Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson


On a night away from the baby, you take the rough with the smooth

Last week, Robyn Wilder spent a night alone in a hotel for work. Reality doesn't always live up to expectations, she discovered

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By Robyn Wilder on

I don’t normally look forward to Monday nights. Monday nights at our house are generally slightly weary affairs, where my husband and I repeatedly weigh up whether we’d rather see how Killing Eve ends or pack it all in and go to bed at 7pm.

But last Monday was different. Last Monday, I wasn’t at home. I had travelled up to Cheltenham for A Work Thing and, more importantly, I was staying in a hotel. A very nice hotel. Alone.

I cannot tell you how much I was looking forward to this. One whole night with no kids to wrestle into bed; no baby to knee me in the stomach all night; no husband to tell me the next morning, lovingly but lyrically and at length, how my snoring had driven him from the marital bed in the early hours, and precisely which industrial vehicles it brought to mind.

It would just be me, an appropriately dark room, and a king-sized bed. And I’m afraid I prepared far more thoroughly for my hotel stay than for my Work Thing. This was the plan.

Following my Work Thing, which was in the evening, I would have a glass of wine sent up to my room. Then I would soak in an enormous bubble bath (I only believe in baths when I haven’t had to clean them myself beforehand), sipping my wine and reading my husband’s increasingly panicky texts about solo parenting with no little schadenfreude. Then I’d order my room-service breakfast, safe in the knowledge that no tiny hands would spill my pot of coffee or nick my pastries. Finally, I would starfish in my bed, read my book and fall asleep whenever I damn pleased. It was going to be epic.

However. My Work Thing ended later than I’d anticipated, by which time I wasn’t really in the mood for wine, because it was midnight and nowadays my idea of living it up is having a coffee after 2pm. Then, I discovered that my room didn’t have a bath – just a rain shower. I know what you’re thinking: “Gosh, Robyn, you’re so courageous to withstand such hardship. Whatever did you do next?” Well, I’ll tell you. I decided to skip straight to the starfishing-in-bed part. But when I whipped off my bra I made the most alarming discovery of all.

My husband sent photos of the the kids doing cheesy thumbs-up, which made even more milk come Vesuvius-ing up out of my sore boobs

My breasts, readers, were not my breasts. They were gigantic, rock-hard sources of pain; swollen up with engorgement. This was my first night ever away from my combination-fed, co-sleeping one-year-old. I’d assumed I’d be fine, but my son had spent the previous night solidly on the boob until dawn, ramping up my supply of breastmilk. And here was all of it, backed up in the ducts of my aching mammaries, and leaking down my front. And I hadn’t thought to bring a breast pump.

So, instead of enjoying the righteous slumber of the off-duty parent, I spent the entire night alternating between (at the risk of sounding like a niche letter to Playboy Magazine) massaging my massive throbbing boobs in the rain shower and expressing milk into towel after towel (apologies to the hotel’s laundry department), popping Ibuprofen and watching two-star Netflix romcoms to pass the time.

Inasmuch as this might seem like a complaint, it isn’t. Because did you read what I wrote? I GOT TO HAVE A SHOWER! ON MY OWN! For more than five minutes, while hoping that the kids didn’t kill each other in the other room! And, God, do you KNOW the last time I was able to watch a movie – regardless of its genre or star-rating – uninterrupted? Or lounge on a bed without being bodyslammed by a child? No, I didn’t get much sleep, but then I rarely do. Yes, my engorgement was horribly painful, but all in all it seemed a small price to pay for a night away alone.

I didn’t even mind when my husband’s texts, instead of expressing distress, said things like, “Solo parenting is a piece of piss!” and, “The kids are asleep and I’m having such a lovely restful evening!” or when he sent photos of the kids doing cheesy thumbs-up, which made even more milk come Vesuvius-ing up out of my sore boobs.

Because – you may have already realised this, but for me it took becoming a mum – you really have to take the rough with the smooth. Yes, I had a rough night. But it was a rough night in a nice bed, and it ended with a ton of croissants in that same bed. Yes, I had to spend half the night in a shower, but at least it was a nice shower with decent pressure. And, yes, my boobs got painfully engorged, but for all my planning my first night away from the baby was always going to be problematic in some way. I didn’t have a rest so much as a change from parenting. And sometimes a change is as good as a holiday.

I’d still quite like a holiday, mind.


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Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson
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