I’ve had to go abroad for work a couple of times lately. Get me. Admittedly, it’s only been for a few days at a time, but it’s still reminded me of the weird mix of emotions that come with being away from home.
On the one hand, it’s an absolute joy. Time to myself without anyone insisting I sing along to the Rescue Bots theme tune. Or peppering my body with surprisingly hard limbs. Or testing my prostate control by suddenly appearing between my legs while I’m going to the loo. I even ate several meals without having to: a) gobble my food down at the speed of sound; b) give away the best bits; or c) watch as a fellow diner smeared the contents of his plate over his own face.
But on the other hand, any period away from the boys, no matter how short, is a double-edged sword. In fact, spending time on my own these days is a bit like taking a dump in a public toilet or getting a massage from a bloke – still kind of enjoyable but nowhere near as nice as you try to pretend to yourself it might be.
Plus, as most parents probably know, you can’t stop thinking about your kids when you’re away either. Even when you try to. Like when I was in a taxi from the airport and instinctively pointed out a roadside digger to the driver. At dinner when I automatically started scanning the menu for a kids’ section. And when it felt plain wrong going to bed without having snuck in to give the boys a kiss goodnight first.
It’s irritating. But, in its own way, comforting too. As with anything that takes over your life so wholeheartedly, it’s reassuring to confirm that underneath all the ups, downs and public embarrassment of parenthood, and no matter what the kids throw at me (often literally), I actually do enjoy every minute of being a dad and miss it terribly when it’s gone, even temporarily.
So next time I feel like I want to escape to anywhere but this damn car mat, gut-wrenching nappy change or latest getting dressed battle, I’m going to recall these trips away. Remind myself that, really, there is nowhere else I’d rather be and nothing else I’d rather be doing.
Although, I have to admit, it would be nice if it all started an hour or so later every morning.
On which note, I have one last thing to add. To all the people I heard discussing their “extra hour in bed” when the clocks went back: fuck you.