I didn’t realise four year olds could be so good at withering looks. As I collected Molly from school last Thursday (yes I know they were probably the only school in the country still open) I was feeling really excited. “Yay we’re on holiday!” I cried as we got into the car.
She looked me up and down, “Mummy, you’re always on holiday.”
Normally I would have laughed this off, but last week saw me celebrating an anniversary….of sorts. It’s been five years since I’ve worked full time. Five years since I’ve known what to call myself when I’m asked what I do for a living. Five years since I’ve had to attend management meetings and write progress statements. Five years since I’ve drawn a full wage. Five years since I’ve been able to look forward to the holidays as a genuine break from work rather than just the school run.
But have I been on holiday for the past five years?
The idea is of course laughable. No one who has ever looked after small children for more than the odd afternoon would talk about it as a holiday. It’s a grind. A relentless grind full of mundane tasks, with little time to think or have a break or do anything. You take you mind off what you are doing for a second and there is instantly a disaster. A rogue toddler makes a break for your cream carpet clutching a felt tip pen in one hand and a sticky lolly in the other. Any lapse in concentration is quickly exploited. Imagine a job where the moment you have done something and have a small glimmer of job satisfaction it is immediately wrecked.
That’s how I would describe it on the bad days. I would talk about the endless crying, the hour upon hour of whining which you long for someone to scrape their nails down a blackboard just to hear a sweeter sound. But everyone has bad days, no matter what job they do.
Of course not every day is like that. In truth I know that I have been incredibly lucky to have had these past five years. It is a priviledge to have the time and space to get to know these three small people. To bring them up and watch their personalities change and develop. The best decision I ever made was a couple of years before Molly was born. We had finally paid off our debts from our wedding and student loans and were beginning to feel a little more comfortable financially. We looked at moving house and decided against it. If we had moved, the mortgage wuld have meant I was forced to return to work full time. I’m so lucky to have not had to make that decision.
Staying at home these days is a luxury. Except with the twins, it became a necessity. There was no choice, no option like before of being part time. Child care was just too expensive. Some decisions don’t need to be made, they are made for you, and I’m grateful for this one.
Staying at home has given me the time to get some form of order back into our lives. I am almost at the point where I feel I’m getting on top of things. Some days it doesn’t seem such a struggle. Some days.
So no I am not always on holiday. Unless it’s one of those boot camps where harsh tormentors get you up at stupid o clock, force you through all kinds of physical hardships and mental privations while shouting at you for hours.
It may not be a holiday, in any sense of the word but I know I will look back on these years as the most special time of my life. The memories of mopping the floor of stuck on cheerios will quickly fade, I will forget the constant rounds of nappy changes and tantrums and remember only the laughing and tickle chases, the trips to the park and craft sessions. I know I will look back on these short, short years as the happiest of my life. And yes, that is a cause for celebrating.