Saturday, 6 February 2016

Down time? Remind me what that is again...

The sunlight streams through the floor to ceiling sash window. It warms the cat curled up asleep on my feet. Around me lay the disemboweled remains of the Sunday papers, a glossy supplement laying bare the personal life of a famous actor, the business section counting up and down fortunes. My head lies snug on the lap of my beloved, as he is engrossed in the dubious pleasures of a grand prix on the TV. All is well with the world. 

Perhaps later we might get dressed, go for a late lunch, maybe catch a movie or just while away the evening in a wine bar putting the world to rights. The world is our  oyster and we can spend our own sweet time searching for that pearl of entertainment that will divert us until the working week begins again. 

This was how weekends used to look. They were a chance to rest, unwind and forget about the power struggles and pressing deadlines of the office. There were that precious 48 hours of down time that was so essential to making the five days of toil that interspersed them bearable. 

Since those hedonist days of old, the whole concept of downtime has become increasingly alien to me. From the rude disruption of my quiet weekends wreaked by the eccentric routines of a newborn, to the Saturday afternoons spent freezing in a local park, desultorily pushing a complaining toddler on the swings and trying to catch furtive glances at your phone for just a little distraction from the monotony of the playground. 

But in some ways it hardly mattered as back in the days of little children all my days blended into one blurry mush of childcare. There were a few notable highs to keep one sane; the moments when my children were adorable, funny, cuddly or hilariously astute. For example, the day my little son touched me gently on the arm and said 'Mummy, I know I say you are the most beautiful woman in the world, but you know I don't mean that literally? There are prettier girls, I just don't want to upset you.' What a charmer. 

But essentially one day of Play Dough, CBeebies and the park was much the same as another. 

Since the boys have grown up a little there has been more chance to be self indulgent. Now that they can work the TV on their own pre-dawn weekend mornings can be spent in the land of nod once again. But every time you get settled down to being seriously lazy, it seems to be time to feed them again, or you remember that they have no clean school uniform, or that you really should listen to their violin practise, rather than sneaking in a decadent episode of Suits on Netflix. 

When I was a SAHM this wasn't such a problem, as I could work pockets of down time into my day. Since I worked a seven-day week, I felt it was acceptable to take the occasional half hour off to watch TV with my lunch, or go for a run with a gripping podcast on my headphones. While weekends were no longer luxuriant breaks from the week, there were the odd windows of indulgence to keep me from feeling too hard done by. 

Now that I am a working mother, I think the most bloody sacrifice to this new way of life has been my personal down time. Now I know some working mums say that the commute is their 'me' time. Well I am sorry, but being squeezed under someone's ripe armpit inside an insanely overheated train for an hour each way every day isn't my idea of a little treat. 

Add to which I am usually exhausted because I have had to get up too early or work too late, so my time on the tube is spent in a haze of stressed resentment at my miserable lot, and you don't have the recipe for chilled out relaxation. 

So that leaves the two scant days of the weekend, during which I feel duty bound to spend time with the children who I have seen for about 20 minutes each week day, most of which was taken up by screaming at them to get ready for school or bed. 

But I have a terrible confession to make. I would much rather laze on the sofa with my Kindle, or indeed those Sunday papers, than spend quality time with my children. I don't want cook tea, or tidy up, or deal with their roster of parties and extra curricular activities. I want to be selfish and slothful. I want to drink wine, go for dinner, spend a bit of time just tuning out the world, go for a run at a time that suits me, not their busy timetable. I want throw a snotty-hot-tears, kicking-my-legs-on-the-ground tantrum to demand some me time. 

Just as well that my wages are paying for the boys to have the latest whiz bang gaming console for their birthday, as that means they won't notice whether I am there, or not, or dancing round the room with in the Christmas Pudding nipple tassels I got from Secret Santa and little else. 

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