I knew many things had changed in my life since our son arrived back in January 2011. But it was a bit of a surprise when I realized a few months ago that I had not spent a single night completely alone in almost two-and-a-half years. I've had nights with just my husband (3, to be exact), and nights with just Baby Oil. But never a night alone.
Feeling the urge to reclaim some alone time, I mentioned to Mr. Oil that I would love to go to London for a day by myself, do some shopping, and sleep in a hotel. He did not understand why going alone was appealing, but with some positive reinforcement from my stepmom, he gave me the best Mother's Day gift around - 30 hours alone in London. And yes, we noted the irony that the best Mother's Day gift involves no mothering duties.
Saturday morning I set out for London. It's an easy train ride from Paris, and I was in London, with my bag dropped at the hotel, by 11:30. My agenda for the day was straightforward - no plans. Walk around. Do some shopping. Get my hair cut (it is difficult to do this when you have a baby attached to you all day long!). Do whatever I wanted to do.
I thought about my kids, and my husband, throughout the day. I still noted every construction vehicle, and if I passed a nice bakery I thought, "Mr. Oil would like that place!" But I enjoyed every moment of the utter privilege of thinking only about what I wanted to do. Did I want to try on LK Bennett shoes at Selfridge's? Yes, please. Did I then want to try on more shoes at French Sole? Yes , please. Did I want to walk into three different locations of the same store (Reiss) and try on clothes at each one? Yes, please. Did I want to sit and have a latte at a time when some people would insist we eat "real" lunch? Yes, please. Did I want to spend 20 minutes exploring the wonder that is Boots (a pharmacy chain - think CVS on crack)? Yes, please.
I hit the big London shopping spots - Selfridge's, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Harrod's, and Kensington High Street. I managed to pick up some tea at Fortnum and Mason, and of course grabbed a new train for Baby Oil at Hamley's. I got my hair cut at the posh Daniel Hersheson salon. At the end of the day, I swung by Ottolenghi and bought a fantastic flourless orange-almond cake with chocolate frosting to bring home for Mr. Oil.
Eight hours later, I virtually collapsed in my hotel room at the lovely Lancaster London Hotel, with views from my room overlooking Hyde Park. Tea + sweets + clothes + shoes + toys = a heavy load by the end of the day! I went to eat in one of the hotel restaurants as I had learned the hard way that even a trusty pair of flats can wreak havoc on your feet after five miles of walking around London. After the hostess went to find an appropriate table for my party of 1, a couple standing behind me said, "Excuse me, but won't you be bored by yourself? Would you like to join us?"
Now, according to Mr. Oil, nobody actually wants to be taken up on these sorts of invitations. But in a moment of awkwardness, I said, "Oh...sure." And that is how I ended up spending an hour and a half eating dinner with a nice couple from Australia who had just finished a week long garden tour of England and Wales. They are from Warwick, about 2 hours southwest of Brisbane, where they garden on 3 acres. My favorite part of the evening was when, after the husband had gone on for about 15 minutes straight with many details about the gardens they had visited, the wife, said, "Wow, I'm impressed. I thought you just slept through the tour."
The best moment of the day came when I crawled into the king-size bed in my room, all by my lonesome. Nobody to feed in the night, nobody needing a drink of water, nobody at all. Just me, asleep. In the morning I forced myself to stay in bed until 8am, took a relaxing bath, and headed back to the train station.
There were certainly moments when I wished that my family was with me. And there were moments when I was a bit bored being by myself. Overall, however, having this day to be completely myself, all by myself, was wonderful. It is not easy to find the balance of having an individual identity while being a stay-at-home mom. And I know my husband will never quite understand the value of what he gave me this weekend. Not only did I come home refreshed and relaxed, I came home to a clean home and two happy kids. Major points for Mr. Oil.