Bren has been away on business for 10 days now. It’s the most time we’ve spent apart since having kids.
It’s been hard in some ways. Easier in others. Having no-one to help at bedtime isn’t ideal. The relentlessness is brutal when you’re the only adult around. But then, there is no-one else to judge so maybe the parenting gets a little lax. Maybe it’s toast for dinner. Maybe there are no bedtime stories because “Mumma is all alone and so tired.” Yes, I’ve been laying it on thick. Sometimes it works and sometimes the kids are unmoved by my emotional blackmail and go right on ahead breaking my proverbials.
What really gets me though is sleeping alone. A friend recommended I push the bed to the wall so that I feel like there’s something beside me, use pillows on the other side for the same effect. But I don’t miss the actual body beside me. On the contrary, I love having the bed to myself. But I’d enjoy it a whole lot more if I didn’t spend the entire night in a suspended state of terror. For nine nights straight, I have ‘heard’ someone breaking into the house and on a number of occasions, also ‘seen’ them. In that bizarre space between the worlds of sleep and consciousness, when your eyes are open and you believe you’re really awake, you can ‘see’ exactly what you’ve been dreaming about and it takes a few minutes for the eyes to adjust and the heart to stop pounding. Slowly it dawns on you, it’s not real. For me, it’s always shadows at the doorway, a lurking threat.
Every night, on some level, I expect to be murdered in my sleep, and when Bren is away, this ratchets up a couple of thousand notches. To help combat the fear, I have been letting Harlow go to sleep in my bed. I suppose on some subliminal level, I realise that Bren and Harlow would be about as useful as each other in the face of an intruder. Bren is the kind of guy who could sleep through an explosion and when he does wake, remains in a fog-like state for, I estimate, just long enough for the entire family to be slain. His shitty eyesight does not help matters.
Myself, I am like a ninja. I will burst out of bed at the merest sound. I can pre-empt a child spewing even in the REM state. But though my senses be sharp, I am very small and very weak. Especially in undies and a singlet. I need Bren for back-up – though foggy and blind, he is still a giant of a man and cuts a scarier figure in the midnight hours.
So I am feeling somewhat bleary-eyed. A week of adrenaline-spiked evenings has taken its toll. But if I pause and think about it, I haven’t desperately missed Bren. I’ve missed his help and his presence in a general way but I haven’t specifically longed for him. On the rare occasion I have gone away, I do miss him specifically. I wish he was with me, that we could be having the away time together. But here at home, the humdrum domesticity of life steals away time and energy so that even if Bren did walk through the door right now, the best I could manage would be a quick hug before I crawled into bed to sleep the sleep of the utterly unafraid.
The thing I miss more than anything else since having kids is solitude. Real time alone. I genuinely enjoy my own company and never find myself bored or without something to do. So when Bren is away, once the kids are down for the night, as long as I can keep my eyes open, that time is all mine. I have the longest list of books to read, not to mention all the movies and TV series I want to watch and that I know Bren isn’t interested in.
So no, I haven’t spent each night pining for Bren. I have enjoyed a quiet house to myself. And maybe if our relationship was newer, I would worry about what this meant. About whether it was a telling sign about the state of our relationship.
Having Bren in my life is a great comfort. He is comfortable. I am comfortable with him. After 15 years together, this is how it goes. I know the value of comfort. But comfort sounds so – boring. Unromantic and definitely unsexy. And sometimes, it is. Life with kids will do that to you.
The important thing is that I don’t feel like the romance is dead. When we get undressed each night for bed, I spot Bren sucking in his guts and lord knows I’m doing the same. It’s important to me that he still thinks I’m a babe, but when he does spy my non-sucked in tummy in an unguarded moment, I don't freak out. I trust that he loves me anyway.
And this is the beauty of long-term love. I know Bren is coming back to me in a few days and life will resume as always. I will be glad to see his face. I am looking forward to watching House of Cards episodes together. I’ll tell him all the annoying things the kids did and all the adorable things, too. We’ll have a glass of wine and he’ll pray I don’t pass out before he gets one past the keeper.
You know, real life love. A modified romance that makes way for toilet training and general domestic drudgery. Life with small kids is the antithesis of passion, but I am passionate about our life together. While ever that’s still true, I think we’re okay.
Worn in is not the same thing as worn out.
So come home soon, Bren. Yes, life has gone on without you, but I only ever sleep when you’re by my side.