Life After Kids: 2013 365 Challenge #210

Weekend BBQ

Weekend BBQ

At the end of a tiring three days of relentless childcare it’s hard not to think about life BK (before kids) and wish for a return to those days.

Days when a lie-in meant staying in bed until 11am with a cup of tea and a good book rather than 8.30am with earplugs and guilt.

Those days when you could visit friends for a barbeque and not have to worry what anyone ate and whether they were wearing sun cream and a hat.

When going for a swim meant having a cuddle with my husband rather than spending an exhausting ninety minutes watching two children trying to drown themselves.

Those days when I got to Sunday evening calm and refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead, even if I didn’t really want to go to work on Monday morning.

Rescuing the princess (spot the hat!)

Rescuing the princess (spot the hat!)

However, even though I’m clinging onto my sanity, waiting to drop the little ones at nursery in the morning so I can drink a hot cup of tea and get all the way to the end of a thought uninterrupted, there are plenty of things about life AK (after kids) that are amazing.

Always having someone to talk to, laugh with, care for, worry about. There were plenty of BK years where there was no one. I enjoy solitude, but climbing a mountain isn’t much fun if there’s no one to text at the top and say I’m here!

Having a reason to get up and out, to go swimming every day and have cookies afterwards. Getting to watch Tangled as many times as I like on the TV, and then watching my children re-enacting it in the garden.

Allowing myself to be silly and to realise I am quite good at it. Giving myself a gold star for every meal cooked and eaten, bath time successfully completed or hair washing survived.

Best of all, realising that we now belong to a community. We went to a birthday party this morning in the local park and knew several of the other parents. The dads got together and chatted and the women did too. There were nods of greeting and genuine smiles at our arrival.

Happy Girl, Happy Mummy

Happy Girl, Happy Mummy

These are not necessarily the deep friendships of BK, but they are people at our time of life, who can relate to us in a way our friends mostly can’t (because they either don’t have children or their children are much older).

I quoted a line from a Julia Donaldson book at my child and a dad next to me recognised it, resulting in a conversation about books that are great to read and ones that drag.

I come from a small family and have very few close friends. The community of shared experience at the park on a Sunday is a precious one to me. I belong, because my children belong. I don’t have to explain or justify anything, even to myself.

So even though my eyes are being kept open by willpower alone, every part of me aches from playing Twister with my daughter, and there’s a glass of wine with my name on it once the kids are asleep, I’m happy. Maybe more now than BK. Plus I’m looking forward to work on Monday! How many people can say that?

This post probably isn’t written as well as it could be, were I more awake. For beautiful words read this post on Scary Mommy: To My Favourite Child. I want to have written this (and will try, when I find my muse again!) The last line made me smile.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire pulled up outside her mum’s house, pulled on the hand brake and let out a sigh. Okay, I’m getting a bit tired of driving up and down the country. Maybe staying in one place for a month or two might be quite nice.

Standing on the doorstep, Claire looked around at the familiar place and felt something jar inside. When did it stop feeling like home? When did I start ringing the doorbell rather than letting myself in with a key?

Eventually she heard footsteps and her mum opened the door.

“Claire! What are you doing here?”

“Hi, Mum. Nice to see you too. I’m staying for the weekend, to take Sky to Kim’s opening night. Remember?”

“Goodness, is that this weekend? It can’t be. We have guests.”

Claire’s skin flushed hot and cold, and a lump of ice slid down her chest. “Oh.”

“I’m sorry, darling. We met the most lovely couple at the Spa, and invited them to stay. Can’t you stay at Ruth’s? It makes more sense, if you’re taking Sky out to the theatre.”

“Ruth doesn’t have a spare room, you know that. I’ve had enough time on her sofa.” She saw a frown furrow her mum’s brow and her lips scrunch like she’d swallowed a lemon.

“Oh, look, don’t worry about it. I’ll find somewhere. You have a lovely weekend.”

Claire raised her hand in a wave and turned to walk down the path. Stumbling slightly, she strained her ears, but all she heard her mother say was, “Bye dear.”

Blinking back tears, Claire climbed into the Skoda and drove on autopilot to her sister’s house. At least she would be welcome there.

*

“Hi Claire, you’re early. Sky’s still with Jenny. We’ve agreed that she’ll feed Sky her tea, just to give me a head start on the weekend. Especially as Mum has guests.”

