For Mother’s Day this year my present was THREE DAYS OFF! IN THE BIG-SMOKE! Sorry for shouting but how there’s a city girl buried somewhere in this ol’ country wife and I was EXCITED!! You can tell by all the exclamation marks! At last, my annual leave time, me time, mental health and breathe time.
Last Friday morning, as my four year old told me sternly not to go hunting for the present she’d made me at school, “because it’s a ‘prize”, I was zipping up a suitcase full of fabulousness (python print heels*, hair volumiser, suck ’em in knickers and other sundries that make up the I’m-not-a-farmer’s-wife armoury) and not feeling in the least bit inclined to hunt down a bracelet made of buttons and a handprint card.
Within a few minutes I had kissed everyone goodbye and was headed for the airport. Never mind that my ride took the shape of my husband’s cow-poo scented ute, I was freeeeeeeeee. It was all I could do not to shout “see-ya suckers!” to the parents and children I passed on the way. Waiting for me – just a few hours away – was an empty, quiet and uncluttered hotel room with my name on it.
At the airport I ran into a few other mothers travelling solo and all in a similar state of “Yessssssss”. It seems that alone time is the new pamper package, breakfast with a book the new mother’s day lunch. We were liberating ourselves from the disillusionment we feel when our high expectations are dashed by children behaving badly at lunch and no one remembering that you can’t eat fish. I also ran into a father just embarking on the trip from Hobart to France with his two small children – eeeek! If I’d had a hat on I would have taken it off to him. Instead I buried myself in my glossy magazine and felt mildly guilty but mostly smug.
Once in Melbourne I got to spend AN ENTIRE DAY just wandering, on no-one’s time but mine. No schedules, no plans, no map, no particular destination. I just followed my nose, my whims, my tummy grumbles and my instincts. It was simply, luxuriously, newspaper readingly perfect. At the end of it I pampered up, dressed up and headed out to a fabulous birthday party with my fabulous friends. YAY!
But here’s the thing. When I got back to my hotel room I thought about how this would be the time that my husband and I would have a post party debrief – who’s looking amazing, who got horribly drunk, who’s had botox, that sort of thing. And I felt homesick. I fell asleep on that homesickness and woke up to find it had been joined by a mild vodka-sickness to boot. There were all sorts of bits of fabulous cluttering up the room or lying on the floor or smudged on the pillow case and in the mirror I saw a hunk of mutton with matted hair. Salt. Wounds.
The phone rang and gave me a child’s voice piping, “Happy Mother’s Day Mummy! When are you coming home?” and suddenly I was more than just homesick, I was all wrong. I went to breakfast; my eggs were cold and all the newspapers were taken.
Going to meet a friend in the city I found myself surrounded by a mass of women in pink pushing prams or carrying babies in the Mother’s Day Classic (where were all the dads? Kicking back at home it seems, thinking, “bring on this Mother’s Day fun run shit”). I was wearing blue, had no baby and felt right out of place. When a woman asked me if I am a mother I felt ashamed saying yes. I met my friend and her gorgeous baby, we had coffee and when she left to catch the train I felt jealous that she was with her child and I was with my book.
I know, never satisfied am I? This is one of motherhood’s great ironies (or is it paradox, I never know**). We feel we can’t breathe with the little buggers around us constantly, but we can’t live without them. One minute we’re home in our trackies folding washing wondering what the beautiful people are doing, the next we’re out in heels and polished nails wondering what the children are doing.
Is this a new thing, some sort of product of the current expectations of parents? Or have the ties always been that strong? When I was little it seemed pretty normal for parents to sod off for six weeks or more, leaving the holiday-spoiling very young children with grandparents. This doesn’t happen anymore. The children’s (expensive) holiday spoiling is tolerated if not embraced. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Actually yes I am, no I’m not. Am I? Is it?
All’s I know is, I was wandering back through all the pink, laughing mums and I felt an ache in the region of my navel. It made me think about how my babies had been cut away from me when they were born and how both them and I have been finding ways to become more separate ever since. We teach them to walk, to talk, to eat, to listen, to think, to work, all so they can carry on without us. Clearly I’m not ready for this separation; I need training too.
As I write these words on the plane, a woman next to me cradles her sleeping baby. Her arms probably ache and she’s probably eyeing my magazine with envy. But I envy her her rightful place.
Anyway, here we are about to land in Hobart. It is clear and sunny and no doubt cold, but my babies are waiting for me and I can’t wait to see them. And their button bracelets. I’ll be able to hold them and tell them they’re precious and be all content again. At least until I’m called upon to wipe a small bottom and someone refuses their greens.
And by the time I’m alarmed awake tomorrow morning to pack school lunches and make beds, I’ll be yearning for that quiet hotel room with it’s calming neutrals and push button lights; I’ll be chastising myself for wasting precious me-time contemplating my navel and worrying about anyone other than me.
Oh motherhood, you fickle old mole.
And, as has become tradition on Mother’s Day, I wheel out The Angry Song (because it’s the only song of mine anyone likes, clearly I’m a one hit wonder) and say, in it’s dying minutes, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY EVERYONE (especially you My Mum xxx):
*4 years old, Target $19 – love a bargain.
**I struggle with the difference between irony or paradox – if anyone has a simple method of remembering, please let me know.