My sister is visiting Dubai this week – and after waving her off to the pool and heading to work every morning, I decided today was the day I would shut my laptop and join her. So after the school run early this morning, we drove to a hotel, choose a couple of sun loungers by the pool, and zoned out for the morning.
I enjoyed every second. How could I not? With both my children taken care of, a shimmering blue pool just beyond my sunbed, and a stunning vista of Dubai’s skyline in the distance, I relaxed in a way I haven’t been able to for, well, what seems like forever.
It wasn’t that sunny today, but it was hot and humid. I checked the weather app on my phone and it told me that it was 31’C. So after an hour or so flicking through a magazine, I decided to head to the pool for a dip, feeling the baby kick in my tummy as I dipped into the cold water (sorry little one) and swimming slowly across to the edge of the infinity pool.
It was bliss – and as I lay there in the water enjoying the sunshine, I started to wish I could stay there all day. I wished I didn’t have to dash off for the school run at lunchtime. In fact, I wished I could stay there all week. I realised I wanted to check out of motherhood for a while.
But no sooner had the thoughts come into my mind, than I felt the familiar sinking feeling of guilt.
How could I feel like that when I had two gorgeous boys in my life? How could I wish for time away when I’m about to double the trouble and welcome a new little one into our lives? Isn’t it ungrateful? How could it even cross my mind?
I was lying there in the water in near silence, feeling uncharacteristically relaxed. But I knew that an afternoon of normality awaited. Waking up a small, molar teething person from his nap and dealing with grumpiness and demands to watch the television. Entertaining a four-year old while I tried to eat my lunch and wished I could lay my head down for a nap. Preparing their dinner and trying to convince them to eat the vegetables (rather than throw them across the room). Bath and bedtime on my own, followed by meltdowns from tiredness as we waited for their Daddy to get home from work…
And the truth is that if someone had offered to do the school run and take care of the childcare for the afternoon, I would have dodged that normality in a second.
Deep in thought, I was taken back to the early days of motherhood. Those heady, exhausting days when everything smelt of spilt milk and baby sick. Those days when it dawned on me slowly that the life I had been living for the last 30 days had changed quite dramatically – and the moments when I first felt those now familiar sinking feelings of guilt when I craved a chance to return to that old life, if only for a few hours.
But as I’ve clocked up the years of motherhood since those early days, I now understand that these feelings come hand-in-hand with being a mother.
This craving for alone time.
Immediately followed by the guilt.
And I know it doesn’t mean I love the boys any less.
Of course, I wouldn’t swap my life, my family, my boys for the world.
But I can now accept that I will feel like this every now and again while they are small. Today certainly wasn’t the first time I have wished I could clock out of motherhood – and it definitely won’t be the last. And I know that one day I will look back on these days with small people and feel the same kind of nostalgia for the life I once had with my babies quite literally wrapped around me in reliance.
And with that fresh in my mind, I climbed out of that swimming pool, returned to my magazine, and ordered myself a mocktail. And when the clock ticked round to midday, I said goodbye to my sister, climbed in the car, and drove to school to pick up my biggest baby.
Back to normality.
The holiday will have to wait.
For now, at least.