The joy of a simple night off from parenting, and a revelation after 16 years

WHEN you work full time and have two children, there’s not much time left for a break. It’s all go during the week, with mornings spent trying to get everyone ready to leave the house, nursery drop-offs and driving to work, and evenings are taken up with preparing tea, trying to convince little people to eat, baths, bedtime, and then getting the house back in order before attempting to wind down for an hour before bed.

For the past few weeks I’ve hoped we could have a night off from all that. It can get a bit intense, this parenting lark, and me and Stew barely get to finish a conversation most days. We have a lot of help from our families with childcare while we’re in work, but don’t like to ask for it on weekends. Of course spending so much time away from our boys during working hours means we want to be with them on Saturdays and Sundays, but we still need a break now and again. Stew had a weekend off from them a few weeks ago, but the last time I spent a whole night apart from our little menaces we watched Bridget Jones’s Baby, so that shows how long ago it was!

Anyway, my parents kindly offered to have the boys last night, so we packed them off in the car and sat down with a quiet cuppa while we decided what to do. I’m on call with work this weekend, so we couldn’t go far in case I was needed, but we did want to eat out for a change. It was nice to be able to do my make up without tiny hands grabbing my lipstick and putting my brushes in their mouths, to do my hair without them tripping over my straighteners’ lead, and generally feel a bit more chilled about getting ready.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve kind of lost who I am when they’re not around. I used to love choosing what to wear, what make up to put on, and which shoes would go with my outfit. These days I wear about 10 per cent of my wardrobe, grab the same shoes every time, and don’t bother with a bag because we always have the changing bag with us. It’s a bit of a joke in work that I don’t even carry a purse anymore, I just keep a tower of change on my desk.

Stew bought me a lovely bag from the Cambridge Satchel Company for my birthday when we were on holiday, so I took the opportunity to give it its first outing last night. It’s so silly but I felt a bit awkward carrying it … just like I feel weird walking without pushing a pram. I definitely need to reclaim myself beforeI fall too far down the motherhood rabbit hole!

So we walked into town and settled on Nando’s – partly because it’s the closest place, and partly because it’s quick so there was less worry about being called by work and wasting a meal. It’s not exactly a romantic date night, but we’re more of a chicken pitta and chips than candlelit dinner kind of couple anyway! It was so relaxing waiting for our meals without trying to entertain a toddler or stop an escapee baby from climbing out of his high chair. And we got to have a proper conversation – mostly about the boys, obvs, what else would we talk about when they’re not there – but about our jobs, music (there was a huge discovery later in the night…), and the house … that’s when it turned a bit scary as we both admitted we’re probably not in our forever home … eek, maybe we’re better off being constantly interrupted by our children!

Being oh-so-rock-n-roll, we were back at home and in our pjs by 8.15pm with a chocolate brownie and ice cream in hand for dessert. We finished the new series of Orange is the New Black on Friday night, so had to find something else to watch. After trawling through Sky, Netflix, and Stew’s DVD collection, we decided to give Riviera a go. I’d heard good things about it (and more since on Facebook), but I couldn’t get into it, so we put Glastonbury on instead. I LOVE watching festivals, and every year put Glastonbury back on my list of things I’d like to do. Me and Stew went to Reading a couple of times pre-children, and my parents took me and my brother to Glasto when we were very small, and I’d love to go there again and remember it.

Right, this is where we had the shock discovery, which I’m still coming to terms with. I’ve always known that Stew isn’t the most knowledgeable about music, and we don’t always have the same tastes. When we met, he was driving around in his Ford Fiesta listening to Billy Joel, while I was going through a Blink 182 stage … but somehow we got past that. I thought he was getting better, and we’ve been to see the Killers, Frank Turner and George Ezra together, as well as going to Reading, but it turns out I was wrong.

So, I saw on Facebook that the lovely Deb from Family Days Tried and Tested blog had revealed her new baby’s name by having it painted on her bump while at Glastonbury – she’s chosen Jude, which of course could be a boy or girl’s name. I turned to Stew and said “do you think Hey Jude is about a boy or a girl”. He looked blankly at me and asked “what’s Hey Jude”. After a few minutes of me sitting in stunned silence, he added: “Is it a book?”

Oh. My. God. I’m married to someone who doesn’t know one of the most famous songs ever. I’m no Beatles fan, but surely everyone knows Hey Jude? No?

I quickly YouTubed it, and Stew sat staring at the screen, none the wiser until the end when the “naa naa naa nanananaaaa” started, and then said: “Oh yeah, I do know that bit. I didn’t know it was the Bee Gees though”. At that point I just burst out laughing and wondered how on earth we’ve managed 16 years together!¬†We’ll just have to carry on switching between Radio 1 and Heart FM in the car while the other isn’t looking, I guess.

This morning Stew was up early to get ready for the Swansea Half Marathon, and I had the mother of all lie ins. I woke at 7.30am, and thought nope, not getting up yet … then fell asleep for another TWO HOURS! I felt so refreshed after, like I’ve really needed that extra bit of sleep for months. The only problem is, threw off my plans to be really productive and get lots done before picking the boys up.

I had breakfast in peace listening to the radio, and realised in the quietness just how loud we must be to our neighbours. They always say they can’t hear us, but there’s no way that’s true. Santi constantly shouts between rooms, Ezra has found his voice and how to shriek, and Stew generally booms his conversations. I could hear next door’s doorbell ringing, the lady calling that she was on her way, and her conversation on the phone … honestly, we must be so noisy when we’re all in. They must dread weekends!

I’m about to go and pick the boys up from my parents after 15 hours apart from them so we can spend the rest of the day together. I’m so looking forward to a big cuddle and to hear what they’ve been up to.

Some couples have regular nights off from their children and spend the night in a hotel with a fancy meal and a bottle of wine. It turns out we don’t need that (I’d quite like it, but don’t really need it). A simple Nando’s and Glastonbury coverage is enough to recharge and find out there are still things you don’t know about your partner even when you’ve spent half your lives together!

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