I don’t just need time without kids, I need time alone

Annie Ridout - editor of The Early Hour

Parenting can be all-consuming, especially with a young baby who needs attention both day and night. The editor, Annie Ridout, shares her delight at the thought of an evening at home alone. Completely alone. Bliss…

My husband had a night out recently. After working out how I was going to feed and bathe the toddler by 7pm, as well as wash the baby and give him his hour-long feed before bed – also at 7pm (the answer: distract the toddler with TV; a rare treat), I felt really excited. But when I told my husband that I couldn’t wait for him to go out and to have a night alone, he looked a bit offended.

“It’s not like I want constant conversation each evening,” he said, “you get on with your work when the kids are in bed and so do I.”

He didn’t get it.

I had only that afternoon read a blog post about a man whose wife kept going to bed really late and then complaining she was tired in the morning. He felt annoyed that she never went to bed at the same time as him, and that she didn’t go to bed earlier so she’d feel less tired. But she explained that all day, every day, she was with her kids. And all evening. And after bed, she was with him – her husband. She said that staying up late meant she could have a few hours just for her: not as a wife, not as a mother – just as herself. It reminded her of the freedom she had before marriage and kids, and she cherished those alone hours.

I relayed the premise of this blog post to my husband and he understood a bit, but until your every waking (and often sleeping) hour is dominated by children, you simply won’t get how claustrophobic it can feel. Even your body feels like it no longer belongs to you (particularly if you’re breastfeeding).

I relish my time with my family; I have arranged my work to fit around them so that I can maximise our time together. My husband has too. But there is something about the stillness of a house when the kids are asleep and you’re alone downstairs… the calm quiet, the tidiness (no one depositing Play-Doh, beer bottles or mugs around the place for me to clear), the airiness. Being able to sit in silence, or work without interruption, or watch whatever I want on telly. It’s those things that I love.

But of course, it’s wonderful because of the contrast. If my days weren’t full of noise and chaos, that silence would be deafening. And if I didn’t have the company of my lovely husband – who sits next to me, doing his own thing, but dipping in and out of conversations with me – I’d be lonely.

I’d never wish away my hectic family life but sometimes, just sometimes, a few hours entirely on my own is the biggest treat.

How do you feel – do you love alone time or are you happier with company at all times?