I've just come back from a ten-day break in Mauritius. It was officially my honeymoon, (although it was some three months after I got married) so we pushed the boat out. We stayed in a swanky five-star resort, in a private villa. We had a pool, a driver, butler service, a spa, a private beach and a boat at our disposal. It was divine.
On our last day, we had a champagne breakfast brought to the villa (go ahead, hate me, I don't care) and over a leisurely scoffing of yet more heavenly food, we discussed our favourite parts of the week. He chose snorkeling through a reef as a school of thirty or more dolphins came swimming by. Good choice, I thought. It was a magical moment. And then he asked what my favourite part of the week had been. The candlelit dinner under a tent on the beach, gazing up at the stars? The chauffer-driven shopping spree? The endlessly indulgent spa treatments and massages?
Oh I know exactly, before he's finished the question, but I can't answer. I mumble into my (third) pastry, sip more champagne, and push my poached eggs around the plate. I look horribly embarrassed. In the end I have to confess: "Having a break from the kids".
I know. I KNOW. I am an awful, horrible, ungrateful mother. I love my kids to bits, of course I do. Of course I do. But this parenting lark is hard. I never get enough sleep, I never have enough time, and I worry constantly about their future (my children both have what is euphemistically referred to as "Additional Needs" making me even more of a worrier than usual). I'm not complaining, it's just that, well, I really did enjoy the break.
I read a book without interruption. I ate a meal without stuffing it down quickly in order to help someone else eat theirs. I ate meals in restaurants I liked rather than those that accommodate my children's palates. I went out for the day without utilising packing and organisational skills rivaled only by the circus-moving town. And on most days, the biggest problem I had was choosing what kind of massage I might enjoy.
When I finally got home there were hot tears and fierce hugs and I could not believe how much I had missed them. But the honest truth is that time away from them keeps me sane.
Is it really possible to love someone so much that you have to get away from them for a while? I suppose it must be. I sometimes think that is the very definition of being a parent.