Last week I was driving my husband’s car some thirty miles or so to run an errand while he stayed at home with our 2-year-old. I am very used to having the toddler in with me for any journey I make, which is mostly spent congratulating him on tractor or motorbike spots, crossing my fingers he falls asleep or lobbing food over my shoulder and singing nursery rhymes to keep him awake.
In short, I do not have much alone time in the car these days, or out of the car either, come to think of it.
I appreciate that sitting by yourself in a cramped space ten times per week in heavy traffic on the way to or from eight hours (or more) of work isn’t some kind of treat, don’t get me wrong. But some time just with me – to think, to daydream and to listen to music I actually like – is one of life’s simple pleasures that subconsciously I have quite missed.
So in the car, I take a moment to play about with the fancy iPod thingy hooked up to the stereo – a far cry from my son’s Rhyme & Bore CD and the same other three albums that have been in my glove box for the last four years. I scroll to the compilation we made for our engagement party many moons ago when our long list of favourite tunes, compiled in fastidious order by my new fiancé, filled the small dance floor of the canal-side bar with our friends; drinking, dancing and helping to celebrate our happy plans.
The sun is shining and a crisp breeze from the window washes over me as Simple Minds begin to play, and I turn the volume up another notch while heartily warbling one of the greatest songs ever written.
‘…Slow change may pull us apart, when the light gets into your heart, baby…’
(Don’t’ You Forget About Me – Simple Minds)
And it seemed no truer words had ever been spoken.
I’ve changed since having my son, I realise, since the primary purpose of my day has been to look after somebody else. It’s normal, I know and I really don’t mind change. But somewhere along the way, I’ve dropped so many of the things I used to love: because I am distracted, because I am tired, because I have forgotten some of who I was, who I still am.
I’m singing along with the windows down (lowering my volume to near-mime at traffic lights, naturally) and I feel so happy yet emotional too; like a bubble has been gradually welling inside, threatening to pop all over this 30-something who seems to think she no longer has time to enjoy something simple just for her.
I miss this kind of thing. Not just the loud music and my bad singing, but not constantly being on someone else’s schedule. The letting go of the routine I have come to live and die by and all the questions that hurriedly chop around my mind during each day with my child.
Have I got enough snacks to keep a hunger grump at bay? How many nappies should I pack? Where did I put the goddamn gloves? Will we need a change of clothes? Can we make it home for lunch? Did I brush his teeth… and mine? Do I have time to go to the bank or will it push him a step too far and risk a public tantrum of doom?
It is nothing major, I know. We all juggle, and some much more than me with my part-time work from home job and just the one child. But I think we often fail to appreciate that when we become parents, the whole focus of our day is shifted to what we need to do in order to give them what they need. It’s not that there isn’t enjoyment in this for us too, because I have lots of fun with my little boy, some of my happiest times actually. However, it’s not really on my terms, and maybe as parents of young children we should give ourselves some credit for changing pretty much everything about the way we live without question.
Everything we do day-to-day has the over-arching aim of fulfilling the needs of our children. We wake up thinking about them and we don’t stop until we go to bed – until after we’ve gone to bed – thoughts of tomorrow often churning around our brains until we’ve either straightened them in our heads or passed out mid-quandary.
When we go to work it is to get money for them, for what they need: their food, their security, their shelter. When we are with them, it is to keep them safe, fed, watered, rested, loved, entertained, educated and happy. An in between, it is catching the occasional breath, to give us the energy to dive right in again the minute we go back.
I love being a mother, and I wanted to be one for so long before it actually happened. But perhaps because of or in spite of that, I’ve lost a little bit of me along the way. The love I feel for my child encompasses so much of my being, but there is still space for me, for the other things I love.
Nobody stays the same and something as world-shaking as motherhood was bound to shatter me into too many different pieces to glue back together exactly the same. But I’m realising that if I want to enjoy some things that are just for me, I need to make space for them – regardless of what time I think I do or don’t have. There is always a way, there is always space, if I chose to utilise it.
I am a mother, and I love whiling away the days with my son: playing in the garden, running in the park, cuddling on the sofa, helping to create his earliest memories and filling our days with love.
I am a woman, a person. I love getting lost in a book, laughing with friends, filling my heart with favourite songs, and lingering at the dinner table with my husband and reminding each other who we both are.
We are each made of a million pieces and there is space for all of them to remain, alongside each other… if only we can remember to leave some room.