Is there anything more annoying than a parent with all children recently in full-time nursery/school, shrugging their shoulders and saying “I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself!”
It’s so annoying. “I could think of a million things I would do,” you fume, as you push one kid in a buggy and shriek at the other one to hurry up, undo a packet of Pom Bears with one hand, answer the phone to your husband who wants to talk about a parking ticket – where, why, how, WHY?? – steering the buggy with your knees, drinking a flat white and blowing your stupid bloody hair out of your eyes that just will not fucking behave.
I would have a massage, you think. I would calmly re-organise neglected corners of my house. I would read a book. I would fuck off for hours into town with no-one asking where I was going or what time I would be back. I would get really fit. I would cook elaborate dinners. I would write a novel. I would re-do the garden in the manner of the grounds at Sudeley Castle. I would… I would… I would…
And then it comes to it and it’s your turn. You come back to an empty house after dropping the youngest wherever and you’ve made no plans because what if the youngest freaks out and wants to come home, is sad, tired, lonely, can’t deal with it. So you sit blankly, staring into space, going “Shit, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.” It’s just one of those miracles of physics that the less time you have, the more you find to do. Give me an hour and I will give you the world – give me all day and I will fall to drink and despair.
I am lucky. Sam is going to nursery 9.30am – 3pm only two days per week this term, so I have got time to get used to this sudden sheer-cliff drop of empty hours until he goes full-time next year from 9-3pm every day.
I am choosing to relish the feeling and trying not to panic. It’s panic that makes you do insane things like get a puppy or have another baby. And I am also trying to luxuriate in the free time. All I did before this was complain that I never had any free time to just read a book or go for a walk. But when it comes to it, you can feel a bit guilty about just sitting about all day reading your surprisingly gripping history book about piracy in the Caribbean in the 18th Century or memorising the calls of of English garden birds with your Chirp! app. This is despite spending the last five years mired up to the eyeballs 24 hours a day in shit, vomit, smeared food, snot and tears. And the kids were a bit messy, too.
To feel adrift in a sudden influx of spare time must be natural and is probably just some sort of process one emerges out the other side of. Like having your eyesight corrected, or your hearing, or getting a new leg or a dishwasher or a twin tub – anything that frees you both mentally and physically, it all must require adjustment.
At the moment I am looking around the room that I occupy in our house, “my” room, which resembles nothing so much as a “junk” room. As I suspect I will be spending quite a lot of time in here, I think I might have to smarten it up – Polyfilla and paint over that awful crack on that wall, throw out those boxes, store that wrapping paper properly, find a new place for those suitcases.
And get myself somewhere to sit that is not my desk – for all that important pirate history book-reading. At the moment I am eyeing up this Soderhamn chaise longue from Ikea at £335.
Although this Kolton chair, from Made.com at £449 also looks jolly comfy.