Being mum: relearning how to be me with a trip away

Uninterrupted conversations, cocktails till the wee hours and sleeps-in help pass the time

How will I pass the time? It’s almost a year since this question entered my head. Back then, my giant overdue bump and I sat on a leather chair under the glare of hospital lights, my green rolling suitcase by my side (containing new sensible nightwear, and babygrows of every size) as I waited in a long limbo to be called for a Caesarean section.

Now that bump is crawling around at home with his daddy and his big brother. My green rolling suitcase is packed with mascara and a guna deas. I sit in the bright airy terminal as I wait to take a flight. Alone.

No faces to wipe or nap schedules to remember. Alone. Much like going into the operating theatre, gowned-up without glasses, phone, the lack of stuff is disorientating.

My eldest boy was puzzled when I dropped the news that I was going away to meet old friends. But when I mentioned, with a quiet cough, that I was flying, his cheeks reddened and his eyes filled with betrayal. This is soon sorted out by the promise of a present . . . “a rainbow-coloured elephant” he pipes up with a grin as he sets his mission impossible.


And so I find myself with time to kill. Reading, scrolling, observing. Noticing how passengers fuss and tut in security queues. I want to tap them on the shoulders and say: “Enjoy the peace lads, you’ve no buggy to take apart while holding a crying baby and clinging to a disorientated preschooler who doesn’t understand why he had to take his hoodie off and send it into this strange machine.”

I enter the airside terminal with its bright sparkly displays of luxury goods which is normally an obstacle course of overstimulation.


And here’s the second neglected phrase of the past year – browsing. Normally, purchasing in a bricks and mortar shop with kids has the following thought process:

A) Do I need to get it now?

B) Am I sure I can’t wait and get it online?

C) Okay then, as I enter the shop as if about to diffuse a bomb, holding firmly on to my children, I take the item, don’t stop to inspect it, just go straight to the check-out, not letting my guard down until I’m out the door.

So I browsed. I considered buying some magical elixir that promised to make my deepening furrows disappear. But I remember my earlier “notions” of being a sophisticated woman when I turned up to the airport in heeled boots, with straightened hair and an Italian scarf. Notions put to bed after security when Mammy wondered why would I not opt for comfort. So I browsed, in my runners, like a centaur, Genevieve on top and Mammy on the bottom.


On the quiet air bridge queue onto the plane I hear them coming behind, thunk, thunk, thunk. One of the last to board they arrive with yelps and the type of uncontrolled running that only legs of a smallie are free enough to do. I can share the fear among untethered passengers that they’ll be sitting behind (kick, kick, kick). And yet I get a sense of longing. An emptiness. It’s the same kind of unrealistic yearning I get watching my children sleep. I check my bags, feeling like I’ve left something behind.

As the flight hurtles into the air I realise I can never feel all together when I’m apart from my boys. I close my tired eyelids and Louis’s cheeky grin flashes as if etched there. Passing the time until I see them again.

The feeling stays all weekend. But uninterrupted conversations, cocktails till the wee hours and sleeps-in till 9am dull the longing. I’m relearning how to be me. But the ding of a message with photos of at-home antics make the mammy in me jump with glee.

Sitting on my airplane seat as I begin my journey home, I rifle through my bag for one last check.

Mammy assignment complete, I pull out the multicoloured elephant trinket.