WHEN we moved into our house eight years ago there was a rectangular space in the hall, just at the bottom of the stairs, the same as millions of houses all over the country.
And like millions of homeowners all over the country, when we moved in first that space was filled with a lovely table and lamp, sometimes a vase of flowers and, more often than not, big piles of junk post.
As the years went on the table was moved out in favour of a baby buggy, baby bag, baby car seat and all the paraphernalia that goes with a newborn.
Then the buggy was replaced by a big boy stroller and now that The Beast is four and no longer using a stroller of any kind, that space in our hall now houses his brand new bike.
In a couple of years if Santy is feeling generous, that bike might be replaced by a bigger one but after that it’d be a tight squeeze to get a big kid bike in there, so it’ll probably have to go out the back.
Leaving the space in the hall empty.
In other homes there’s always another buggy (or four!) to fill the hole. Always a sibling’s bike to sit neatly on the tiles. In other homes their space in the hall rarely empties.
But in this house, once the space is empty, that’s it, it’s empty.
Of passing years and growing up. Of leaving babyhood behind. Not this coming September, but the following one, The Beast will head off to big school, leaving the space in the hall empty for even longer each day, with not even a school bag to fill it
And once the babyhood is over, once we’re in the midst of growing up, once the bikes get bigger and the rooms are emptier for more hours each day – where does that leave me?
According to newspapers and magazines and overheard conversations on the playground, it’ll mean I can get back to work, it’ll mean I can finally have my life back, it’ll mean I can break free of the chains of mothering and finally ‘do’ something again.
But here’s the thing:
I don’t want to. I don’t want to do any of those things. And I’m enormously privileged that financially I don’t have to.
I’m happy. I like me, just the way I am. For the first time in my life I can say with absolute conviction that I am content, that I am fulfilled, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Which is not to say that it is easy, because it is not. Being a stay at home mother can be wonderful and exciting and boring and monotonous all in the one day. All in the one hour. Which is not to say that I have embraced motherhood entirely and never struggle with it, because I do. Of course I do. Sometimes the walls of this well proportioned, large house feel very close together. Sometimes I question everything. But always, always, the answer to the question is that I am in the right place. For me.
For other mothers, it is the exact opposite, they are chomping at the bit to return to work, to do something outside of mothering and to that I say bravo. Every parent should be able to do what they want to do.
I have friends returning to work and education after 20 years at home. I have friends writing books and designing jewellery and opening delis and I am so fucking proud of them that I feel as though my heart is going to burst.
But I want to be here. At home. My ambitions are less. That might seem wasteful and shameful to some of you, but it’s the bald truth. My ambition is to be at home, with my son, for as long as I want to.
Maybe in a few years things will change. Maybe I’ll still be a stay at home Mam when The Beast is 15. I don’t know. Do I have to decide now? Is it not ok if my five-year plan simply says ‘To be happy’?
What I do know though is that my work here in my home is worthwhile. It’s important and it means something to me. It means everything to me. And that shouldn’t be under estimated. And it shouldn’t be seen as second best.
So no, I won’t be looking for part-time work once The Beast starts school. I won’t be going back to college. I won’t be changing the life I have here, right now. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
And as for that space in the hall – well, maybe it’s ok if it just stays empty.
I THINK The Beast is going to be an only child.
Nothing in life is 100 per cent guaranteed, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be sticking at one and that we won’t be giving him any brothers or sisters.
Oh God, he’s going to hate me forever and put me in the Bad Home, isn’t he?
The one that smells perpetually of cabbage, with scary nurses who are scabby with the Xanax.
He’ll resent me all his life and I’ll turn into one of those stage Moms, with high heels and hard make-up, pushing him forward for every opportunity, bellowing about how ‘you’re all I have’.
Or I’ll try to be his friend, following him around the world backpacking, getting my Lorelai on, fast talking my way around Thailand like a fucking eejit.
He’ll end up having to nurse me in my final years as I succumb to liver failure from all the gin I’ll have to drink to blot out the regrets I’ll have for not having had any more kids.
And then he’ll leave my body to science and sell all my jewellery to a Cash 4 Gold place, all the while cackling maniacally.
All joking aside though, here’s the thing – I love being my son’s Mama, I just don’t want to be anyone else’s Mama.
I haven’t embraced ‘Motherhood’. I think that’s it – I struggle with motherhood and the responsibility of it and the sheer weight of it, while at the same time revelling in mothering my son.
That’s odd, isn’t it? I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mother and now I am but I’m holding my hand up and saying: ‘This is great. But that’s enough now.’
All around me friends and family are on their second and third and fourth pregnancies and children. And truthfully I’m almost searingly jealous.
It’s not that I want what they have – it’s more that I wish I wanted what they have. I wish I had the room in my heart that they have, but I don’t.
I have a limit and I’ve reached it already with my beautiful blonde boy.
Maybe he’ll miss having siblings, and maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll love having us all to himself, and maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll push the boat out and put both of us in the Good Home. Who knows?
All I know is that families come in all shapes and sizes and the most important thing is love. So we’ll be a small family who are big on love.
And I think that’ll be enough.
SOMETIMES I don’t think I’m like other mothers.
It’s the start of the long Bank Holiday weekend here in Ireland today and I’m looking forward to it greatly.
Not because I’m going anywhere or have any great plans for a barbecue (an Irish one, under an umbrella in the pissing rain, obvs) or am jetting off on holidays.
But because the baby is going on HIS holidays. For three glorious days and two glorious nights. Without me.
I’m literally almost sick with excitement.
He’s being brought down to Wexford by his Nana and Gaga from Sunday until Tuesday night and I’m not going with him.
I’m staying at home. In the silence. With my book. And my laptop. And my HOT cup of coffee and MY programmes on the TV. Three days with no Bala-fucking-mory. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.
(Here though, while we’re on the subject. What IS the story in Balamory? How come they’re all single yet can afford big massive houses? How does Josie Jump make a living? Or Archie for that matter? There’s something amiss about that place, I’m telling you.)
Anyway, so yes, The Beast is off on his holliers and I can’t wait. And I can’t help but wonder (Carrie Bradshaw reference) if that makes me the worst mother in the world?
I’ll miss him, of course. I adore him, of course. But I need the break.
More than that though, I WANT the break. That’s the crucial difference, I think, between me and other Mams that I talk to. They all agree that a break is necessary but many of them don’t look forward to one.
If they go out for a night they say things like ‘Oh I suppose I’ll enjoy it when I get there’, whereas I’m almost psychotic with excitement at even the THOUGHT of a night off.
Other Mams rush home from a day at the shops to gather up their little ones, whereas I dawdle.
Other Mams curse traffic jams if it makes them a little late picking up the baby from Granny’s house – I relish the extra few minutes of peace.
Reading back over that, I sound like a monster.
I’m not really, I swear. Well, ok, I am probably a BIT of a bitch, but I do actually love my son. Truly.
I just find motherhood to be very full on. You’re always on. It really is a 24-hour day when you’re a mother. And sometimes I get a bit touched out. And I just need to clock off.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out, when I wave my son off without a backward glance. I wonder if I SHOULD feel something more, miss him more, think about him more, be more like the other mothers. Sometimes I wonder if I really AM a bad mother. Perhaps I am.
But then other times I think that maybe I’m not so bad and that enjoying the break, as opposed to just tolerating it, isn’t the worst thing in the world. And I wonder if perhaps, sneakily, all those other mothers wish they could be a little bit more like me.
Minus the fat arse though, naturally.