“But I really like my alone time,” she said.
I was sitting with an old girlfriend I hadn’t seen in years, catching up over a long lunch. We’d covered careers, husbands, houses. We’d briefly reminisced about old times. And then the talk turned to babies.
How were mine. When she will have hers.
And fuelled by a glass of wine or two, she admitted to me her deepest worry about pending motherhood. Something that I think every single mother-in-waiting lies awake thinking about.
Will I ever have time to myself again?
It’s a scary one. The question of whether you can really have time to yourself as a Mum is at the core of the whole work/life balance question, and our endless quest to ‘have it all’. We are more than willing to sacrifice certain parts of ourselves and our lives to bring our children into the world, but can there be at least a little bit of time for me? Do I have to give up every lazy Sunday morning lying in bed reading the papers? Time to exercise? To just be me, alone?
My answer? An emphatic NO!
Which surprised me, because if you’d asked me this question just a few months into motherhood, I would have had a different perspective. I would have told you that even when you do manage to co-ordinate breastfeeding, baby-sitters and the yoga timetable, you are so riddled with guilt as you walk away that you physically struggle to do it. Often, you just don’t.
There is no ‘me time’, and there is no couple time. It’s all about the kids, and you feel as if it will never, ever change. You’re in a total hormone laced haze of exhaustion and fear. And yes, I remember thinking I am never, ever going to get my life back!
And then, it passes.
Pretty soon they’re able to be settled by someone else. They can start solids. They can sleep away from you. And then, slowly, bit by bit, you get you back. You take an hour off to go to yoga, or an afternoon to get your hair done. Sure, there’s no lazing in bed, and there’s no reading the papers from start to finish anymore. There’s no more movie days, or sleep-ins till 10.
But you know what? You don’t miss that like you think you will. Your priorities change. The ‘alone time’ you panicked about losing is not what you long for anymore. Well, not all of it. Bite size pieces of alone time are enough, and after that, you just want to be back with your family again.
You also find other ways to stay connected. You learn to love the small blessings that you stumble across as a busy mum – an extra hour’s sleep, a cup of tea in silence, having a whole conversation without being interrupted.
If only I had known that then.