For five days in July 2022 I swapped lives with my children. This is the record of our experience.
Day Two: Tuesday
John is working all day. I’m home alone with three unusually self-sufficient children and no housework to do. I’m pervaded by a subtle but encompassing malaise. A sort of restlessness and unease. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is… until I suddenly recognise it. It’s boredom! It’s been so long I barely recognised my old teen-years nemesis. Time to pull out the mental list of “Things I Never Get Around To” and start wasting time with wild abandon. Who knows? Maybe some personal grooming is even on the cards. The sky’s the limit.
Lunch is Michael’s turn today. He places a bag of pre-washed salad, a pack of pre-sliced cheese and a tub of marinated olives on the table, throws a bunch of forks at us and claims he has “made” lunch. You can keep your corporate efficiency gurus. If you are really interested in cutting out wasted time and effort, just watch how a nine year old boy does it. You might learn a trick or two.
I’ve cycled depressingly quickly through my wish list of things I’ve always wanted to have time for in one morning. By late afternoon I find myself putting up a shelf and reorganising my kitchen. I’m making a mess while Mary is preparing dinner. I’m at it so long and so chaotically that I have to ask her “doesn’t it bother you that I’ve turned the kitchen into a dump while you are trying to cook?” “Not at all.” she replies. “It’s not my mess.” She is contentedly simmering a smoked sausage sauce to serve with pasta. It’s a Mary staple and a family favourite. When we finally eat, Michael says the sauce is “too good for the Gods”. This is a reference to the “good enough for Jehovah” line in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and I am bursting with pride as this is by far his cleverest and most sophisticated joke to date.
In the evening, after their laundry and dish work they all sit around watching as many cartoons as they want, leaving myself and John to drink beer and murder a few classics on the guitar. At 10pm all three are still awake, but drift one by one away from the TV and on to my bed where the singing turns to chatting until little Séamus nods off in my lap. The perfect evening.