You want to know something? I reckon we’ve got this whole work-life balance completely wrong. I say this on the first day back to reality after our Easter holiday. I call it a holiday, but we didn’t go anywhere. We just hung out together, as a family, for four whole days. We’re pretty broke, so we did things on the cheap – beach, playground, beach, park, beach, beach.
I understand that some of you may not be down with this concept. I understand that to some of you, this may equate to a term of incarceration. But yeah, I’m one of those #smugmums who really likes my family. Or rather, I like my husband. And, as a result, I like my children much more when my husband is around. Life is easier; it’s fun, even. And also: I don’t have to wipe bottoms when Paul is around.
I feel like I’m struggling today. Yes, it’s a first-world struggle of suncream application and hat policing, but it’s MY first-world struggle. Paul – after four days off – went back to work today. His alarm went off at 5.14am (ALWAYS WITH THE AWKWARD NUMBERS) and he left me alone with our three children at 5.25am (he moves stealthily and quickly; he doesn’t even turn a light on).
As I lay there, with Alice’s foot in my face, I felt a rising sense of panic. It sounds insane, doesn’t it – being afraid to spend time with your own children – but, well, you haven’t met my children. Ah, it’s not that. They’re entertaining little creatures, when they want to be, but it’s just so much HARDER when Paul isn’t around. It’s harder to get three children dressed and ready for the park. It’s harder to look after them all, and ensure you come home with the same number of children as you left with. It’s harder to carry all the STUFF. And it’s just not as much fun. I lay there, as Frankie commando-rolled out of bed and crawled towards the Lego box in the living room, and worked out when we’d next be spending an extended length of time together as a family. As far as I can see, our next break won’t come until my 40th (AHEM) in November. November! I mean, yeah, Paul comes home from work every day (he better), and obviously we have the weekends, but it’s the not the same as just hanging out together for days at a time, is it?
We’ve been talking about this a lot, recently. I think it’s to do with the realisation that we’re wishing our lives away – counting down the years until retirement, when we can buy a Combi and trundle across Australia – but that’s RUBBISH, isn’t it? We’re actually looking forward to being old (sorry mum, older), and to the kids not being around anymore. And, as nice as that sounds, I really like having the kids around, so long as Paul’s around too. I don’t want them to grow up and leave home. I love the little shows they put on, and the mad games that the three of them invent, and Frankie commando crawling out of the bedroom every morning, and Alice calling everyone a silly sod. I don’t want to wish this time away.
Do you know Bruce, from Big Family Little Income? If you don’t, you should. Bruce likes his wife, and he likes his kids, and he wanted to spend more quality time with them, so he bought a BUS and now he’s travelling around Australia. The kids are being schooled en route, and they’re having the best kind of fun, together. I’m entranced by this idea. Paul and I have had proper, grown-up discussions about whether we should do this – because honestly? This Monday-to-Friday working week isn’t working for us. We talked – briefly – about him working FIFO, because at least he’d have a block of time at home each month, but then we came to our senses, because if you think I get bad Sunday-itis now, I can’t even imagine what I’d be like on the night before he left for his two-weekly shift, or whatever it might be. No. Not gonna happen.
To be honest, I don’t have the solution. I just know that I like my family being together. I like sharing the fun (and the bottom wiping) with another grown-up human. I’m a bit sad, like that. Maybe we should start a commune, live off the land, bake our own bread, that sort of thing. Who’s in?