“Have a nice day off” my colleagues always say on Tuesday evening, the day before my day at home with the kids.
It’s my day off work, previously my parental leave day, and now simply the day I am not contracted to work.
I’ve taken one day off a week since I went back to work after my third baby was born, and it took me a while to get a Wednesday routine going, or to figure out in my head how to feel I was using it properly and getting the most of out it. I used to want to do lots of housework, or visit lots of friends and would fill mornings up with dates for the small girl and I, rushing back for the school runs and trying to batchcook. I was wrecked.
Then I had a revelation. I thought about what I felt I was missing out on on the days that I’m in work. I remembered my average weekday at home with the kids, and the best bits, the bits I lament the most. Then, I resolved to reclaim them on Wednesdays. Now, with small kids the best bits are the highlights, there are bad bits too, but they can’t be avoided, you’ve got to just deal with them as they happen.
Here’s how it goes.
I get up about 40 long and glorious minutes later than I do on a work day. I very much like this, it’s so much more civilised to set an alarm for 6-something instead of 5 something. Of course, I don’t actually need an alarm, as some of my children will usually be sitting on my head before this, or wandering in their pyjamas asking about breakfast, or asking complicated questions about space, or spelling.
We get ready for school, milk is spilled on the table, Weetabix that I will find hours (or days) later is dropped on a chair or the floor. Someone isn’t dressed, or has sock issues, or can’t find their shoes, or finds their collar to be a suddenly unwearably uncomfortable. Someone protests at my coat suggestion, or any suggestion of wearing any coat, at all ever. I threaten to work next Wednesday under my breath and thank the heavens that there’s work the following day. We leave the house, always later than we’d intended.
We travel to school, our school has a “walk on Wednesdays” policy as part of the green school initiative which really
unluckily falls on my day at home so, weather and shoe-finding permitting, I get to walk the 25 minutes to school with the three of them and assorted scooters, buggies etc. Many people do this every day. They are more organised than me and they probably have more control over their kids and wheeled vehicles.
There might be a tantrum (or three) on the way. Someone will definitely fall over, at least once. There might be a request for a rest, or a drink, or a snack. I’ll suggest that if we don’t get moving we might be late. We walk the boys to the school gate, greeting the school principal as we do, feeling part of things in a sea of maroon jumpers. Big sisters remark on the small girl’s coat, mammies ask how our weekend was. We connect. Then, my small girl and I get to walk the whole way, mostly uphill home.
We get in and I start to remove underwear from the sitting room, clear the breakfast dishes and put on a wash. Normality.
About once every three Wednesdays I meet my friends with our small children in our favourite local café and catch up over poached eggs and cappuccinos while we entertain babies and toddlers. “No tell the boys Mam” Laoise reminds me, knowing they’d be jealous of her sausage and warm milk.
If this isn’t a coffee date morning we might cook dinner, Laoise doing as much as she can to help me, on her terms, chop, stir, add ingredients while I’m not looking and have me play “guess what I just added to the pot”.
We fold laundry and she presents me with a book to read, and I read it. It’s often followed by another, and another, she sits in close and laughs to the story, enjoying the one on one time with no brotherly interventions.
She asks if it’s time to collect Cathal yet, feeling his absence for that extra almost two hours since he started big school in September.
Another wash and some washing-up later we start the collections, small boy first, big boy an hour later. We’ll head down town (always in the car this time), struggle to get a parking space and find correct change and then try to get our errands done while there’s just the two of us.
Then the feeding rituals recommence. Lunch, drink, snack, clear up. A bit of a play or a ride on the bikes around the park and it’s homework time, checking and signing the journal (glossing over the begging and cajoling it takes to get them started), singing Jolly Phonics songs and defending the way I say things when it’s not exactly the same way as Teacher does. Time to do dinner comes around and I’ve yet to sit down since I got in from school, even with a morning made dinner there’s dinner work of some description to be done. Small things.
At least one child will refuse point blank to eat the dinner that’s been prepared, but then will end up eating and enjoying it by accident. Once we’ve cleared the table, loaded the dishwasher and wiped the surfaces we make the lunchboxes and it’s only moments from bedtime now. I’d be home by this time on a work day.
That was my day off.
Filled with the mundane, the little everyday experiences, not all of them pleasant. But the thing that I realise now that it’s these little otherwise inconsequential things, the everyday bit that I miss when I’m in work. The chatter while we load the dishwasher, the standing at the school gate in the rain, the homework supervision. The ones that if I had to do them every day I’d hate, and that still do drive me crazy some days.
Wednesdays are often the hardest day of the week, yet sometimes I wish I could be there every day. Equally, I find myself glad that I have the escape of the following day to work at times, especially when I’m breaking up fights or doing the dishes (again). But come the following Wednesday I am delighted to be back at home, where I belong, on Wednesdays anyway. I mightn’t like every minute of it, but standing back, on a whole, I love it.
As my big boy says “Wonderful Wednesdays are the best day of the week”. He may be biased, but I can confirm it sure beats the hump day blues.