Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to wake up in the morning and only consider myself. When I had no children I worked hard. When friends who were parents told me nothing would prepare me for how much it would take out of me, I got sniffy, internally, and decided they were jealous of my super hyper-calibrated efficiency.
Then I had children and have spent at least half their lives looking like a bag lady. No matter how much I did, or how quickly I did it, there was always more to do. I lost a lot of my confidence and, if I'm honest, I'm still reclaiming that lost ground called previous identity.
Working and child rearing takes all the stuffing out of the scarecrow. You do end up a shrivelled, vapid length of material with something that used to be a brain barely remembering how to drive. The worst thing about it was the tiredness was a choice. There are those who can go through the agony of the controlled crying method, which regulates babies into timed sleeps. I think this is sleep Nazism. So the only choice for me was to go mad and be awake when my kids were awake.
That meant, for a few months of my life, 21 wakeful hours in a 24-hour day. I started to wonder if I was human at all. I didn't think normal life would ever return.
Then it did. After the crazy, hectic early years it did. I discovered two things, what it felt like to be up past 10 in the evening and my waistline. I had four hours to go to a salon and get highlights. I could squeeze my day and find a half-hour lunch break. I remember one of my early bosses, a workaholic, telling me lunch was for wimps. He must have had babies then.
Those 30 minutes for a leisurely sandwich felt like two weeks in Lanzarote. Then, one day, I noticed a stranger was turning up in my house for meals and putting my children to bed with me. Then he wanted to get into bed with me. I wondered if that was a good idea, since I didn't know who he was. He had to reintroduce himself as my partner. We had to get to know one another all over again.
There's more than one kind of energy crisis. Oil won't run out as quickly as a depleted parent. You are a fossil that needs fuel. You have to put something in to get something back. I see now, with friends, what a weekend break can do to an addled pair who've been reduced to halfwits in the early years of child rearing.
It's exciting that this man you used to date, who turned into the father of your children, still fancies you. When you go for dinner and there isn't a child portion anywhere in sight, when you go for a walk and one of you doesn't have to hang back for the slow coach, when you can finish your sentences, you'll find that all the love you had for one another hasn't vanished, but has been earning interest in a long-term account.
You find the conversations are deeper for what you've been through.
You'll find the other half, who you regularly snap at in the pressure of putting the children through the years between their birthdays, who you ignore unless there's a domestic task they should have done weeks ago, really doesn't hold any of that against you. They've seen you at your worst, and they still love you.
If you're in an energy crisis, call a summit meeting and get out to the nearest restaurant in clothes that are unstained. Order something to eat and ban all talk of the children. Talk to each other about each other. Like any low-emission engine you can go for a month on one evening like that.