I initially wrote this a few months ago as I solo-parented, and my husband attempted to alter our family’s future. A few weeks ago we danced the exact same dance again. Then waited, again. Soon now we can answer that simple question of what might be ahead for our family.
8.30pm. The zenith of the bedtime process, and I’m outnumbered. Usually there’s an hour or so to kill before rescue will inevitably arrive if sleep doesn’t claim my children. This time though there’s no backup. Sitting in the dark as the child tosses and turns, and the baby snuffles in my arms. One doesn’t like too much light at night, one doesn’t like too little. I sit in a gloomy compromise staring at the nothingness, and trying not to glance too often at the glowing clock face which mocks my unlikely targets. “If he hasn’t stirred again by 19:45 I’ll try to leave”. “Maybe 20:00”. “Ok, maybe 20:30”. Meanwhile my husband is hundreds of miles away, ‘in another galaxy’ as the child believes. A place where it’s bright and sunny outside, and the day is still relatively new while ours is long past. A world away in so many ways. And while we’re not really thinking about it too hard, our future as we know it may hinge upon the next few hours. As he dances the interview dance and I wrestle these two to sleep.
Once upon a time it was me braving the day-long interviews and slowly climbing the career ladder. Now my days are marked not with meetings and deadlines, but by the milestones of our little family. He’s crawling. He’s walking. He’s eating. He’s (still not) sleeping. Clamber to the next level of difficulty by adding a second child to the mix. It’s so strange to find myself sitting here in this myopic world of never-ending laundry, meals, school runs, brushing teeth, bedtime stories, nappies, feeds and spit-ups. Passively waiting while someone else makes moves that may herald in massive changes for the life our children will know. How to reconcile that person I once was with the one sitting here?
We’ve indulged sporadically in “what if”s. What if it were almost always warm and bright? No autumn colours bedecking the trees. No short dark days. No chilly nights with the suggestion of snow on the way. Or else we could maybe live through seasons of definite extremes instead of our muddled ‘four seasons in one day’. Our youngest may never experience this life his parents have only ever known up until now. Our eldest may not remember what we had here when he’s older. Even so, would they feel the loss? But what if there were a wealth of new opportunities for us and them? A totally different lifestyle? A different night sky. New people. New culture. New house. New everything. Fear of the unknown mingles with the heady scent of change in the air.
Soon now those “what ifs” will coalesce into “what might be” if we choose to make a leap of faith, or just into what might have been. It’s surreal to sit here quietly doing nothing but wait for them to sleep. For the phone to light up with news. Me in the midst of the daily drudgery while our future might be changing direction on the far side of the world. Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, the nightly routine relentlessly continues. The sound of the neighbours screaming at their kids and each other next door. The rustle of sheets as the child restlessly thrashes about and kicks his way to slumber. The strangled squeak of the baby as he stretches and nuzzles blindly in search of more milk. For them it’s just another night. For us, their parents, we wonder if we may soon see the start of a very different day.