I had a whole day entirely to myself, and so many possibilities. Inevitably, when I didnt have a plan, things didnt exactly go to plan. Funny that…

Coffee for a very tired parent

This isn’t a complicated morning, but it is a break from routine. Typically, we would all be out of the door by 7am on our way to the train station to make sure my wife makes it for the 0720 train. I accompany her each morning, pushing our daughter in the buggy and being pulled by the dog. When we reach the station, we kiss goodbye for the day. She heads through the barriers, and we three turn and walk back home.

This means that by 7:40am on most days we are not only dressed and ready for the day, but I’ve already clocked up 5,000 steps and taken the dog out. And while she was being chauffeured along in her buggy, my daughter would have been gleefully eating some brioche or croissant to keep her happy. I, however, have usually not eaten by this point and so as the child begins her morning assault on her toy box, I grab whatever I can quickly stuff into my face before her inevitable first tantrum of the day.

Today was different though. Chiefly because last night was different, because all of my yesterday was entirely off the rails. Naturally, it started with our morning excursion to the station and back, but rather than a day with my daughter I was treated to the strangest of things – free time. You see, my mother in law offered to look after her for the day so that I could spend some time sorting other things out. 

Free time. Free. Time. Such an alien concept to me these days that I clearly didn’t know what to do with it. As soon as they left, I started to make a list of things to do with my day. Working backwards, as that’s obviously the straightforward approach to it all, I immediately calculated what time I would need to leave in order to pick up the kid, factoring in school traffic and road works along the way. Suddenly, not so much free time, so that removed a few jobs from my to-do list already. The hallway was not getting decorated today.

Eventually, after taking out all of the things that I absolutely HAD to do with my day it left me with about 3 hours spare. For a full-time parent, that’s almost like an entire week off. So I decided to take that time entirely for myself. The jobs and tasks could wait, and I could dedicate that entire time to things I like to do and never get a chance to – and there are so many things I don’t get a chance to do. I look at the clock and see that half an hour has passed while I’ve been sat thinking of all the things that I could do. I’m wasting my time! And now I’m stressing that I’m wasting my stress-free time! This is not good.

Ring ring. A call from my sister. A welcome sidetrack from the existential panic that was setting in. We update one another on our lives, share creative ideas we are each working on, and have discussions of the impending festivities of midwinter. Gift logistics for our children start getting sorted. 50 minutes pass. This wasn’t on my to-do list either. I needed the social contact, even though it wasn’t planned. But that’s ok.

One thing I wanted to do above everything else with my free time was to go to a coffee shop, sit down, and enjoy my drink while people-watching. I had less than 2 hours free time now, so I thought it was a good way to spend it. The town, however, was absolutely heaving. Everyone and their wife was out today, which caught me off-guard. I couldn’t even get into the coffee shop I frequent as the queue was out the door. It was the busiest Monday lunchtime I had seen in ages. Wait… Lunchtime? Where’s the morning gone?!

I was so overwhelmed by how busy it was that I walked back to the car and left. I hadn’t even got my coffee. If I’m honest, it had made me feel quite anxious. The time was ticking, people were rushing around, and I just wanted to slow down and drink a hot cup of coffee. Instead I found myself retreating homeward, having spent my free time accomplishing absolutely nothing.

Before long, it was time to go get the little human. It being mid November, it was dark now. Of course I got stuck behind a slow van for the whole drive to my in-laws too. At leat the kid was happy to see me when I arrived, running at me open-armed for a big squeeze. And naturally the ticking clock beckons. Nothing today had gone to plan, so I decide to throw the plan out of the window. Instead of driving home, I make an executive decision to drive to my wife’s work and pick her up so that she can be in the warm car rather than the cold walk to the cold train. It’s a big detour for us, but I don’t care.

I pick up the wife, and we start driving home. It’s cold and dark outside. The car decides to overheat. Great. I now need to take an even bigger detour to fix the car and let it cool down. It’s almost dinner time, and our daughter is now asleep in her car seat. We limp the car home, somehow, and prepare ourselves for the late bedtime. The responsibilities of parent life are back in full force, and my free time is definitely over. We get the kid to sleep at about 9pm, after an evening meal comprised of toasted crumpets and jam. Healthy.

This morning, there’s no waking the kid. She needs the sleep she didn’t get last night, so my wife walks to work on her own. I’m now sat here looking at a confused dog with the baby monitor on the kitchen worktop. I keep half an eye on it as I toast two slices of wholemeal and brew a cafetière of Italian roast. The coffee is hot and strong, and I butter both slices – strawberry jam on one of them too, for dessert. I’m now sat here writing this, eating hot toast and drinking hot coffee while my daughter sleeps soundly. When she wakes up, we will play together like a normal day, and be happy.

The chaos of yesterday is gone, as I’m not taking it into today. I’ve let the perceived failures of yesterday pass so that I have room for the good things to happen today. All the things that went wrong yesterday do not matter now, as they have either passed by and we survived them, or we have been able to fix them. I already had to carry that mental baggage once, and I am tired from it. I don’t need to carry it today. I am choosing to recharge and reset with this mug of hot coffee, two slices of toast, and a moment of calm for myself. Today is not yesterday, and it can be a good day.