The Land of the Free

Mothering Heights - Claire Smith

Mothering Heights - Claire Smith - Credit: Archant

I’VE JUST been away kid-free and husband-free for five whole days. Yep, you read that right and one day it might even happen to you (Tip: Complain More). After years of moaning that I’ve not been able to pee in peace, my husband got fed up and booked me a flight to Philadelphia to see some old friends and visit their toilets without a child hanging off me.

It was a parenting dream come true. I truly would be in the land of the free.

My new philosophy is that the greatest thing I can do for my kids is to learn to focus on myself. This might come as a surprise to you but I really don’t do that much away from the children and I’m trying to change that.

Until recently, my days have been filled with events geared solely for the kids. It’s not a case of “Children should be seen and not heard” but more “No adult conversation possible” and, boy, don’t my kids know it. They are starting to learn that most things revolve around them and it’s precisely this over focus that has started to become a negative. So what better than to take Mummy out of the situation, especially if it involves an eight hour flight and different time zone. Not at the cost of my children of course, but for my children (and I suspect for my husband). The end result hopefully being that I’ll recharge batteries and come back at my best so I’m able to give the best of myself to them.

And come on – an eight hour flight with no tantrums, no “Mum, I need you”s and no interruptions to the movie because somebody needs juice… is pure parenting porn.

I forgot of course that ever since I’ve had children, I’ve developed a fear of flying which manifested itself in a terrible nervous anxiety three days before I left, causing this family to have its own little crash. Everyone was so desperate to see me board the plane that Heathrow became a day out itself. In my eagerness to start my little Mummy holiday, I completely forgot about how maternal instinct likes to slap me round the face when I least expect it and, yep, I blubbed at departures. And all the way to the gate. So much so that the passengers who usually spend their last grounded moments wishing for no children in the seats nearby, were suddenly willing the crying woman to be at least 10 rows away.

Once on the plane my momentary maternal madness was forgotten. It seems that the lure of 10 of the recent movies can have that effect. Except my TV wasn’t working and the flight was full. Eight hours of no in-flight entertainment is on a par with eight hours of entertaining a child it seems – although with the child, at least you have something to do.

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I won’t bore you with the details of my break except to tell you the following:

1. I also cried the following morning when I spoke to my family even though I’d had a great night out and I was in a shopping mall alone with a credit card. (And all I bought was stuff for the children).

2. Time zones suck. I was wide awake at 5.30 every morning. My children waking me up at 7am seemed a distant luxury.

3. My friend’s children are so much better behaved than mine. They do what she says at the first time of asking, they tidy up, they entertain themselves for hours on end and they let her spend time in the bathroom without once interrupting. I’m thinking a US exchange for, like, a year would be good.

4. I missed my kids. A lot. I missed how they feel, how they smell, how they sound, even how they annoy the pants off me. Because being without them was like a piece of me had been taken away. (Best I take the Fifth Amendment before saying any more).

5. Daddy is more fun. Only one of my kids would speak to me and that was just to tell me how entertaining it was being with his Dad.

So, yes, I was free in the Land Of The Free for five days and it was fabulous, full of stars and stripes. But coming home to three smiling faces makes me wonder whether I’ll ever be able to go away without the children again. Because, really, what carnage can they possibly create with a hard baseball and a bat?

But, then again, peeing in peace on a girls trip to the Canaries is looking good for the winter.