I have now been a mother for over three and a half years. My daughter is now four and a half. Tonight was the first night since she came to live with me that I went out in the evening and left her. This was a big night for us.
It had to be a pretty special thing to get me out. My friend has been employing me in freelance role at her company. I have not been in such a creative hot house since I was in my first ad agency ever. It is the same vibe - work thrown from all directions but unjudgmental creativity given from bright people at all directions. So, when her creative director was having his ten year party, I just had to go, if nothing else to say thank you for having me for a few weeks, but also because my dear friend, knowing my situation, had insisted that it was a networking opportunity I should not pass up.
Daughter had been primed, babysitter had done due diligence the weekend before, our rituals had been walked through and discussed in embarrassing detail: 'yes, she sleeps and bathes with me; yes, I let her have custard after her bath; yes, she is allowed to watch grown up tv...." It probably isn't normal for the baby sitter to be shocked at the evening ritual, is it?
It all made me nervous, but tonight X seemed totally up for it. As usual on the way home she told me she had been on the Gold Tree at school- the place where only saints belong. Then she caused so much trouble running away from me and nearly getting run over that I actually screamed at her that I would pull her knickers down and smack her if she did it again. In mitigation: she nearly killed herself. I was upset.
All in all, however, by the time our lovely babysitter arrived I was a bag of nerves. Enter Holly. Holly does not like to be called Holly, this is her family name. I taught Holly when I was an impoverished private tutor and she was a clever little 10 year old girl. Her reference, together with the rest of her family, helped my local council agree I could be a mummy. She was the only person I could trust to do this job. She is now in her 20's.
She arrived, so multitask cool from her freelance PR role. I was out of the house before I had time to draw breath and say," don't forget to brush your teeth. "
The drive there was the best bit of the evening. It was so strange and scary to be out after seven, driving into the setting sun with my sunglasses on. I honestly suddenly realised that the rest of the world does not got to bed and work every night, they go out and have fun. I drove into the setting sun playing X's Adele song as loud as I could but I was scared of myself. Maybe I would just forget about everything and walk home across the city at dawn. Been there , done that - do it again? There was a diversion on the road of the party. So I had to drive miles to get at the street another way. After all my planning, I was late. I was tempted to go home before I got out of the car.
The night was actually every bit as excruciating as I thought it would be. Half way though I ran to the loo to scrabble in bag as I realised my phone was right at the bottom and had there been an emergency I would have missed the whole thing. I sipped my coke and made polite talk but no one was in the least bit interested in me and why should they have been? I talked to lots of under twenty fives who all work till eight then have a massive list of creative activities - making films, designing clothes, writing blogs that I was thrilled and exhausted in equal measure. I tried to keep my mouth shut about my daughter but on hearing from my friend that it was my first night out I had several comments from young women telling me that they would adopt at a moments notice and it was no different from having your own and they were going to do it very , very soon themselves ,even if they never had their own. The best conversation I had was from a cool German lady who work s at the company but is also a mother who says she swaps pebbles for babysitting hours with friends.
My friend at the company, trying to really help, tried hard to introduce me to people who were not interested in me- why should they have been?I was only there to try and get a job. But it was so nice of my friend to try and the people she was trying to introduce me to were also so nice that none of us could be rude enough to give up on the conversations. It was hard for everyone.
I am just not much good at networking with strangers when the music means you can't hear even when you shout and anyway you are twice as old as everyone else. I had a good moment with my friend outside when i discovered everyone was actually upstairs on the pavement outside, smoking. But this was a problem too, as I was parked nearby. It would have been too obvious - or so my self obsession dictated - to just get in the car with everyone watching and go.
Finally I went. On the way home I saw a bicycle under the wheels of a car with a policeman taking shots with a big ,black, heavy camera. I think the person must have died, I can't imagine anyone on that bicycle surviving.
I got home and my darling little girl was curled up next to Holly, in bed. She had said she couldn't sleep without my hair, but she did. It was a big night for us. I was so thankful for Holly, the little girl I taught and now I was leaning on the give me the courage to leave my little girl.
i went to bed thanking my lucky stars for all kinds of things.