Claire followed her sister into the hallway, letting the rush of words wash over her.

“I don’t understand. Mum and Dad only went to that Spa last weekend. How come these people have come to stay already?”

It had been less than a week since Claire was last home and it felt like the whole world had shifted on its axis.

“Apparently they got on like a house on fire. Mum came round yesterday, and was all full of Pam and Steve. Pam’s an author, and has been helping Dad with his book. I’ve never seen Mum so full of life.”

Claire tried to decide whether Ruth was as delighted as she sounded about their parents’ new friends. It was unlike Ruth to be so happy about someone taking their mother’s attention away from her.

“Can I stay here tonight? I had intended to stay at Mum’s but obviously that’s not possible.”

“If you don’t mind kipping on the couch. What time will you be bringing Sky back? She has a children’s party to go to tomorrow, so I don’t want her up too late.”

“It probably won’t finish until after 10pm. I imagine she’ll fall asleep in the car, so I’ll put her straight to bed.”

Ruth frowned. “That’s quite late. Couldn’t you take her to a matinée instead?”

Claire swallowed hard against her rising temper. “Ruth, we discussed this five days ago. You must have known about the party then. It’s Kim’s opening night, I can’t miss it. Sky doesn’t have to come.”

Shaking her head, Ruth jumped in, “No, she has to go now. She’s looking forward to it. I just wish I’d known it would be so late.”

With a sigh, Claire headed across the kitchen to the turn the kettle on, giving up on her sister ever offering her a drink. “Tea?”

“Yes, please. Wait, no. There isn’t any milk.”

Fighting a strong urge to cry, Claire retrieved a glass from the cupboard and filled it with tap water. As she sat back at the table, she wondered whether to call the whole thing off. Kim wasn’t going to talk to her anyway, and the weekend would be better spent worrying about her future, rather than disentangling her past.

I have to try. Kim’s my best friend. This might be my only chance to make it up with her.

Sipping her water, she sat and listened to the ticking of the clock.

***

8 thoughts on “Life After Kids: 2013 365 Challenge #210

  1. Enjoyed your post and your next chapter. Poor Claire. Rejected from her mum’s. I felt for her.
    Btw your daughter is the spit of my youngest. I thought for a moment you’d posted one of mine!x

    • 🙂 My daughter does have one of those ‘faces’ that seems familiar. I think she looks like the girl on the Calpol bottle. If you’re enjoying Claire and have an ereader you can download all the volumes free from smashwords

  2. I thought it was a lovely post! It’s so true, and important to remember on those endless nights, that there are so many good things about having kids! I agree too, that I’ve found far more friends and community since having kids.

  3. Loved this post, though I find I can’t really relate to the “community” part… My daughter goes to a playgroup every week and I meet the other parents there, but I don’t really feel like I belong in that group. They’re pretty much all stay-at-home-moms, which is great for them, but I find it means we have little to talk about. lol

    But yeah, life BK…fond times. Life AK? Exhausting and occasionally maddening, but worth every second. 🙂

    P.S. Someday when I find more than two seconds of free time I am totally going to read Claire’s story, I swear! 🙂

    • I’m lucky that most of the mums I know fall into the ‘part time’ category, somewhere between working full time and being a SAHM. I am the only one lucky enough to be self-employed working from home, but mostly we don’t talk about work.
      You can always wait a year or two until I manage to turn the 300,000 words of Claire story into a couple of 100k novels! 🙂 That’s my intention, but it’s on a long list of projects. Even my husband doesn’t find time to keep up with Claire any more. I’m impressed with anyone who does, as I churn out another 500-1000 words every day! 🙂

  4. Everyday that our daughter goes to her activity of the day, that is when my ereader and my 2nd cup of coffee sneak in a glance at my email, then your Claire installment. Right now I am at the coffe shop next to the craft store which offers kid’s craft lesson, 2 hours for $2, supplies included. I think they are creating a penguin out of a empty paper towel roll, and her clothes will likely be smudged with black paint, but it’s worth it for two hours of peace.
    Some days that second cup of coffee doesn’t happen, then Claire post waits until hubby is on duty to read her a couple bedtime stories, while she chatters and pays no attention til she finally crashes from exhaustion.

    • I’m touched that Claire plays such an important role in your day! I’m sorry she’s having such a tough time at the moment (not what you need), I hope that life will brighten up for her soon.

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