petite anglaise

June 29, 2005

part-time mummy

Filed under: parting ways, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 3:07 pm

I know I probably shouldn’t write this out loud, but I’m rather enjoying the prospect of becoming a part-time mummy.

Since Tadpole was born, two years ago, my life has been a relentless whirlwind of activity: caring for baby/toddler, delivering her to childminder’s flat, dashing to work, working, and then the same drill, in reverse, at the end of the day. My evenings began at 8.30pm, when Tadpole went to bed, but these were spent caged in our apartment, resentfully waiting for Mr Frog to put in an appearance. Hence my rich virtual life, which filled the gaping void in my offline world.

I can count the number of evenings where Mr Frog was able to relieve me of my duties, allowing me to go out and meet friends for dinner, or attend a blogmeet or whatever it might be, on the fingers of two hands. On those occasions where I did manage to escape for a few hours, I invariably arrived late and frazzled, in a hastily ordered taxi, because Mr Babysitter rarely arrived at the appointed hour.

So, castigate me for being a bad mummy if you will, but I confess I am looking forward to having a social life on the evenings when Mr Frog will pick up Tadpole from the childminder’s and she will spend the whole night at daddy’s house. The very idea of being able to go out for a drink after work, on a whim, meet friends, or even just do a spot of improvised late night shopping, once a week thrills me. Separation, it would seem, has its advantages.

Then there are the alternate weekends… Not only will I no longer have to wend my reluctant way to pay a duty visit to the in-laws every couple of months, but I will now have entire child-free weekends at my disposal. Weekends where I won’t have to get out of bed at all until I’m good and ready. Weekends where I can hop on a train, with an overnight bag, and fall into my lover’s waiting arms. Space to breathe, the luxury of time to recharge my batteries. Time off, during which I sometimes allow myself to forget, albeit briefly, that I ever became a mother. An illicit pleasure, only slightly diluted by vague pangs of guilt that I shouldn’t really feel this way. But I do, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Secure in the knowledge that she is in the safest hands after my own, and confident that she is happy spending one on one time with her daddy, my conscience is clear. I miss Tadpole, when we are apart, but I appreciate her tenfold when we are reunited.

I’m tempted to speculate that as a part-timer, I may even make a better mummy.

June 28, 2005

advice

Filed under: navel gazing — petiteanglaise @ 11:27 am

Over the past month my inbox has been groaning under a torrent of messages, from the caring and supportive to the damning and judgemental, with every shade in between. The comments box is only the tip of the iceberg. I have read more well-intentioned advice than I know what to do with.

Everybody sees a situation like mine in a different light, depending on what life has thrown at them; what kind of baggage they have picked up on the way. Sometimes the subject makes people distinctly uncomfortable: one friend I confided in seemed to find it impossible to talk about the breakdown of my relationship with Mr Frog without casting a slightly anxious eye over his own situation, almost squirming in his seat.

When people give me an insight into their own, similar, experiences, I have to tell myself to bear in mind that what worked for someone else, while it often makes interesting reading, can never be wholly relevant to what is happening in my life. Every situation is unique.

I’m not complaining. After all, when someone takes the time to type a long email to a person they have never met, it shows that they care enough to volunteer a point of view, write some kind words, or share their own, sometimes painful, experiences. I am very grateful for this, but endeavour all the same to take whatever is offered with a pinch of salt.

There are those who believe I should have “worked harder” to save my relationship with Mr Frog. Those who caution me against throwing myself headlong into a new relationship so soon, and advocate some time alone first, to adjust to the new status quo. To help Tadpole adjust. Those who are pessimistic, predicting that once the first flush of infatuation wears off, I will realise that I have made a terrible mistake. Those who advise me to keep Tadpole separate from the new adventure I am embarking on, for months, or even years. Those who feel the need to admonish me for having even contemplated leaving Tadpole’s father in the first place to selfishly pursue my own happiness. How dare I put myself first? What kind of a mother am I?

I reserve the right to put my hands over my ears like a child and chant loudly so that I can’t hear any of these words. I reserve the right to listen to my heart, and follow its lead, wherever it may take me.

Am I being selfish? Self-centred? Probably. I feel sure that I am doing what is best for everyone involved, but then I would, wouldn’t I? I wonder whether anyone can ever really be objective about their own motivations? Don’t we all feel tempted to tweak reality to fit in with our long term goals? To persuade ourselves that what we are doing is ultimately for the best?

All I know is this: I love, and I am loved. More deeply, on more levels, than I ever believed possible. I don’t really subscribe to notions like fate, or divine intervention, but I do marvel every day at the fact that I ever crossed paths with this person. I’ve found something, someone I didn’t even know I was waiting for, until now. I want to surrender myself to this feeling, to him, completely.

