12 Aug 2015

A break from the norm...

A few days ago, I read this amusing article and it really struck a chord with me. I chortled at the (male) writer's admission that after a mere day's experience of his wife's maternity leave, he realised that:  'A week of this and I would be a permanently undressed alcoholic who subsisted on a diet of chips and biscuits, but somehow she’s kept it together for six entire months. It’s amazing.' 

I recognise the dressing gown-clad, wine-guzzling, carb-loading parent (in the first part of the quote) in myself. Some days, I am fuelled entirely by a family pack of Waitrose marshmallows, coffee and wine o'clock. However, I am also the 'keeping it together' type: the endless washing gets done; I'm back on cooking rather than heating our evening meals (thank you, The Pool's fantastic recipe section) and I usually get out and about with the Micro Waynes every day. I nodded in agreement with every word of the sagacious Lauren Laverne's musings on how having kids has made her 'more efficient, ambitious, focused, braver and more determined.' I am keeping it together - and I hope to when I return to work next year. Watch this space...

I am mastering multi-tasking. I am currently blogging at the kitchen table. Delphi is flat-out, post-jabs, in her pram next to me. Dexter has built 'the island of sodding Sodor' around me. There's a wash on the go. The bottles are in the steriliser. I cleaned the downstairs loo before we went out. I've unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher twice already today. This is kind of how we roll whilst I am on maternity leave. 

Given I'm a teacher, I'd be off during August anyway, at home with two children. I like it, I do, but sometimes it can feel like one continuous cycle of domestic drudgery. At the risk of sounding ungrateful - I am not - I have two healthy children and the privilege of time-out to be with them. Sometimes though, life feels like a Scooby-Do type sequence of running past piles of washing, bottle-brushing, vacuuming & supermarket shopping. And repeat. Some days, it feels like my brain is leaking out of my ear onto the kitchen floor: another thing to clear up.

Recently, I was granted a break in the form of a lovely friend's hen do: two nights, six women, one dreamy rented sea-front house. To use the vernacular: WIN! The weather was perfect. The wine/champagne/gin flowed. We did a five mile coastal walk, chilled at a smashing pub with fabulous fish & chips and shandy la-las and discussed the finer details of exactly why Tom Hardy is so darn attractive (jury's still out on that one). We cooked fine Lebanese food and chatted in a way only a bunch of girlfriends can: world put to rights in an hour. There was nothing unsavoury about a bunch of 30-somethings' weekend away: a rather dubious shaped piñata and an 'adult twist' on the classic 'pin the tail on the donkey' party game were as BBC3 'uncovered' programme as it got. 

I returned home on the train - a journey which afforded me the luxury of a whole cup of coffee, reading the entire Sunday paper and a welcome break from the four year old's incessant chatter about the Mallard steam train's land speed record... 

I also returned home with a nourished soul, a full heart and a desperate need to give my nearest and dearest a great big squeeze. I could have wept when Dexter informed me he was 'so pleased' I was home.

The week immediately following my wonderful weekend respite, the four of us headed up to Manchester to my homeland: the mother-ship. Life has been pretty tough for the northern contingent of family and friends recently. Illness, bereavement and other life stresses meant that, unusually, it was with some trepidation that we made our summer trip over the border. Pleasingly, we had a magical time of family fun, day-trips and some much needed time on our own for Mr W and me - thank you resident parental babysitters. I had a break from constant chores and general routine went out of the window.

I like routine and I'm a firm believer in special times being special because they are different from the norm: life simply isn't one big holiday. Dexter starts school in September and I imagine the second half of my maternity leave will take a different shape. I'll still mainly spend significant parts of my days washing, drying, folding and putting away clothes. I will undoubtedly have adopted a different food fad which may or may not involve spending more time in the kitchen. I will definitely still pour a glass of wine every evening at 7 o'clock. And then it will be the countdown to Christmas: another break from the norm and a final hurrah before the end of maternity leave. 

Now where did I leave that giant bag of marshmallows?...

Even 'grown-up' hen parties require the obligatory deely boppers - and lager shandy at 2pm.

The restorative power of sea air...

...and afternoon Prosecco

Worth epic 5 mile coastal walk for the best fish & chips I've ever eaten.

Hen party cruise ship*
*tiny pink boat to take us to the pub

When 30 somethings do a weekend away: evening feast!

In the 'rents' back garden: Dexter's own park.

Day trippers. Surprisingly fun.

Gin worship whilst the smalls were in bed.

Making memories: touching the ACTUAL Mallard!

Casual family afternoon tea.

Oh, just THIS.

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