We went out the other day to Milton Keynes city centre, just me and Tom. Without children. Not even a nappy change bag.
It was totally bizarre and quite a bit more uncomfortable than I expected. Probably not in the same way most parents feel when they are free and relaxed for the hours that somebody else is looking after the kids and they’re not at work. They get a few precious hours to themselves to go out shopping or for lunch with their partner and they relish in the parenting leash being cut temporarily.
Don’t get me wrong, I had all those thoughts too. Being able to sip a drink without having to share it with a four year old, and not having to locate the next bribery snack to keep younger child in the pushchair without screaming too loudly. My problem is, you see, that my children are quite cute. They’re quite funny too. They help to deflect attention off me and onto them, so when they aren’t there with me, I feel a sudden increase in attention in the form of gawping and I don’t know what to do with that. My child-shaped shield was not there.
The other issue was that I didn’t know what purpose I served in a shopping centre, childless. Was I supposed to look at grown up clothes and breakable objects in busy department stores? I kept expected to have to tell someone to come out from under the clothes rails and stand nicely. But Tom was just behaving nicely. He was as obedient as most 32 year old men and he didn’t need to go for a wee every 13 minutes. I had no one to monitor. I ended up dragging Tom into the children’s department to look at overpriced carseats where we quickly learnt what our budget for Amélie’s next carseat was not. We moved on to squishing the cross-sectioned cot mattresses on display (also overpriced incase you were wondering) because it looked like fun. We then left the children’s department incase people thought I had escaped from my group and that Tom had come to escort me back to safety.
I seriously felt totally unemployed in a completely family-filled public arena. I wanted to go up to other mums with children and say enthusiastically, “I’ve got one of those too, you know”.
Don’t worry, I didn’t.