And Breathe…

…Or collapse on the couch and pass out from sheer exhaustion!

I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly what I do at approx 5:04 p.m. every second Friday afternoon when The Ex has picked the kids up and taken them back to his for the weekend.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how you manage to keep it all together right up until that very moment when the kids are in someone else’s charge and you can relax? Well, not particularly funny, let’s be honest here – but it is a tad on the remarkable side.

The way it usually goes with me is, The Ex knocks on the front door, the dog goes berserk, the kids run upstairs to get changed out of their uniforms (it’s as though I haven’t been nagging them to do just that for the past hour and a half) and I feel overwhelmed by a sudden flood of emotions. The flood goes something like this, pretty much in this order:

  1. JOY. Because any minute now, I’ll have the whole house to myself and I’ll be able to do precisely what I want, exactly how I want to do it and with whom (i.e. watch Come Dine With Me with Cookie). This feeling usually lasts for about three minutes after I’ve waved the kids goodbye and run back into the house.  Then I feel a rush of…
  2. SORROW. Because I miss them so much when they’re not here! I stare longingly at some chucked-on-the-floor school jumper, sigh and pick it up, even bravely bringing said jumper to my nose sometimes so I can breathe in the smell of my little darlings. I get top notes of mud, school disinfectant and Comfort Pure fabric softener, which make me smile. Wistfully, I look out of my son’s bedroom window and watch families laughing as they walk hand in hand to the local Italian restaurant for an early dinner before they head home for popcorn and a Disney movie. And then the
  3. GUILT hits hard. I mean, am I sure I did enough to try to save my marriage? Really? Those poor little mites – they never asked for any of this. And how would they know how much I love and miss them when I yell at them so much when they are here?! At this point I usually shake my head from side to side, like Cookie does when he comes out of the Thames dripping wet – in an effort to rid myself of the unpleasant way these thoughts are going. Which works pretty well, actually, because before I know it, I’m consumed by
  4. DELIRIUM. And thank God for that! Now, with all this nervous energy, I might be able to clean out all the cupboards and organise the Oxfam bags and wash the floors and tidy the bedrooms and de-scale the shower heads and defrost the fridge and get to Saino’s for a good solid weekly shop and Hoover the cobwebs from the ceiling corners and clear out the pantry and tidy the kitchen table and put those photos in frames and go on a 10K walk with the dog and talk to friends freely on the phone and… But suddenly that’s all an impossible dream because at the mere thought of all that domestic activity, I’m felled with complete and utter
  5. EXHAUSTION.

Which is, I imagine, precisely why I woke up on the couch last Friday night, just in time to see Graham Norton kissing Dawn French hello on the telly. Last thing I remember, I was sitting down for a sec before I made myself an Options hot choc (ie low-cal, low-fat and so good for you, it’s probably one of your five a day), stroking Cookie’s head and wondering which amazing thing I would do first, now that I had all the time in the world and all the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I watched a bit of Graham Norton, then dragged myself upstairs and slept in my daughter’s bed. Until 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. Honestly, I was so knackered, I could have slept forever. And I probably would have if Cookie hadn’t whined and scratched and woofed at the back door so loudly in an effort to get me to come downstairs and open it for him.

Then on Sunday morning, when I woke up at the usual weekend time of 7 a.m., I was girding my loins for unpacking the dishwasher while listening to the radio wittering on about the severe weather to come, when I opened up the back door for Cooks and WOAH! There was at least an inch of snow on the ground! And it was still actually snowing! I raced to my phone and called my daughter. She was with her little brother, waking their daddy up – and they were both nearly as excited as me.

We swapped photos on WhatsApp – hers were of the blanket of snow covering the grassy bit outside The Ex’s flat and mine were of the bright white path to the back garden, my son’s Batman bike and our filthy-with-mud car covered with snow in the front.

And that’s when I really felt the stab in the heart. Not because it’s the first time I’ve seen our white car looking as, um, white as the day we got it nearly two years ago, but because I wished I was there with the kids. Or, rather, that they were here with me, in their house, in their back yard, with their demented dog running amok in the crunchy snow.

Because in the end, to paraphrase Prince in Take Me With U, I don’t care where we are, as long as we’re together.

I tell myself to remember this feeling, hold onto it for dear life, because along with my temper, these sentiments are quickly lost in the face of warring siblings and the chaos and clutter of daily life.

But I disobey myself in fine style within, ooh, three minutes (tops) of the kids coming home.

‘Hello my Lovely Loves!’ my voice breaks with emotion as I usher the kids into the house.

‘We had the BEST day! Daddy was AMAZING!’

‘Wasn’t the snow beautiful?’ I nod, my smile ever so slightly fading.

‘We had snowball fights and built a snowman and -‘

‘Er, Cookie found a mouse in the meadow…’

‘What’s for dinner?’ My daughter asks.

‘Yeah,’ my son chirrups, ‘I’m starving!’

‘Well, hang on – take your coats and shoes off – don’t get slush all over the floor – and get your muddy shoes off the rug, I just Hoovered all Cookie’s fur off it – God knows it’s seen better days – whose stupid idea was it to get a cream-coloured rug in the first place? And JEEZ! Don’t just drop your sopping wet stuff on the floor and leave it there! Who do you think will pick it up? The same fairies who flush the loo for you and make sure you always have clean undies?!’

And so the next fortnight of dazzling Mother of The Year behaviour begins.

But what about you? Does any of the above sound familiar? And, if so, how do you manage to hold your temper and bite your tongue in the interests of domestic harmony? Let me know in the comments – all advice gratefully received!!!

See you soon,

Mink x