So, last week, if you couldn’t tell by my post, included flying back to London to sit in a pub all day with my newly-turned-40 friend without the trappings of husband or toddler in tow. It was the first time I had left my son overnight since he was born, and despite some angst during the first few hours of the flight (which included me having a paranoid Jodie Foster moment and a quick weep in the toilets) I quickly adapted to my short-lived freedom and had an absolutely fantastic weekend.
You don’t realise how much your life becomes at one with motherhood until you don’t have to do it for a few days. Firstly, I was on time for everything. The only time I was late it wasn’t because I’d had to make a last minute stop at the toilet, or because my son had the wrong shoes on, or didn’t have his preferred book in the car, or just plain didn’t want to go somewhere – it was mainly because I was having too much of a good time at the previous place to leave. Time takes on different dimensions with a child. As does the whole business of travelling around. I marvelled at just how fast I could get from the plane door to south west London with only hand luggage to think about, and zipping from Clapham to Chelsea to Hammersmith in high heels and with only a handbag to carry was the sort of breeze my dreams are usually made of.
Another revelation: I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. I didn’t have to get home in time for pick-up/lunch/dinner/bath/bed, and I didn’t have to think about the fifteen different meals that needed shopping for, preparing and cooking. I just had to decide what to wear (not difficult, see the ‘hand luggage’ mention for details) and leave the house, eat when I was hungry and come back when I was too drunk, too tired, or both. It doesn’t sound much but it’s a massive thing when you are used to always being on the clock. I managed to see more people in 48 hours than I will in 10 days when I next travel to London ‘en famile’.
Which leads me to the third monumental experience I’ve not had in well over three years and couldn’t possibly consider usually: All day drinking. What a revelation that I can still manage a full day in the pub. Admittedly I probably didn’t drink at the same pace as I did a few years back but I was pretty in awe of my constitution and ability to remain coherent, and better still I didn’t have a hangover the next day. That was probably the sensible mummy bit kicking in though. As well as the wine and the vodka there was a fair bit of water consumed. Let’s face it, you can’t erase that petrified feeling of coping hungover with a toddler in a mere two days.
So it’s fair to say I had a fabulous few days, they were well earned and really needed. My son and husband survived without me and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again (although jury’s out on just how often my other half will put up with my absentee parenting). I missed them both immensely of course and the smile I got from my little boy when I saw him on Monday morning lit up my world. But the biggest downside was the most unexpected: waiting for the train at Clapham Junction to take me back to the airport, a pigeon unloaded onto me and my suitcase. Disgusted, I reached into my bag to find a wipe, only to realise that I didn’t have any with me. I used my Sunday Times to get rid of what I could and had to suffer the gross-out factor of bird-poo covered hand for the next hour until I was able to wash at the airport. The motto of this story: even if you should leave your child at home, always remember the wipes.