So don’t ask me to wait. Or take a break, and revisit this a few months down the line. It’s simply not an option for me. For us. I’m no fool, and I will force myself to tread carefully for the sake of my daughter’s well being. She is, and always will be, at the centre of my universe. Mr Frog will remain an important figure in my life too, both for Tadpole’s sake, and because I value him as a friend. But while I’m waiting, impatiently, for the next phase of my life to begin, taking small, measured steps towards it, I reserve the right to hug myself gleefully every time I think of the gorgeous things that my future holds. To laugh to myself in the metro. To smile at my monitor when I receive mail.

No dark cloud can leave a shadow on this.

June 27, 2005

crash

Filed under: parting ways — petiteanglaise @ 4:23 pm

It’s over.

On Sunday morning, Mr Frog gathered the last of his belongings and ceremoniously handed me his set of keys. After five weeks of tiptoeing gingerly around each other’s feelings, occasionally barking harsh words we didn’t even mean, only to retract them, sheepishly, a few minutes later, we have finally found our way out of this strange limbo we have been inhabiting for too long. No longer on the verge of separating, we’ve actually gone through with it.

I introduced myself to the concierge of his apartment building this morning, on my way to collect Tadpole, as “the mother of Mr Frog’s child”. I didn’t know what else to call myself, not having got as far as rehearsing that yet.

The past week is a blur: a frenzy of packing, sorting, cleaning Mr Frog’s new place while Tadpole pottered contentedly by my side, shopping for things to replace those Mr Frog would be taking. Baking quiche at midnight on Friday for the bloggers picnic. Seeing my lover for a few precious hours on Sunday, while Tadpole spent her first night in her new bedroom across the road.

Today my runaway adrenaline levels have finally flatlined. I’m shattered. Exhausted.

I would gladly sell my soul to the highest bidder in return for a couple of days of uninterrupted sleep…

June 23, 2005

torrid

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaise @ 2:18 pm

I abhor Paris in the summertime.

As soon as the temperatures begin to rise, my spirits correspondingly sink into my flip flops. An oppressive mantle of velvety, pollution-filled air descends on the city of light, consenting to recede, for a couple of hours only, shortly before dawn. There is only one thing worse than Paris on heat, and that is Paris on heat experienced from the unique vantage point of chez petite. My apartment, although it is packed full of original features (warped floorboards, fireplaces, a stove, bucolic scenes painted on panels and doors), is located on the fifth floor, beyond the reach of the shade giving trees which line our avenue, and has only south-facing windows.

The highest temperature ever recorded inside the flat was 40°C. This was in Tadpole’s bedroom, when she was a mere three months old, and the time was 11.30 pm. I did not enjoy her first summer one little bit. My not-so-fond memories of the 2003 canicule involve a scantily clad, half-crazed-with-cabin-fever petite sitting in semi-darkness, shutters firmly closed, windows only opened between the hours of 4 am and 9 am, engaged in one of two activities: DVD watching, or breastfeeding.

This week, with temperatures soaring into the lower 30’s, it has been increasingly difficult to get a decent night’s sleep. The conundrum is this: sleep with the windows open, and resign self to being woken up periodically by the clamour of traffic on the busy thoroughfare below (because not only do the windows face south, but also onto the street), or opt for double-glazed peace and quiet, and resign self to slow death by poaching. Possibly with a whirring fan for company, which manages to do little other than stir the sultry air round and round. Noisily.

And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, try adding the high pitched whine of an elusive mosquito with a voracious appetite into the mix. I can’t find a plug in mosquito repellent device for love nor money – the local shops helpfully stock only refills for people who didn’t leave their plug in apparatus in a hotel room in Mauritius or a gîte in Morbihan. Petite, nul points, Vampiric invisible mosquito, six points.

And quite how I managed to get bitten there, I will never know.

June 22, 2005

cravings

Filed under: mills & boon — petiteanglaise @ 12:17 pm

Tadpole and I went away last weekend.

I love travelling with my daughter. Her excitement about going in a “taxi car” or a “metro trenn”, let alone a “choo choo trenn” or a “plenn” is deliciously infectious. The most mundane trip is transformed into an intrepid adventure in her company. For a few hours I see the world through Tadpole eyes, noticing details – people, smells, noises – that I would otherwise miss, floating around Paris as I do in an Ipod cocoon, my head filled with daydreams.

