You’ll be familiar, I’m sure, with the concept of mummy guilt. God knows I am. I feel guilty – in no particular order – for sending Frankie to school with a Mars Bar cookie in his lunchbox today, for missing Ben’s sports carnival last week, and for only singing one verse of Close to You to Alice at bedtime, cos GOGGLEBOX. Mother guilt is everywhere, and it’s unavoidable. If you don’t feel guilty about at least one of your parenting actions through the course of a day, then YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT.
These are, however, minor infractions compared to the shit that went down last weekend. I almost feel bad admitting this to you, but as we’re friends, here goes: I LEFT THE HOUSE. But wait, there’s more: I LEFT THE HOUSE FOR 12 HOURS. There’s even more: I DID THIS FOR TWO DAYS RUNNING.
And there’s one more thing.
I FUCKING LOVED IT.
You’re thinking I went on a crack-fuelled booze bender, aren’t you? Na, nothing that tame. In actuality, I was training to be a Body Attack fitness instructor. Yeah, one of those highly coordinated humans who stand on a stage and rock the room with confidence and sporting prowess. I’ll admit, I was out of my comfort zone. On my first attempt, I put the microphone on upside down (so the speaky bit was in my ear), the belt on upside down (so the battery fell on to the stage), and forgot to press ‘on’. I cocked up, yeah, but I still had fun, because I was doing something so spectacularly and undeniably for ME that I couldn’t help but fucking smile.
This was, of course, my second attempt at Body Attack instructing. My first attempt – back in May – was cut short when Ben had a life-threatening asthma attack on my second morning of the training. You want to talk mother guilt? Let’s talk mother guilt. I wasn’t there when my first-born son nearly died. I had to be summoned from my Body Attack training by a kind-hearted nurse who worked really hard to keep the panic out of her voice when I told her I was a 30-minute car drive away from the hospital. You think you know mother guilt? My friends, I KNOW mother guilt. I had to run into a hospital’s resuscitation room – ON MOTEHR’S DAY – not knowing whether my kid had made it or not. Mother of the year, right here.
For a while there, I took Ben’s brush with death as a sign that I should never leave my children’s side EVER AGAIN. For a couple of months, I stalked the little fuckers wherever they went. It didn’t take long, however, before they all started to annoy me, and I craved a bit of peace and quiet. And so, I signed up to repeat my training weekend. Fuck me, I felt guilty about that. I felt guilty about the money. SO MUCH MONEY, which would undoubtedly have been better spent on Barbie Dream Houses and actual food for the actual children. I felt guilty about Paul having to look after the kids for two ridiculously long days over the weekend. His BIRTHDAY weekend. I felt guilty about the preparation I needed to do beforehand, the breakfasts, lunches and dinners that I wouldn’t be around to make, and the playgrounds that Paul would have to visit, with the swings he’d have to push, endlessly, pointlessly and soul-destroyingly. (Also: WHO WOULD CLEAN MY FLOOR?)
Does this mean that I shouldn’t have done it? Should I have saved the money and spent a precious weekend with my precious family, cooking, cleaning and swing-pushing? Fuck no! Because you know what? For a couple of days there, I felt like a normal fucking human. No one called me mummmmmmmyyyyyyyy! No one asked me to wipe their arse! No one pulled on my little finger until I surrendered and gave them the open jar of Nutella and a dessert spoon! It was wonderful. It was life-affirming. It was tough, and it was tiring, but it was mine, and it was invaluable.
And you know what? My family survived without me. Yes, Frankie and Alice fell out of a trolley in Kmart and caused quite a scene, and Ben was a bit of a twat, saying that mummy shouldn’t be allowed to leave the house for a whole day (nice try, kid), and my floor was a bit sticky by Sunday night, but it was all OKAY. I might go as far as to say that it renewed my enthusiasm for motherhood. I woke up on Monday morning quite pleased to see the little fuckers, despite them having eaten all the chocolate biscuits before dawn and tattooed themselves with texta.
So what I’m saying is this: FUCK MUMMY GUILT. DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF. If you feel guilty going to get your hair done, or your nails shined, or stopping on the way home from the shops to sit in a park and breathe in the fresh air and silence, then DON’T. Remember that I deserted my family for two whole days and they survived, and I was happy. Okay?