As we looked around at the other people in the restaurant, enjoying a relaxed early dinner as the sun set over the beach, it dawned on me that we were the only people with children. And do you know what I felt? Jealous. Yes, jealous.
I wasn’t jealous of the fact that they these people had just stepped off the beach, the salt still in their hair and sand in their toes (while I had spent the afternoon picking uneaten spaghetti off my floor, calming a toddler tantrum, and changing three explosive baby nappies).
I wasn’t even jealous of the fact they were enjoying a meal in peace, having adult conversation as they watched the sky turn red and then purple, reflecting off the sea.
And I wasn’t jealous that they got to eat their dinner in their own time, without having to juggle feeding a baby his puree, whilst swatting away his brother’s hand from the contents of their plate.
No, I wasn’t jealous of any of that – as although I knew they were all having a lovely time, I had my family around me and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
The thing I was jealous of was the their spontaneity and freedom. Is it OK to admit that I miss that sometimes?
I miss being able to make snap decisions about heading out to dinner that night, just because we fancy it. I miss choosing restaurants based on the food I want to eat, rather than the fact they have enough highchairs and a healthy menu for the kids. I miss being able to accept invitations without having to book childcare and keep my fingers crossed that they will turn up. I miss planning weekends away just a few days before, getting on trains with a moment’s notice, attending work events and still having hours of the day to play with. I miss doing all these things without a double buggy in tow, a packed-to-bulging nappy bag, and a change of clothes in case the just-potty-trained toddler has an accident.
I miss only having to think about me.
I don’t want to swap places with these holidaymakers tucking into their salads as they watch the sun set, not for a single second. I have never regretted having my boys and can honestly say that they have completed my life, made it happier, and more fulfilled (yes, even the bits when the toddler eats butter in foil, with the benefit of hindsight). But sometimes I feel nostalgic for when life was simpler.
Not many people will admit it out loud, but I would bet a bottle of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc that most of us feel it on occasions.
So to answer my own question: is it OK that I miss my old life sometimes? I hope the answer is yes. It’s not like that part of my life has suddenly been erased – I am still ‘me’ under these puree-stained clothes, after all.