This week Number One has been away, and with her our structure.
As a second time mum, there are many things that are easier. But perhaps the one I hadn’t really thought about until now, is that the second time around being a mum is considerably less lonely.
I had forgotten that no matter how much you love your baby or toddler, spending the whole day with a being whose communication skills are limited, is both lonely and isolating.
With an older child around, it’s a feeling that doesn’t arise in the same way. Partly because you are so busy dashing between the two of them. But also because even when the elder child isn’t present, they define the structure of your day.
In term time our day is marked by the school routine. We bustle around in the morning, getting ready together. Then chat to mums at the school gate, and rush home to fit in Number Two’s nap before lunch. We eat and play for a while, or meet friends. But before we know it, it’s time to head back to school for a spot more adult conversation before we head home together as a family.
I love the time I have alone with Number Two during the day and often worry that life is too rushed. Or that his nap schedule is dictated by his sister’s needs rather than his own.
But this week has shown me just how much he (and I) benefit from her presence. Not only because we love her. But because in conversational terms having her is like having another adult. She gives a balance that wasn’t there, the first time I became a mum.
I miss her not only because she is her. But because our world is emptier without her in it.
It has also forced me to remember a problem with the system that I had long since forgotten. The fact that during school holidays the baby groups suddenly disappear.
As a second time mum, it isn’t something that has affected me. I enjoy having both children at home together, going out for days or even just relaxing at home as a family. But I remember all too well that as a single mum when I had Number One, that that wasn’t always the case.
In those days I dreaded school holidays with a passion. Our days seemed endless.
They had no form or structure and I could go days without speaking to another human being. I remember feeling aggrieved that people thought that just because other people’s children weren’t at school, it was somehow supposed to mean that my daughter (and I) didn’t need to socialise.
It seems that nine years on very little has changed. The world still stops for school holidays.
And whether you think that’s right or wrong, whether it works for you or doesn’t, the reality is that it means that for millions of mums out there life suddenly gets very lonely.
And that can’t possibly be a good thing.
For them or their children.