x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A little me time, a big struggle

Karen Franklin: I am an uncaring, unloving and heartless mother. I abandoned my helpless baby boy with a stranger.

Mothers crave time away from their children but when it happens, often find they just want to be back with the kids again.
Mothers crave time away from their children but when it happens, often find they just want to be back with the kids again.

I am an uncaring, unloving and heartless mother. I abandoned my helpless baby boy with a stranger. Well, not quite. But that's what it felt like at the time. Finally, I dared to leave Charlie in the care of someone other than a family member. Freedom beckoned and I urgently needed an escape for the afternoon - to a place of peace, rest and solace: the local nail salon.

My newly employed cleaning lady had been appointed specifically because of her experience of looking after babies. She started to work for me last week and by her second day I started to get twitchy and plan my personal exit route at every opportunity. It is 22 weeks since I delivered my little one in the Corniche Hospital, and it's been rather like one long daydream. I've whiled away numerous hours, milk bottle in hand, fantasising about an array of child-free activities. And there in my living room, in the form of a lovely lady, was my saving grace.

I convinced myself that it would be perfectly fine to leave Charlie in her capable hands. After all, he had smiled at her the minute she walked through the door. Mind you, as my husband pointed out unhelpfully, Charlie's a friendly kid. He grins at anybody who glances in his direction. I chose to ignore my husband's comments. Mother knows best, and my housekeeper instilled a feeling of trust in me - which seemed to deepen every time I looked at my chipped nail polish.

So, with my appointment booked, I headed for the front door and turned to give Charlie a goodbye kiss. I found myself clinging to him like Kate Winslet clutching on to the raft at the end of Titanic. I closed the door behind me feeling like my heart had been wrenched out. I blame Mother Nature. My pedicure was totally wasted as I sat, feet in basin, fretting about my son's well-being. Of course, when I returned Charlie had barely even noticed my absence. Typical.

This all-consuming mother and child bond is well and good when you want a little pre-bedtime snuggle, but what about when you want a bit of me time? It's a never ending emotional battle - which I am determined to win. With that in mind, I arranged another child-free activity. This time I went for the biggie. A full day of shopping and lunch in Dubai. Oh heaven. But as I drove down the road heading out of Abu Dhabi, I felt as if my right arm was missing. I kept looking in the back of the car for his little car seat. However, when I reached the Mall of the Emirates and saw the Dubai Shopping Festival signs, it helped to ease my pain somewhat.

Several other mothers have warned me that as a mum you spend countless hours craving time away from your kids and then, on those rare occasions when it happens, you just want to be back with them again. I have one good friend whose tears started to tumble a full month before her son was due to fly abroad for his first school trip. She confessed that she cried every time she looked at the calendar.

I know what she means. I keep looking at the calendar, too, but the emotion I feel is not of dread. Funny that. The next shopping trip is six weeks on Saturday.