Today the word that sums up the week that was is:
I took quite an important step this week in my journey as a mum. It’s taken fourteen and a half months, but this week I had an evening out on my own. No Arthur, no Leigh. It was the first solo night out I’ve had since I was about eight months pregnant: even then Arthur was with me really. I haven’t really felt any inclination to go out on my own since, but on Tuesday I’d been invited to read from my first novel at a writer’s salon in London. You can read about my evening as an author here, but it was also a very important evening for me as a mum. My instinct on first hearing about the night was that I’d just take Arthur along in the sling: I soon realised that this was something I had to do on my own.
I can almost count the number of times I’ve been separated from Arthur on one hand. Leigh and I have been on two dates: one last summer when my brother’s girlfriend babysat for us in our hotel in New York whilst we went to the restaurant for our wedding anniversary dinner, the second time only a fortnight ago when my parents looked after Arthur whilst we went for dinner again, this time to celebrate the anniversary of our first date. Both times we were gone for only a couple of hours. Then there have been a few governors meetings where Leigh or my mum have looked after him. And that’s about it!
Neither Leigh or I would have predicted that this was how things would work out. And it’s not like we haven’t been out at all – we’ve done plenty of things as a family, including restaurant meals, gigs, festivals, parties. We have just always wanted to keep Arthur close. I guess breastfeeding’s been a major factor – with everything being so challenging in the early days we never taught Arthur to take a bottle so it’s been hard for me to be too far away. But to be honest we haven’t wanted to leave him either – we have all, as a family, become decidedly attached.
But this time I really couldn’t take Arthur with me. I am intent on building a successful career as a writer, one which in the long term will hopefully be much more conducive to spending time with my son than teaching could ever be, and I needed people to take me seriously. I needed me to take me seriously.
Leigh couldn’t join us in London – another first, being separated from Daddy for so long – so on Tuesday evening Arthur was looked after by my parents. I filled him up on breast milk before I left, knowing that he was unlikely to take much water let alone milk from his cup, and made sure they were preparing a dinner he would like (mild Thai curry with lots of veg and rice seems to be his current favourite). He sat with my mum as she began to make the dinner and I made myself presentable, and then trying not to turn it into too much of a drama I slipped out into the streets, alone.
It was a bit odd. I felt very light on my feet without my usual accessory strapped to my front, and I noticed rather more of the world around me. I read over my chosen extract from my novel on the tube journey – I hadn’t had much time to practise, and my run through the previous evening had been punctuated by Arthur’s cries. Any pangs of missing him were soon overcome by nervousness and excitement, and when I got there the pleasure of catching up with friends over a drink and being just myself for a change. The evening went brilliantly, and though thoughts of whether Arthur was hungry or thirsty or had been able to go to sleep occasionally intruded I had an awesome time.
I made it back to the flat soon after eleven, about five hours after I’d left, and despite all my trepidation Arthur was of course fine. He was asleep, in fact – my mum snuggled up to him in bed. He hadn’t drunk much, but he’d eaten. And he was fine. There’d been a bit of a whimper apparently, and at one point he’d toddled purposefully towards the door, but all in all they’d had a lovely evening too. I swapped places with my mum, Arthur had a sleepy feed without even really waking up, then rolled away and slept better than he has done in ages.
He was most definitely pleased to see me in the morning, snuggling up and being even more super cute than usual. But we had both survived our first proper separation.
I’d genuinely been worried that with our very attached approach to parenting it was going to be a real wrench for Arthur to be without us, even just for one evening. So I was definitely relieved to find that in fact he is secure enough to cope. I’m not in any massive rush to make a habit of going out on my own, but it’s strangely liberating to know I can if I want to. I expected a part of me to be sad – sad that my baby is taking little steps towards independence, that he doesn’t need me quite as intensely as he once did. But I suppose by waiting I was finally ready for that separation too – to take my own steps towards the new person I am becoming since he made me a mum.
Thanks to Jocelyn at The Reading Residence for the brilliant Word of the Week linky.