Call Of The Mild

Kate King waxes lyrical about bygone times, before realising she is a different person now she is a mother.

One night recently our children gave my husband and me a rare and unexpected treat: they were asleep by 7 pm. As we gently pulled their bedroom doors closed, we gazed into each other’s eyes. My husband reached for the chilled wine, and I dimmed the lights… and grabbed the remote. Sitting still and doing nothing in front of a cartoon free screen was all I had the energy for. Sensing the abrupt change in atmosphere, my husband plonked down beside me while I stumbled upon a welcome old friend: an episode of Sex and the City.

Boy, how my life has changed since I fell in love with that show many years ago. Back then it resonated with me as a single, hedonistic, 20-something living the high life in London. Like Carrie, I had the big city, the career, the girlfriends, the wardrobe (although nowhere near as designer fabulous), and the transient men, until I landed ‘Mr Big’, who is now, happily, my husband.

That life couldn’t be any further from my reality now. I have chosen to be a stay-at-home mum to my young children, but now that the chaos of babies has subsided, I seem to be mourning the bygone times. Somehow in the space of 10 years, I went from sassy ‘Samantha single’ to, “Mum, can I…?”, and from ‘Carrie clothes horse’ to looking forward to anything starring James Nesbitt on the ABC on a Saturday night.

Sometimes I just want to eat something other than spaghetti, drink wine somewhere other than the kitchen table, or strut around in high heels oozing modernity somewhere other than the hallway. I know I could hire a babysitter, but it’s the freedom of spontaneity and abandonment of responsibility I fantasise about – the call of the wild. These days if I have a mysteriously satisfied smile on my face the next day, it’s because one of my kids ate a vegetable the night before.

After I’d been moping around the house for days listening to music that used to get the good times rolling, my husband presented me with an invitation to his company’s annual dinner. Finally, I could indulge in a night out, wearing a cocktail dress and high heels, with a drink in one hand and a fabulous clutch in the other. It would be like old times.

But my monumental expectations for a riotous night out were not to be met. Subjecting my husband to high fives in the week leading up to the big night turned out to be the most fun I would have. There are still marks on. my feet from where my high-heel shoes assaulted me and developing a hangover while still at the venue was a new experience I won’t be repeating soon. But apart from my alarming lack of anything interesting to say and the extortionate taxi fare home, it was a thoroughly pleasant evening.

While I don’t miss being 25, I just wish…what is it I miss exactly? Do I really want to be doing all those things I got up to back then? Was the grass really greener, or is it like any new stage in life when you look back and wax lyrical? I could go out every Saturday night, but it would never replicate what I had all those years ago. I’m not the same person (thank goodness). One thing having kids does is make you realise it’s no longer all about you.

My ‘golden age’ was a period of discovery, emerging independence and the seductiveness of the sheer unknown. Well, it’s still a period of discovery (usually a mashed banana at the bottom of a bag), especially when my two little unknowns reveal more of their unique selves every day.

Illustration by Alex Wegner