time window shopping, then heading for the tourist trail to pick up hand carved Pinocchios and tiny towers of Pisa for the minis. The designer clothes guilt proved too much for this parent, ‘how much!? That’s the same as a family weekend away! And when would I wear it? Toddler will have it covered in tomato sauce within seconds.’
The pool was amazing, but it felt pretty decadent, almost a little too decadent. I was a lot more comfortable sight seeing, sitting around wasting time felt wrong. Is it possible that having kids has rendered me permanently unable to relax? Pre children I was prone to laziness, I mean extreme laziness. I could go to bed at eleven and have to set an alarm to ensure I was awake by lunchtime. I could sleep for days. Nowadays I rarely watch television. Children take up so much time that I value every second I get to myself and will use them for work or chores, my days of lounging on a sofa are well and truly over.
It seems you can do the getaways, but in reality you never truly escape the pressures of motherhood. The distance doesn’t halt the worrying, it adds to it. The guilt of leaving your family behind means they are always on your mind. You shop for them, you plan your day around their phonecall, you count the days until you can see them again. I played the Selfish Mother, I took the trip I felt I deserved and yes it was lovely, but next time I’m taking the rest of them with me too.