Reader, I bid you good morrow from my work desk. As you can see, it is cluttered and covered in sandwich crumbs, but you know what’s not on it? A single toy. And listen to my insufferably edgy indie playlist – what can you hear? Exactly zero farm animals, that’s what, and absolutely no instances of Justin Fletcher shouting the word, “Wahey!” Isn’t it peaceful? Isn’t it amazing?
When I was younger, and colleagues with children would wax lyrical about enjoying “time to themselves” and “coffees that are still hot”, I’d gawp at them, perplexed, because what could possibly be worse than being at work? Now I get it. I am back at work after two weeks without childcare and it is bliss.
Don’t get me wrong – I had a brilliant Christmas. I caught up with friends, ate my own weight in stuffing and really enjoyed all the leisure time I spent with my family. It was so nice just to hang out, outside of the grind of our daily routines of work and childcare (even though my husband and I had to do a little work here and there).
We went out every day of the Christmas holiday. To friends’ houses; to a petting zoo; tramping around a local lake; to the beach (twice); to a local woodland, where we saw Highland cattle and wild ponies. It was joyous and life-affirming. It was also totally exhausting and absolutely fucking vital to our sanity, because without the structure of work and childcare, my kids were pinging off the walls from 5am till bedtime.
So, really, the only solution was to bundle everyone up and go out first thing, then stay out until the sky darkened and the kids started rubbing their eyes. And, while it was a great deal of fun sitting on a sea wall and sharing a fresh parcel of chip-shop chips with my children, there was a part of me that longed to be devolving on the sofa in front of a Christmas special, with a lap full of liqueur chocolates.
Going out every day of the Christmas holiday was absolutely fucking vital to our sanity, because my kids were pinging off the walls from 5am till bedtime
Plus, every time I checked social media (which is, at the risk of removing a layer of personal mystique, whenever I was on the loo), there was always someone complaining (complaining!) about the boredom (boredom!) of “Twixtmas”. “What day is it lol” someone tweeted and I had to physically stop myself replying, “I KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS BECAUSE I’VE BEEN OBSESSIVELY CHECKING PARENTS’ GROUPS AND THERE AREN’T ANY KIDS’ ACTIVITIES ON FOR SEVEN WHOLE DAYS.” Another person “didn’t know” how they were going to read all the books they got at Christmas, which almost made me cry, because I have two small children – what is a book? And when someone complained that there was nothing on TV, I lost all hope, because there was something on TV and that something was Baby Shark.
The final nail in my festive coffin was reading this piece about using Twixtmas as a period of rest and recuperation by the writer Rebecca Schiller. Now, Rebecca is a friend of mine and for a moment her piece felt like a betrayal. “You have two kids, too!” I raged for a moment, internally. “How can you be writing about using this time to slow down when all I’m doing is putting out adorable but constant tiny fires?”
Then I realised something: Rebecca’s kids are older than mine. Old enough to sit quietly with a book, or grab themselves a drink, or be left alone in their rooms for half an hour without risk to life and limb. I frequently forget, because I am only three years into parenting, that this intense bit – where the kids are small and the parents are constantly run ragged – will pass.
Maybe next year, I can rest and regroup over Christmas, too. Maybe next year, my children won’t react to me entering a room by dribbling on my shoulder, demanding that I somehow narrate their interpretive dance routines or shoving a tiny cold hand down my top. Maybe by then my kids will be content to play quietly with their stocking toys for a tranquil five minutes while I put my feet up in front of Doctor Who and enjoy an ageing mince pie.
Until then, I shall enjoy the relative peace of my working hours. Or how I have been sitting for five whole sequential minutes without once having to wipe a nose, bum or spillage. And the fact, of course, that my coffee is still hot.