6

The Orangatanned Man

I can feel my patience ebbing away. I'm trying hard to find my supermum smile but failing miserably. I just want to curl up in a hole somewhere with a duvet and a hot chocolate and get lost in romantic novels.

As I drive along the A57 at 2 miles an hour, regretting the second cuppa that is now sat heavily in my bladder; the rain hammering down, the screams from my toddler hammering on my ear drum and the incessant chat of my 4 year old. "Mummy did you see that sign? Mummy have you got any treats in your bag? Mummy did you know that mercury is the nearest planet to the sun? Mummy it's your turn to play I Spy. Mummy Fin's crying is hurting my ears. Mummy..." Then just as it can't get any worse I stall the car, causing the impatient, fake-tanned, guy with super-sized gay sunglasses and a ridiculously sleezy swept back hairstyle in the Merc behind me to beep loudly at my clear incompetence.

Arggghhh! The relentless demand for my attention is leaving me teetering on the brink of insanity. If I hear the word 'mummy' again I think I might topple - and maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing. Maybe the orangatanned man behind me will rescue me.

It's at moments like this that I wonder what the heck I was thinking that summer evening back in 2005, after a romantic french style picnic in our conservatory and a couple of glasses of red, when I began to seduce hubby and whispered the words "darling shall we drop the contraception tonight?" In fact, in hindsight I'm sure I wasn't thinking at all - the wine was doing all of the thinking.

It's at moments like this that I begin to fantasise about a world without kids. The fatal 'what if' question starts to creep in and I imagine myself as a skinny, successful career woman. With a high profile PR job, a walk-in wardrobe full of Gucci and an Audi TT with a personalised number plate. My day would start with a quick gym session, then at lunch time I'd nip out to eat sushi with my other career-minded hot chick friends. After work I'd go for a spot of retail therapy in Karen Millen and then drive home to my 5-bed converted barn on the edge of the Peak District.

But that night as I sit on the edge of the bed, stroking the hair of my sleeping 4 year old and listening to his contented sleepy sighs, my eyes well up and my heart is so overwhelmed with love that I have to stop myself from waking him up to hold him tight and whisper words of love into his ears. And I realise that I am rich beyond measure; I have something far more precious than any career, any pay package and any number of flash holidays or cars.

So I have swapped the Gucci for snot and chocolate encrusted Primarni and H&M basics. I have swapped the TT for a ten year old family estate and I have swapped the pay package for child benefit payments.

My business meetings are now play dates at the park and my gym sessions are the occasional dash across the road to prevent my run-away toddler from being flattened by a car. My flat stomach has been covered by a layer of post-baby insulation and two caesarean scars, and if I get a few hours away from the kids it counts as a holiday.

My job description is still around PR in a kind of opposite kind of way. Granted some families work very hard on public image - but I figure that life is too short for pretence - and raising happy balanced kids is more important than presenting an image of perfection. It's a job well done if I can get the whole family out of the house on time. It's a job very well done if everyone is wearing underwear and matching shoes. It's a job exceptionally well done if I am wearing make-up and heels. My job description is not to present an image but to raise my kids to be loving, secure, thoughtful and independent people. How I do that is up to me - and that's what makes the job of parenting so exciting and so rewarding.

I am learning that to allow yourself to start thinking about 'what might have been' is to tread on very dangerous ground - the grass really is always greener on the other side. I figure it's much healthier to think about 'what could be' - because this starts with where you are and what you have and looks to make the grass in your patch even greener than it already is. Do that college course, spend more carpet time with the kids, start dating your hubby again, have a hair cut, keep on top of the housework, start cooking more healthily - whatever it takes to give your grass a new lease of life.

As I compare my life with what might have been, I thank God for my husband and my precious boys. I thank God that I am not working in PR for that orangatanned man. I know that I am one very very blessed chick - I know which life I would rather choose.

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