Work has taken me over. Between Land of Dreams going through its final polish, beginning work on my new novel, honoring newspaper and blog commitments – I seem to be on the computer or phone more 24/7.
“Mu-huum!” my eleven year old son Leo sobs, as he stands in front of me stamping his feet, “ I've already asked you – A THOUSAND TIMES!”
“I’m on the PHONE!” I roar at him in a stage whisper – ashamed to sound like an angry parent to the editor on the line.
Writing was supposed to be a family-friendly career choice.
Except it’s not a choice – or even a career – writing novels in a vocation. Some call it an addiction – it’s certainly a slight sign of madness.
But then, so is motherhood – and sometimes, often, the two roles compete and collide.
My husband Niall looks permanently irritated as what remains of our already meagre family time is interrupted by yet another phone call. Because we both work from home, I fool myself into thinking that we have more quality family time than most families because we are always together in the house. But I have come to realize of late that the opposite is true. While all four of us are physically present in the same place, it’s probably for that very reason that we give each other scant attention.
I actually found myself boasting to a friend of mine that Tom already considers the talking pig Olivia who comes on Baby TV every morning at half eight, his favorite program.
She was suitably horrified and I thought it’s time for some family time out.
So I booked a hotel for a weekend away.
One of the reasons we never go on holiday is that we live in such a beautiful place. Honestly, we have a sea view – and there is no hotel I have ever been to that has as impressive a vista or is as well equipped with what we need than our own house. I always scan the web for some beautifully placed, family hotel that won’t cost the price of three weeks in the Caribbean, but while I see myself as a Historic Country retreat or quirky Boutique Hotel type person, we always end up in a Radisson. Radisson hotels have a peculiarly suburban atmosphere. The décor is always beige with a splash of something predictable, the furniture functional and solid – they are clean but there are no surprises, no artwork collections or outstanding cuisine to challenge you. They aren’t cheap, but they aren’t prohibitively expensive – which is a good thing for a person like me who hates spending money on somebody else’s roof over my head when I have a perfectly good roof of my own. I always have to curb the constant temptation to insist that everybody smiles all weekend because “Mummy is spending a lot of money” on this. As mother of a toddler I figure it’s worth paying good money for the Tomminator to get sick on somebody else’s carpet and dribble on somebody else’s upholstery for a change.
Tom is zooming around like a rocket 24/7 and we’ve have done nothing to prepare for the carnage of a toddler. Our main living area is still strewn with cables, and piles of important papers stacked on the floor, and drifts of dog hair and all sorts of small, sharp non-edibles that a small child might – and does - want to shove in their mouths. The Executive Suite at the Radisson had no such complications. Tommo leapt out of my arms, wriggled out of his trousers and ran around at high speed, falling over on more than one occasion and developing carpet burn on his knees within an hour. I unpacked our “emergency” snacks and put them in the mini-bar issuing the usual warning that nobody was to touch the overpriced minerals or be tempted into packet of chilled chocolates under any circumstance. Then I surveyed my 48-hour domain. Huge bed, widescreen, tea and coffee making facilities and a Nespresso machine (impressive.) Leo, who loves hotels – precisely because he gets to stay in them so seldom - excitedly pointed out we had our own “special slippers! In a packet!”
Once I had decanted the contents of the bathroom into my case and unpacked the two enormous bags of blankets and bottles and baby accoutrements – my fingers started twitching to get the laptop out and check my e-mails. I wasn't going to bring the computer with me but well? I did.
“Let’s go for a swim Mum,” Leo cried, “when can we go for a swim? Can we go for a swim now – plee-ease?”
“In a minute babe, I’ll just check my….”
One weekend of my life - what was I thinking?
We went for a swim, and Leo complained because I used the Jacuzzi, ignoring a big sign he pointed out that said; “All children under 16 must be accompanied by adults at all times.” “I nearly DROWNED,” he said tearfully as we padded back up to our room, tripping over our special slippers.
We ate in the bar and too frugal to pay for pudding I made Niall drive to the village to get us ice creams to eat in our room.
I was in bed by ten and slept for ten hours straight for the first time in over a year.