Once we are safely ensconced in our seats and the journey begins, we draw pictures together. And read stories. I bend countless times to retrieve errant crayons from under our seats. We watch the world speed by outside the window, paying special attention to Tadpole’s current Favourite Things: sheep, lorries and tractors. Sinful snacks are gleefully consumed. Tadpole particularly likes sharing Kit Kats – one bite for mummy, one bite for Tadpole – culminating in a gloriously messy chocolate kiss. Sometimes I find that the memories of the journey itself are among those I will treasure most after a weekend away.

When we reach our destination, we are greeted by “mummy’s friend” and his children, who are also staying for the weekend. The butterflies which have been fluttering anxiously around in my tummy as I gather our bags together cease their frantic activity the moment we step down onto the platform and and see them waiting, hands linked. We say our bashful hellos, and I concentrate on suppressing an overwhelming urge to throw myself into his arms.

Not yet. Not in front of the children.

As our little party sets off, I marvel at how pushing Tadpole through the streets of the town where he lives feels like the most natural thing in the world. As if I’d already been there and done it a thousand times before.

The rest of the day is a happy blur of icy sea, scalding sand and the scent of sunscreen. I sneak covert, sidelong glances at my lover while he drives, the children napping in the back seat of the car. I love every single moment of our time en famille. But I’m also counting the seconds, yearning for the moment when the children will go to bed, so that, at long last, we can be alone.

Bliss.

June 21, 2005

new home

Filed under: parting ways — petiteanglaise @ 12:11 am

Tadpole and I visited Mr Frog’s new apartment today.

We filed quietly across the road. I was feeling drained from a combination of a busy day at work, the oppressive, fetid heat of the metro carriage home, and my foray into the supermarket with Tadpole to fill our empty fridge with provisions for the week ahead.

I waded sluggishly through the dense evening air. Tadpole, who had refused to be parted from her water beaker and Dora the Explorer doll, attempted to wriggle her way out of my vice-like grip at the pedestrian crossing. I fought the temptation to snap at her, because this situation needed to be handled carefully, regardless of frayed tempers, weather conditions, and my gnawing apprehension about how I would feel when I actually saw Mr Frog’s new home. Would I feel a stab of pain, or regret, I wondered, once confronted with the tangible reality of the situation? In a way, it would be a relief to feel something. Anything at all. Up to this point I have only been aware of vague sense of guilt. Guilt at my own lack of a ‘proper’ emotional response to what are supposed to be momentous events in our lives.

Mr Frog lead the way, striding ahead with a carton of assorted bric a brac that I was quite glad to be seeing the back of. I joked that I hoped he had remembered to take the electronic stapler. He laughed and whistled an upbeat tune as he walked.

Odd. When I played out this scene in my head last night before drifting off into a clammy sleep, I imagined this first visit would be a solemn, sobering occasion. So far, not so.

Along the way we explained to Tadpole that daddy would be living in a new flat soon. Mummy and daddy would each have their own homes, and Tadpole would would now have two. Sometimes she would stay with mummy, other times with daddy. She was to have her own bed and toys at daddy’s house too.

She nodded, smiled and proclaimed triumphantly “[Tadpole], elle a deux bedrooms!”, which we took to mean that she had understood perfectly. We didn’t complicate matters with hows and whys for the time being. It simply didn’t feel necessary.

As she raced around the empty, echoing apartment and I dutifully admired the stunning views of the Paris skyline, I was overwhelmed with relief. Relief that I liked the place, relief that I could conceive of Mr Frog being happy there, and that I could already see Tadpole pottering happily about in the flat with him in my minds eye. But also relief that I didn’t feel a pang of jealousy or regret that this wouldn’t be my home too.

Mr Frog detailed what he planned to buy from Ikea at the weekend, and I suppressed the urge to express opinions about how he should decorate. After all, this is his space, and it needs to feel like his, not ours. It’s not easy to break the habits of eight years, but needs must and I bite my tongue.

Meanwhile, my flat (well, strictly speaking our flat, although it feels more mine with every box of Mr Frog’s belongings that crosses the threshold) is in a state of flux. Things are shifting, standing meekly by waiting for their turn to be stacked and sorted, before taking a final bow and exiting stage right to take up residence over the road.

Mr Frog himself hasn’t gone anywhere yet, as he is awaiting the arrival of kitchen appliances and successful execution of the Ikea mission. On Sunday he will relinquish his keys and spend his first night in his new home, with Tadpole by his side.

With every passing day we edge a little closer to this separation we have been discussing for the past month, expecting to feel worse than we actually do.

When we get home, I check the stationery drawer.

And note, to my amusement, that Mr Frog has left the stapler in my custody.

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