Our lovely little chaps were three months old last week. We’ve watched them grow from tiny mites into robust, smiley babies. Archie’s taken a three pound lead over Flo and as he gets bigger, she seems even smaller somehow, even though she’s growing well too. They’re finding their voices - Archie has an owl-like “hoooo” while Flo coos and babbles, smiling constantly. And then there’s the hands. We’re loving watching them randomly pointing, staring at their own fingers and brandishing a Superman fist. A truly delightful sight is watching Archie stroke his own fuzzy peach-skin head.
The last few weeks have been the most exhausting by far. While the babies are pretty much sleeping through the night, the trade-off is very wakeful daytimes. Even now we’re using bottles, feeding still takes up a huge part of the day and I’m frustrated at the lack of tangible evidence of anything vaguely productive to show for my day. I never seem to have a long enough run at anything before the next epic double feed/burp/change round starts. I leave snatched meals uneaten, the ironing pile half-creased, emails half-written, exercise abandoned. A diehard completer-finisher, I struggle with what to me seems chaos. Just asks: “Did you have a good day?” when he gets in from work and I woefully tell him I’ve not achieved a single thing, nothing to report, just the nursery run, baby duties and domestic drudgery. He hugs me and tells me I’m a great mum and that Evie, Flo and Archie are growing and flourishing under my care – that that is my biggest achievement. He says all the right things but the fact is that while I’m very good at working, I’m a pretty hopeless housewife. Sadly I’ll never get the same buzz from baking a sponge as I will from cracking a strategy or pitching a great idea. I give myself a good talking to about making the most of this special time with Flo and Archie as my return to working life will come round soon enough. At that, I switch my brain down several gears and slow the well-oiled cogs, stick a muslin on my shoulder and put on my pinny (spotless and for show obviously).
Well-meaning friends and glossy magazines tell me I need ‘me time’ to separate mummy-me from me-me. But I don’t know how to fit that in. I used to think of ‘me time’ as being a spa day or shopping splurge, solo cinema night or long soak in the bath with my book. Now it’s more likely to be going to the loo without a four year old in tow or an evening trip to the supermarket to pick up forgotten groceries. This weekend though, I finally get me some of that elusive time. I winch myself into skinny (ish) jeans, dust off my towering wedge sandals and attend a drinks party at my local art gallery. It’s wonderful. Chilled white wine soothes my ‘new mum alone and out of the house in going-out clothes’ angst, the company is charming and bohemian, and the art baffles and intrigues me in a most pleasant way. While I’m there, something happens deep inside my head but I don’t recognize the feeling. Then today I go to the Hay Festival to listen to my favourite columnist, proud and potty-mouthed feminist and mum Caitlin Moran, discuss her caustic take on the modern woman’s lot. Her witty rantings are bitter-sweet and entertaining and create much chatter amongst the crowd afterwards. Then that thing with my head happens again. I drive home and as I put my keys in the front door and hear the familiar sounds of my family, I realize what’s happened this weekend. I’ve done something I’ve not done for a good few months. I’ve done some THINKING. I’d like to try doing it again, just as soon as I finish this ironing.