The doorbell interrupted my conversation.
“I’ve got to go honey, my dinner’s here,” I say.
“OK Mummy, I love you,” my nearly 4yo replies in her sweet, sing song voice. My hearts bursts and tiny fireworks come out.
“I love you too sweetheart.”
I’d traveled to Melbourne for a blogging conference and treated myself to a night in a hotel room. I’d opted out of typical tourist pursuits and had instead spent the afternoon in bed watching Offspring on my laptop. I’d been working towards this break for weeks.
There are times when children fill your head with noise. The demands. The fights. The constant battles. The repetition. The lack of personal space. The neediness of it all. Parenting crowds you. You begin to snap. Your words start to sharpen. You find yourself saying things they’ll forget, but you won’t. You hide in empty spaces searching for quiet. You imagine moments to yourself, alone.
And then it happens. You find yourself walking through the lane ways of Melbourne. You cradle a coffee while sitting on the banks of the Yarra, watching a solitary rower glide atop the murky water. You hear the sounds of the city with clarity. Your head is clear and still. And when you get back to your room, you put on both the televisions and turn all the lights on because you feel lonely. The silence deafens you. You’ve forgotten how to be alone.
But you’d ordered room service and it makes you feel a little fancy. Indulgence is not something you do. And as you sit down to eat you feel a tear slide down your cheek. You’re crying into your carbonara.
You can’t win. When you’re home you feel guilty for wishing for faraway places and when you get there you feel guilty for being away. You call your children to tell them what you’re doing and send them photos from your plane seat telling them you miss them. You become the needy one. Their voices nourish your soul and you long to hold them and kiss their smiling faces.
And then you find yourself in a fancy hotel, well rested, a glass of red wine by your side, uninterrupted television and delicious carbonara served to you on a platter. You have no other responsibilities except to make a cup of hot chocolate and lay in your huge hotel bed, with crisp white sheets and read your book. And then you go and cry into your godforsaken creamy pasta. Idiot.
So you get over yourself. You push the ever-present mother’s guilt aside and you remind yourself how freaking lucky you are. You turn the television off and you relish the quiet, not hide from it. You let your thoughts swirl in your head. You think of something from the point of conception to completion. It’s wonderfully busy inside that brain of yours. Who knew? So many people have been shouting over your inner voice, you’d forgotten for a moment that you actually do have concise thoughts.
And then when you arrive home again and you sit among the noise and you think back to that quiet time of reflection, it keeps you buoyed for that little longer. Your words have softened. Your patience levels run at 98 per cent. You’re calm and considered. You hug with intent and hover a little longer at bedtime to provide extra smiles and catch additional glimpses from your kids’ soft eyes, peeking through their raggedy fringes. Your kisses cover their faces and you sneak raspberries onto their rounded bellies. And you give squishy bum cheek squeezes. Your guilt wanes, but never leaves.
When your children are born it’s surprising you aren’t provided a Guide to Mother’s Guilt. The trick is to be aware that it’s omnipresent, every mother that you pass in the street has it. It means we care.