Tomorrow is Wednesday, which means my Home Start lady is coming round. As I sit here on a Tuesday evening, I’m surprised to find that I’m really looking forward to her visit.
You know when you have a week off work, and you get to Thursday and suddenly think, oh bugger, I have fewer days off in front of me than behind, my week off is almost over, I’d better Do Something? I’ve had that feeling periodically since having S: the feeling that I’m wasting my spare time, and it will be at an end soon and I should be doing more, appreciating it more. Of course, I know that eventually I will go back to work, S will go back to school, we will have less time together, and this time will seem like a far-off utopia of days gone by – but I tend to get a more urgent feeling, akin to the sort you’d get if you were going back to work after the weekend. Just lately, it has occurred to me that this is it: this is how my life just is now, and it’s not going to change any time soon. We have very little to fill our days with, and often spend large chunks of time wandering aimlessly around Sainsbury’s. I’m not going back to real life on Monday; this is real life.
This last couple of weeks has been really tough. I’ve realised just how much I need S to sleep well, even if that’s just so that I can have an hour watching TV or doing housework without having to try and simultaneously entertain her. It’s physically and mentally exhausting for her to be awake constantly, especially when her lack of sleep means she is usually grumpy as well. I’ve been doing this on my own for six months now, without a day off or more than an hour to myself here and there. On the one hand, there have been several times lately when I’ve been desperate for someone – anyone – to take S off my hands for a couple of hours so that I could have a break. On the other hand, the minute she is away from me, I miss her terribly, and feel horribly guilty for being apart from her.
There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother where a little girl brings Lilly a picture of a rainbow several times, and each time she says “oh wow, what a beautiful rainbow!” and then, the last time she brings one up Lilly loses her cool and says “seriously, are you kidding me? Another rainbow? Aren’t you sick of them?” This is what I feel like sometimes. S cries or gets grouchy over something, and most of the time I’ll go to her and calm her and chat baby talk at her and play with her toys or cuddle her or do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, until she’s ok… and then there’ll be an evening where I’ve been up and down the stairs to her five times, and I’m starving and about to bite into what is now a barely lukewarm dinner, and she cries… and the words I utter as I trudge up the stairs are a little more along the lines of “Another rainbow?”
I was talking to a friend yesterday about having a night out. The difference between us is that she is married, so if she goes out her kids are with their dad: they love him, they feel safe with him. She knows they will be looked after and she has nothing to worry about, and that they probably won’t notice much of difference than if she were there. For me, if I wanted a night out I would have to consider leaving S with someone largely unfamiliar. She has aunties and uncles, and I have several amazing friends, all of whom I know would do a good job of looking after her, but she only knows any of them as someone who’s danced around the living room with her for a couple of hours here and there. There’s nobody completely constant in her life with whom I could leave her and know she wouldn’t be upset by the disruption. And, of course, there is still the massive guilt at leaving here anywhere, with anyone – as if I don’t want her around.
I was toying with the idea of going to the health visitor to see if she would look into getting me some funding for a nursery place a couple of mornings a week, just to allow me a bit of a break and some breathing space from time to time. But this is largely unrealistic, since S is still mostly breastfed and won’t take a bottle (even if I could work the ridiculous pump I have enough to get a bottle full of milk for her). And I know that I would probably spend the entire time she was in a nursery, sitting at home pining for her and feeling guilty that I’d left her.
Wednesdays are my salvation at the moment. D only spends a couple of hours here, but during that time she will largely take over looking after S. She bounces her on her knee, plays on her play mat with her, pulls faces, sings songs and sometimes spends half an hour rocking her back and forth until she falls asleep. I do things like catch up on phone calls to the electricity company or sorting through paperwork. We have a cup of coffee together and I tell her about my week, and we chat about whatever comes up. She’s like a therapist and a babysitter in one! Plus, she always brings milk for coffee, and usually cake or biscuits too.