Like most of the 500 mums and handful of dads attending the BritMums Live blogging conference this weekend, I found doing something out of the usual routine pretty damn special. As a consequence, I am experiencing a come-down of Glastonbury-esque proportions.
Perhaps the air at BritMums had a special quality to it, or maybe it is just the nature of any collective experience, but I suspect that few of us were unmoved or unchanged by the things we heard this weekend . I love how just the right blend of adrenaline, inspiration, insight, empathy and empowerment can weave the kind of magic that can turn a simple conference room into a crucible. Alchemy at its finest. Mothers, among the most unheard, unexpressed, economically frustrated groups in the world, are beginning to respect themselves, shedding layers of guilt, self-depreciation and anxiety about ‘getting it wrong’. Revolutions are rarely this quiet, but in the shared tears and laughter of recognition during sessions and keynotes, BritMums Live felt like more than just a conference to me. It is a truly exciting time to be a writer, and a mother.
When I got home last night, it was to an empty house as the husband, the Teenage-Songbird and the 6-year-old Biscuit-Thief were still out. It was strange entering a completely darkened space, shutting the door on a noisy London street and climbing our stairs into unfamiliar silence. I was greeted by an abandoned pile of laundry in the shape of a lioness, desolate cups and plates piled high in the kitchen sink, a scrapyard of crockery. A window left ajar let in a cool, evening breeze and the blinds tapped out eerie morse code against the wall.
Our home, the heart of us; tapping and ticking, both empty and expectant.
The family cat circled my legs, demanding either food or love (I’m never sure which, and often get it wrong). I was not yet ready for noise or light so I ran the hot tap to fill a bath, and sat in the semi-darkness. I need more of this, I thought to myself. More solitary time. Not all the time. But just some of the time. Decompression. Each day is stretched to the edges of itself, there is always something more that needs to be done even though I am one of the lucky ones. Even in sleep, time is spent unravelling complexities; my children, my marriage, my work, my life and what the hell it’s supposed to look like.
Lying in the warm bath, the silence meant that I could hear my heart for the first time in years. I had almost forgotten how it feels to actually BE HERE. Just, here.
How many of us skate above life, keeping going and keeping going, until all we have time to know is the surface of things? The more I heard my heart, the more I knew I would have to let the thing happen, the thing I always deny. The thing that is always in the corner of my mind, threatening to climb aboard my raft and sink it. The thing is surrender; surrender to the imperfection of it all, to the inevitability that they will grow and they will leave, and that you can’t fix it all for them; surrender to the fact that it is joyous and also painful to mother.
Last night I surrendered to the fact that I am Just. Bloody. Knackered.
I allowed fifteen years worth of tiredness to pull me in, all syrup and quicksand, and on a current of restless dreams, I gave in to the Mother of all Sleeps.