It’s long since dark outside. The lights are low. The streets are empty. The house is finally quiet. I have walked the floors for hours with you on my shoulder. Now you are finally asleep and miraculously in your own little cot. Your big brother and sister have been safe in the land of nod for a while now and they will wake with the rising of the sun. Your daddy has an early start in the morning so he is long since asleep also. Now is my time to rest. Now is the time I should lay down and close my eyes and refresh my own tired and weary body, my exhausted mind and my bloodshot eyes. The clock on the wall tells me that it is nearly midnight. Nearly the witching hour. Most people would go to bed now. Most people would see the need for sleep as a priority. Not me. Now that everyone is quiet, now that I am alone, now that there is no sound except for your soft breathing from the cot in the corner I finally have time to draw breath. I finally have a chance to look in the mirror and see someone other than a wife and a mother. I finally have a chance to see me. The real me. The one that only surfaces at this time of night when the house is finally asleep.
For this is my time. The only part of the day where I get to focus on something other than everybody else’s needs. Despite the late hour, despite my deep exhaustion, I need this time. I need this space and this peace. It is precious, underestimated and so so important for my sense of self, my identity and my disposition. All day long I cuddle, carry, feed, clean, tidy and play. Oh, and work too. I am chief entertainment officer, teacher extraordinaire, imaginative chef, referee, coach, nutritionist and employee to name but a few hats I wear. My arms feel strangely empty without you safely wrapped up in them. But now they ache to hold a book, a cup of tea, an iPad. No matter if it’s three in the afternoon or three in the morning when you finally give in to sleep I will take an hour of my own before I succumb to the sand man myself. This is my time. Here I will connect with the outside world. Here, I will watch some mindless television programme or lose myself in a good book. I will wrap my hands around a hot mug and maybe munch on some forbidden chocolate that has been hidden away from tiny hands.
I know in a matter of hours I will be awakened by someone needing a cuddle and some love. That’s ok. I know in a matter of hours someone will be hungry, thirsty or ready to play. That’s ok too. I will be more able to give you my full self if I have this time now to remember who that self is. If I lose myself entirely, if I get swallowed up in the mechanics of mothering while you are all so young, I will have nothing to offer you when you are grown as I will have got lost along the way. So don’t judge me for staying up late. Don’t shake your head at me when I’m yawning during the afternoon. Don’t tell me to go to bed early. I need this time. I need the peace, the headspace. For this, this is my time.