The nature of my husband’s job, plus the fact that my family live overseas, means that I do a fair bit of sole parenting. I’m pretty okay with this, but I won’t – can’t – deny that it gets a bit wearing and lonesome.
I’m not brilliant at asking for help or support, a fact that wasn’t helped by my midwife (who, make no mistake, was utterly wonderful in all of my three pregnancies and homebirths) saying to me that going from 2 to 3 was socially difficult, especially when the age gaps are smaller than the norm (my third was born 3 years and 7 weeks after my first). She herself is a mum of three, and a very no-nonsense one at that, so I couldn’t help but listen when she said “Going places is difficult … You’re constantly outnumbered, even when both parents are present. And going to people’s houses … There are just so many of you pitching up, all the noise and mess and fuss. It’s awkward.”
I’m not one to sit at home (cabin fever) but I’m not one to seek company either. And weekends are sacred aren’t they? I figure everyone works hard all week and wants quality family time on the weekend; who wants a slightly frazzled and temporarily single mum of three in tow? I also tend to assume, wrongly, and probably just because I don’t, but wish I did, that everyone is spending time with parents and siblings. I probably have a very idealised view of the Lives of Others.
My husband thinks I do; in fact, he thinks I’m am idiot: on the rare occasions that I do something sans ma famille on a weekend, his, and the children’s day, is filled with meetups and get-togethers. “People like to hang out with other people,” he reasons. “And the more kids there are, the easier it is: they just muck about and it saves the parents having to entertain.”
Still, I shy away from ‘intruding’, unless I’m inviting people over, in which case I can salve my conscience about impacting on their weekend with offers of home cooking and a decent-sized garden on which to set the kids loose.
But this weekend was the third in a row that my husband’s been abroad. It’s been generally fine: the kids have had lots of parties, and we’ve had friends over for dinners and sleepovers. But I’ll not deny that I’m getting a bit tired now, not helped by this randomly Arctic weather (it’s colder and snowier now, at nearly Easter, than it was at Christmas). So I mentioned, tentatively, to a couple of friends that I was thinking of taking my three to the National Gallery this morning for story telling and an art activity.
And guess what- everyone was up for it. So from one parent and three kids, we became four parents and eight children, which instantly makes things like dealing with tantrums and toilet trips loads easier, not to mention the joy of just having a few moments, albeit snatched and fleeting, of adult conversation.
Botanical artist Sarah Simblet
my daughter’s botanical drawing
So they rode the Magic Carpet at the National Gallery and enjoyed the interactive story about the painting in front of which it landed. We listened to botanical artist Sarah Simblet talk about her art, and the children then had a go at creating their own botanical etchings, crouched on the floor of the gallery with huge, thick, creamy sheets of paper and boards to lean on (I am so excited for Sketchout; can’t even tell you). We wandered up to The Strand and had lunch at Leon (where they were, especially for a ‘fast food’ restaurant, fantastically accommodating about my paleo diet, making me a to-order salad without grains) and then into Covent Garden to see The Big Egg Hunt/ Action for Children eggs, where the children, to their glee, also got to hunt for Lindt chocolate eggs in a purpose-made garden.
Yes, there were some frazzled moments and yes, the icy weather made the children a bit whiny at times. But if there’s safety in numbers, there’s also pleasure. It was a good day. I’ll try to remember it next time my husband’s away and the children and I have got no major plans.
Found! My son’s chubby hand reaches for some Lindt eggs