Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Thursday ritual

My husband is in charge on Thursday afternoons. He comes home early from work; collects the kids from school, always remembering a snack; takes them to the park of their choice for a long play; then brings them home and cooks dinner. Later, he reads them stories and puts them to bed.

Because I can't keep my mouth shut, can't stop myself from taking over the kids and the cooking and the shouting if I'm at home, I agree to be banished from the house. I head to a local bar, buy a glass of wine, and settle down at 'my' table to read or write. Later, perhaps, I might meet a friend and grab a bite to eat; then it's off to choir to sing my heart out and sit round gossiping with a group of mums. It's a highlight of my week, the evening I look forward to from sometime early Wednesday. Sure, most weeks sparkle with small good things; but this ritual feeds my soul. And what is good for my soul is good for my kids; without it, I have a tendency to become tyrannical.

What intrigues me is how easily I will jeopardize, even cancel, it. Last week, there was no choir; instead, our choir director held a concert of her piano students, which include my daughter. Meanwhile, my husband had not been able to be home for dinner yet that week. Because there was no choir and my husband hadn't been home, I thought I should stick around; even so, my husband urged me to go out, then meet us at the concert. But I decided that would be selfish; that we needed to eat as a family; and that I should stay.

When my husband and the kids surged in the door from school, at least one person looked disappointed that I had crashed their only weeknight together. I began to worry about dinner and what we would eat even as my husband heated pasta water. One kid shouted, another shrieked, I yelled, and my husband looked at me. 'Maybe,' I said, 'maybe, I really should go out? Would you mind?'.

'Go!' he urged me, 'please go!' and gave me a big hug. So finally, an hour later than usual, I pulled on my boots, packed my bag, and toddled off, wittering and apologising all the way – and feeling so selfish. Extraordinary, really, given that I had done the whole kiddie food – story – bed routine three nights in a row, and would do it again on Friday; Fridays are always a late night for him.

I have internalized so many ideas of what makes a good mother; one of them is about being present. A good mother doesn't go out for no reason; and she certainly doesn't squander money on wine in bars and a meal out! And yet, is this really true? Surely after seven years I have learned by now that without this sort of activity I become lonely, bored, ground down and angry; going out gives me the fillip I need to enjoy my children and to want to be with them most of the time.

My life revolves around laundry and floors, playgrounds and dishes; my Thursday ritual gives me a bit of structure, a bit of adult input. I get to walk at my speed, chat with adults or sit quietly. It's the only meal I eat in complete dignity, with no need to discipline anyone, no complaints about the food, and nobody's crusts ending up on my plate. Even without choir, just two hours alone out of the house far from the jobs that perpetually nag me is profoundly life-giving.

I may not be able to claim it for myself every week, but I give thanks for a husband who is wiser than me, who can gently nudge me towards the front door. 'Go!' he urges, 'Go!'. Obedient wife that I am, I nod my head, pull on my shoes and pack my bag; and dutifully I walk right out that door.

Photograph shows my middle daughter 'flying' to Mousehole in Cornwall - it's how I feel when I leave the house on Thursdays!


  1. Your Thurdays nights are my horse riding lessons or simply out riding my horse...and it has been far too long between rides for me.

    When I am on my horse, I am not a wife, or a nurse, or a friend, or a daughter or a sister. I am a person lost in the moment and enjoying the freedom of losing oneself in that moment that is not owned by or owed to any other person, but me.

    There is nothing selfish in time spent alone, or time spent as one wishes. Everyone else has first dibs on us and our time, surely a couple of hours spent with self will not be missed by the ones we love and who love us.

  2. Hi Daffodil, You know, I'm not sure it's not really about whether the loved ones will miss us - what I find interesting is how many stupid ideas so many of us have internalized about what it is to be a 'proper' mother / wife / woman, and how hard it can be to unravel and challenge them. Anyway, hope you get out on your horse again soon!

  3. "Go!' he urges, 'Go!'"
    My husband also says this.
    (Just between you and me, -and the world wide web-, he occaisonally says "Just piss off. Come back when your not cranky.")

    "wittering and apologising all the way" Yes! Wittering. Me too.

    "going out gives me the fillip I need to enjoy my children and to want to be with them most of the time. " Yes. Fillip.

    Wittering and Filip. True.

  4. I get the piss off, too. sometimes - and as for wittering, fillip, galumphing, frangible... no point having a language chock full of lovely words if we don't use them from time to time!

  5. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Will go look up frangible now.


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