Motherhood guilt & gazing at stars
“But why Mummy, why?”
OVER the last week I’ve been really busy and spent not one, but two nights away from home.
One to see Kylie, who was as brilliant as you’d expect. The other to go on a swanky press trip where I was wined, dined and generally spoilt rotten.
Both occasions were pretty damn fabulous but yet both of them left me feeling a little out of kilter and also incredibly sad, as I said goodbye to Elsie to go of on my short travels. Both occasions left me wondering if I was doing the right thing to leave her for a while.
To prepare her, I explained where I was going and told her that although I wouldn’t see her at bedtime or in the morning, Daddy or Grandma would. The understanding part was easy, she got it. She’s a clever girl and she understood. But it was her response which broke my heart and made me bite my lip to stop the tears springing in my eyes.
Knowing that Mummy wouldn’t be there for a while had made her sad. Yes she grasped what I had told her but her sadness and disappointment was there for me to see as clear as day. Her little face crinkled and then came the dreaded question, “but why Mummy, why?”
How can you explain to a two year old that having a night watching Kylie and drinking marvellous alcoholic concoctions with one of your dearest friends is something you just need to do for yourself? That it’s a treat. That Mummy needs to have some fun too, without her, from time to time.
How do you explain to your young daughter who just wants her Mummy by her side that the press trip is work, ridiculously amazing work granted, but work all the same? That I do it not just for the money but because I genuinely love what I do. That working, writing, being creative is as much a part of me as the hair on on my head.
You can’t of course.
As bright as she may be, she’s just two years of age and like all toddlers Elsie needs simple terms. Unlike her bright, colourful toys, she still sees life in black and white. As right or wrong.
I can’t explain to her why I need to work or spend a night away from home for fun, because to her it just doesn’t make sense. To her, I am her Mama, her world, her constant. And I’m leaving her, albeit temporarily.
As I said goodbye on Tuesday and watched the disappointment appear on her face yet again, I felt a huge pang of guilt and I instantly regretted my decision to leave her.
At the press trip I was fine. I mingled, happily nattered with other guests and had a really incredible time but as I sampled gin, devoured heavenly morsels of food and chuckled along to people’s fascinating stories and jokes, Elsie was always in the back of mind.
She was fine of course. Her Grandma and Daddy did a sterling job of looking after her, but when I picked her up the next day and saw how pale and grumpy she was because she hadn’t slept well the night before, I felt dreadful. Awful in fact.
And when my husband told me how she’d cried in the morning because I wasn’t there, I could have wept a little too.
Since coming home, I’ve made an extra effort to give her more of my undivided attention and have smothered her with affection. She’s happy to hear that Mummy isn’t going away for a while yet and is loving the time we are spending together.
She keeps telling me: “I love you Mummy, soooo much” and every time she says it I grab her, kiss her and squeeze her a little tighter.
Yesterday morning, after another night of disrupted sleep, Elsie decided to wake at 5.15am. As we lay in bed together as a family (our morning ritual and my favourite time of the day) I glanced towards the window and noticed that the stars were still out, shining brightly.
I carried Elsie to the window so she could see them and as we stood watching them twinkle down on us, I was filled with a great sense of peace. Of belonging. Of being in the most perfect place at the most perfect time.
When the sun rose and dawn came, it dawned on me, that my need to see and experience more of the world is not as important to me right now as being Elsie’s world.
Yes there will be other times in the near future when I will be away from home again, be it for work or for pleasure, but for the time being I’m very happy to be at home. Where I belong.
I want to put my girl to bed, tucking her in tightly with a kiss and I want to be woken up at the crack of dawn by her sweet voice. This is what matters most to me. Right now, at this stage in my life.
For now, the world can wait a little.
All I want to do is to gaze at the stars with my daughter in my arms and tell her how much I love her too.