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Sunday, 11 March 2007

There's no such thing as a guilt-free lunch

I shocked myself with my response when the girl asked me when the last time was that I had had one whole day to myself, for myself: "Nearly six years ago." This weekend I spent one whole day without children OR work; without chores OR a business agenda. I went for a 'spa day' at Addington Palace with some of my best supermum pals. The day involved lounging around in little more than a dressing gown, being served tea and coffee, flopping in and out of the sauna and 'floatation tank' (a new experience for all of us) and generally being pampered (facials, massages, manicures etc), ending with dinner out at a wonderful restaurant. The universal rules of working motherhood were never in stronger focus. We all found it exceedingly difficult to relax. In fact, we all found it difficult simply to SIT STILL. We all felt we ought to be doing something. We all felt the tug of the invisible umbilical chord with our kids; wondered what they were doing, how they were doing and worried that some terrible accident would befall them while we were away. We all felt GUILTY. It just seemed wrong to be doing something so self-indulgent, to be away, enjoying ourselves with no more excuse than a feeble, "We really deserve a rest." In the end though, we had the most fabulous time. The sheer luxury of spending a day with no responsibilities, no reason to move except to pick up another magazine or to go for a massage overcame our guilt (almost). By the end of the day we were strangely exhausted. The lady who had organised our day told us that this was normal for the working mums to whom she so frequently plays host. "It's because you just keep going and going,", she explained. "When you finally stop you just run out of energy." Driving home, I felt in one sense as if I wished the day would never end. I turned up the car stereo and drove a longer route home just to spend a little more time alone before rejoining the home scene. But when 6 month old Ava woke towards midnight for a feed and I felt her warm body curled up in my arms, I knew this was still the best place to be in the world.

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