Archive for the tag 'alone time'

Thursday is the new Friday

NS August 19th, 2010

Thursday for me is what some might call ‘Me Time’ but in reality would more accurately be called Outsourced Housework and Childcare Equals a More Patient and Fulfilled Mother Day. But that’s a mouthful so I just call it my favourite day.

On Thursday morning, my wonderful cleaner comes. I greet her as I scramble to get shoes on excitable children and herd them out to the car where I will transport them to Grandma’s house. I feel no existential feminist guilt for this. I look after two small, demanding children all day and am self-employed in two different capacities. If people can outsource their childcare in order to work, I can outsource my cleaning. Or both!

I know someone out there will be thinking I’m some kind of pampered, indulgent, stay-at-home mother who should be looking after her own children 24/7 and cleaning while her husband works hard to bring home the bacon, but to those people I say get off that sanctimony pony, make yourself a cocktail and hitch yourself a ride into the 21st century, compadre.

I do not cook. I do not sew. I do minimal cleaning. As of next month, my daughter will be in school all day and my son with either a childminder or his grandmother three days a week.

My kids probably watch too much TV. I spend too much time on the computer or with my nose in a book. I frequently say No to playing or chasing in order to do my own thing, or do the playing or chasing only until I get bored and decide it is grown-up time again, which is usually after ten minutes.

On Thursday, after I drop the children at their grandmother’s for the day and before I go home to a clean house, I spend an hour in a coffee shop drinking lattes and reading the newspaper from cover to cover. I go for a walk or a meander through the shops. Today, I put up a couple of flyers promoting my doula services.

I drive home. Alone. I sing as loudly as I want, drive faster and revel in not being asked a hundred questions from the back seat. I might stop into the shop on my way home and nearly forget not to park in the parent/child spots. I am able to get in and out in less than 10 minutes. Another Thursday miracle.

I open my front door in gleeful anticipation of clean floors and a gleaming bathroom. The air smells faintly of lemons. It is quiet. I can hear the clock ticking in the living room. Does that clock tick? I never notice unless it’s Thursday.

I look out the smudge-free window and admire the sight of washing flapping in the breeze, juxtaposed against the blue sky and emerald green grass. I turn on the radio and listen to my favourite radio program, Robert Elms on BBC London at noon, while I prepare lunch for one.

The Robert Elms show is a celebration of every aspect of this tumultuous city that we share. For three hours a day we revel in the numerous stories and characters, memories and aspirations which make this such an extraordinary place to live and work. Art and architecture, history, movies and language, shopping, drinking, dining and dancing all carried out to a soundtrack of music for grown ups.

On Thursday I do not have to cut crusts off sandwiches or put juice in cups with lids. I nibble at olives while I half-listen to the radio and daydream of all the places I’m going to see and all the things I’m going to do once I have not only one but THREE days a week in which to be alone.

Most of those days I will be working: doing my editing job; blogging (I consider my two blogs work in that it sometimes results in payment and because it keeps my writing skills sharp, which I still hope to utilise professionally one day); administrative work, research, study and preparation for my doula business; and general household stuff like taxes, banking, shopping, doctor’s appointments, DIY, gardening, etc..

But on at least one day each month, probably on Thursdays, I will catch the train into a new part of London or an area I’ve been but not properly explored, or to a place I’d like to visit. Somewhere along the way while out and about in this wonderful city of mine, I will do something nice for someone I’ve never met. It might be something simple like leaving a note or a small gift for a stranger to find, or helping a mother struggling with her pushchair on the stairs to the Underground. It might involve a bit of street art or guerilla goodness or a random act of kindness.

When out doing my history lessons/walkabouts/random acts of kindness, I will bring my camera and use it. With no children in tow, I will have time to change lenses or adjust  for the lighting and actually learn what my long-coveted pride and joy is capable of. Killing three birds on my life’s to-do list with one stone: fall in love with London, be a positive presence in the world and finally (finally!) learn the art of photography.

Thursday is definitely, and will hopefully continue to be, my favourite day. A day for me and only me. That, in turn, makes me a whole lot nicer to everyone else.

Photo credit

Independence Day

NS July 5th, 2010

I picked up my bag, kissed my sleeping husband on the cheek and slipped out of the silent house just before 7am. The children were still at their grandparents’ house, there for an overnight stay. No teary goodbyes, no last-minute reminders to NH, no prying of clinging fingers from my legs.

Fresh air and sunshine hit me full in the face and I smiled to myself as I walked towards the station. I would not be returning for 36 hours.

At 1pm (after an unexpected and expensive taxi ride from Hereford) I arrived in Hay-on-Wye, a small village-like town just over the border into Wales, home to nearly 40 second-hand and independent bookshops.

I browsed, I walked, I bought, I read. I had lunch at a table outside a cafe and watched a local parade of children dressed in outfits representing cultures from all over the globe in honour of the World Cup. I had many coffees and a scrumptious ice cream. I dined alone at a gourmet gastropub that evening and listened to the conversations in that wonderful lilting Welsh accent all around me as I pretended to read my book. I read in bed until my eyes were heavy (which was relatively early) and had a full 8 hours sleep, uninterrupted. It was bliss.

And the books. Oh, the books! I couldn’t get enough of them. Second-hand book shops are my biggest love after my family. The musty, ancient, knowing smell, the haphazard organisation, the creaking wooden floors and the wise, silent, grey-haired proprietor watching over his or her precious wares — I love every single aspect of it. If I’d had a car or a pack mule with me, I’d have bought way more than I did. As it was, I had to settle for 3 small paperbacks (one on my current fascination with Marxism, one volume of obscure poetry and one children’s book for Noble Girl) and 1 hardback pregnancy and birth book to add to the collection I am trying to amass so I can lend books to my doula clients.

Visiting a second-hand book shop is like going to see old friends.

In addition to only running three buses a day, which was a bit of a shock to this London girl, the town of Hay is trusting.

It was such a positive, uplifting experience, being in a small, close-knit community again. In fact, the only bit of negativity I ran across the entire weekend was this childish scrap of cruelty tucked between two books.

Poor Jessica Smith. Sounds like she knows a right bitch, with poor grammar and spelling to boot.

On the journey home, which took a little over 7 hours on a Sunday, I met a couple travelling around the UK on their honeymoon. They were from the States too so I wished them a happy Independence Day, seeing as it was the 4th of July. They asked where I was headed and, not lying, I said ‘back down to London’. They assumed I was a fellow travelling tourist and I didn’t correct them. For just a small part one journey, I did feel like a lone tourist, visiting places and spaces in my head I hadn’t explored in a very, very long time.

I put my headphones back on and slid down in my seat, watching the rain lash the windows and sheep frolick in the green hills. I closed my eyes and smiled, needing nothing and no one needing me for just a few hours more.

Happy Independence Day indeed.