Up until now I had been so excited about the trip. In the five years since becoming a mum I had been interstate without my children the grand total of two times. This is not because I am an overly anxious mother who can’t bear to be away from them, but mostly because I haven’t had that many excuses to do so. But now I had the perfect opportunity and excuse, my baby had just turned one and I knew she’d cope without me, so an adult’s only trip to Melbourne was much anticipated.
The night before we left, after packing enough for the children to survive any possible emergency, I went to bed hoping for at least a half decent night’s sleep. However, my darling daughter had other ideas. From 2 to 5am she refused to sleep, a mammoth effort even for a seasoned non-sleeper, so by the time my alarm went off at 6am the prospect of leaving the bed, let alone the state, was hideous.
After groggily downing my first coffee I despaired as I saw my reflection in the mirror. Zombie wasn’t exactly the look I was going for when appearing on national TV for the first time in 8 years. And my mental state wasn’t much better. How on earth was I going to appear perky, coherent, sane, on such little sleep? I layered on the eye concealor and hoped a little extra blush would compensate for my distinct lack of colour.
Pulling up to the airport things went from bad to worse. My 5 year old, who had previously been so excited about his sleep-over at Grandma and Grandpa’s, now refused to let go of me, begging us not to go. After untangling myself from his embrace and waving goodbye my husband remarked wistfully ‘I really hope we don’t crash and die in an ash cloud disaster. Our kids really need us.’
By now the lack of sleep was making me nauseas, giving me flash backs to flights home from Melbourne many years ago when my seediness was far more enjoyably earned. So, like a wanna-be rock star, I put on my dark sunglasses and walked through the airport with a triple sized coffee in hand, hoping I’d rally like I did all those times before.
Until I saw a mother walking beside me, struggling to carry her suitcase with a baby on her hip and an oversized nappy bag over her shoulder and unexpectedly I felt tears sting my eyes. That’s who I was, not this carefree person sauntering along with only a coffee to hold. What was I thinking, leaving my babies, potentially dying in an ash cloud disaster, just for an indulgent trip to Melbourne. I was a mother, for Gods sake, I don’t do things just for myself. Suddenly I felt like a part of me was missing and had a powerful yearning to be back at home with my baby, who just hours before I had been so desperate to leave.
Looking back, perhaps the torture tactics I’d endured the night before did affect my mental state slightly, ok massively. I am not one of those people who randomly burst into tears, who feel guilty for having a life. But the powerful combination of sleep deprivation, hormones and mother guilt is not to be underestimated. The ash cloud threat probably wasn’t helping things either.
Luckily though, my moment of instability passed, we arrived in Melbourne and I started to come good. We had a great day filming at The Block, it was fantastic to see some of the cast and crew we hadn’t seen for 8 years and to meet the new couples (thank God I didn’t have to do this series, their task was much harder than ours!) And through a concerted effort I managed to limit showing off photos of my kids to every third person I saw. OK, every second person.
That night we attended the show’s media launch and had a great time, but by 10pm exchanging small talk while my feet hurt could no longer compete with the hotel bed that was calling my name. To be honest, I would not have cared if it had been the party of the century, all I wanted to do was get into that soft bed and sleep through the night for the first time in over a year. Except of course I didn’t, I woke at 4am. And an hour later I was still awake, tossing and turning, furious that sleep was alluding me.
At first light I called to see how the kids were, my mum confirming what I expected to hear. My baby had woken at 4am and was up for an hour, just as my body knew. Motherhood amazes me.
Knowing they were fine I let myself relax properly and had a wonderful day. I lingered over breakfast, reading the papers instead of shoveling in mushy Weet-bix. I shopped for hours, with no one needing to make a last minute dash to the toilet (why are they always busting when you’re trying on clothes in the change-room of a store that has no toilets?) We went out for dinner, at the very adult time of 9pm. We talked, we laughed, we re-connected. We didn't have to get home for the baby-sitters, didn't have to worry that an extra wine will make it too hard to get up in the morning and didn't have to wake up two hours after falling asleep. It was heaven.
Being a mum of young children you rarely get to put yourself first. I work, go out for dinner, catch up with my girlfriends, but everything (including my identity) is centered around my kids. I work around their schedules, go out for dinner after feeding and putting them to bed and have postponed many a girls night out because someone was sick and needed me. So it was nice, just for 48 hours, not to worry about anyone’s needs but my own (and perhaps my husbands!)
It was about 20 minutes after I got home that any residual relaxation had evaporated and normality had set back in. Bags needed to be unpacked, clothes washed, dinner made, bath done, teeth brushed, story read, bottle given, house tidied and emails checked. Yet, despite the stark contrast between the blissful time to myself and the relentless slog of motherhood, there is no question where I belong. As lovely as a room service breakfast is, it can’t beat waking up to my daughters five toothed smile and my son’s sleepy cuddles. But sometimes you need a little time away to be reminded of that. And sometimes it’s nice not to be mummy for a while.
Do you take many breaks from your kids? What do you do to reclaim yourself from the constant demands of motherhood? And do you feel like you've lost part of yourself when you're away them?
Edited by AmityD, 12 July 2011 - 05:10 PM.