x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Diary of a lonely mother

School run My children have gone to my mother-in-law's for two days of dedicated arts and crafting.

Greetings again from still grey and damp England. We fought the weather for a while, insisting on wearing little tops and shorts, but succumbed finally and bought raincoats and sweatshirts. I was hoping that in the same way a lift arrives when one gives up and takes the stairs, our wet weather shopping would provoke the sun into a serious appearance, but it didn't. Along with being cold and wet, I am also feeling lost. It's the same feeling I get when I'm on my way to the airport and am sure that I've forgotten something vital. In this case there is something missing: my children, who are as much a part of me as my own limbs. They (the kids, not my limbs) have gone to my mother-in-law's for two days of dedicated arts and crafting.

Of course when the suggestion of a two-night sleepover was mooted, I struggled to contain my excitement. While the girls chattered about plans to make their own leotards (impossible I know) my head raced with uninterrupted reading and web surfing, late nights and more importantly late mornings, and shopping trips. On the day, I had the kids packed, fed and in the car by 9.30am - not bad when you're on holiday time. Sadly, by the time we pulled into the other grandparents' drive, the mood in the car was heavy. Little people were fighting back tears and big person was struggling to get a grip too.

I got away eventually, not entirely confident my youngest wouldn't exercise the option to be taken home after the first day. My first stop was my hometown, Guildford, where I met a child-free friend for lunch at a child-free restaurant. I had arrived; I was finally a grown-up in a proper grown-up world. The trouble is grown-ups have schedules and commitments too and after just over an hour my friend had to return to work. Luckily the sales were on and I was determined to give my credit card a decent workout.

So why, after a couple of smallish purchases was I in children's shops buying stuff for my kids? And why, after only a brief browse in the adult area of a bookshop was I carrying copies of Narnia and Izzy the Indigo Fairy to the till? And why, when I slipped into Starbucks for a much needed caffeine boost was I having a conversation with a child in a pushchair? I'm no Freud, or whatever, but I suspect the answer is that because I spend a lot of time around my children, being a mum and doing mummy things, without them or my husband I really am more than a little lost. It's a kind of mother's separation anxiety. Still, with one sleep and a whole day to go I'm determined to make the most of it, even if from time to time I have to resort to flicking through family photos and cooing at other people's children.