We need to talk about parenting’s lost years. | #parenting

“What would you do if you could do whatever you wanted?” 

No contest. It’s 2021. 

I would get on a plane, I would fly to the other side of the world, I would have a cup of tea at my mum’s kitchen table, and a glass of wine with my oldest friend. I’d watch my daughter play with my brother’s daughter – although, since they’ve seen each other last, my niece has become too old for playing. Still, I would watch my girl watching his, her eyes full of greedy possibility. 

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I was asked this by a woman I’d just met. She thinks it’s a great question to ask someone new, and she’s right. If you had time, and freedom and yes, funds, what would you do? 

If it wasn’t a pandemic, and we weren’t living a locked-in life, and the world wasn’t in a state of constant, rolling uncertainty (hello, Victorians), my answer would be very different. 

I would be alone.  

Not all the time. I am a parent, and a partner, and a friend, and I love people and their energy and their stories and their strangeness. 

But, a decade into being a parent, I have long since let go of something I used to adore, something that used to fuel me, and bolster me, and arm me for dramas of varying sizes… alone time. 

What would you do if you could do whatever you wanted? 

I’d spend several days alone, with a choice of brilliant books and nowhere to be. I’d go to the movies, and sit in the dark, by myself, and get lost. The thought of it makes me salivate, just a little bit. 

And I know I am not the only parent who mourns solitude. 

A friend of mine, who would not want me to tell you her name, puts it like this, “I have never loved anyone or anything like I love my son, but he’s always, always there. And being alone was my recharge, my happy place – and it’s gone, it’s lost. I wouldn’t change it, it’s such a selfish thing to say, but also, I worry about my head, and about resentment.”

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