It's one of those standard interview questions isn't it, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?" I used to have all the answers. Not anymore.
Before I became a parent I lived very much for the future. Short term I lived for the weekend and the nights out. Longer term I was all about promotions, property, and marriage proposals. It was all part of the 5 year plan.
I am a planner. It's in my nature. But with the arrival of small people in my life (yes, it was part of the 5 year plan) I began to live in the moment, and didn't really plan anything much more in advance of a play date the next week. Small people have an innate talent for putting a spanner in the works of best laid plans. Only last week saw an event that has been on the calendar for 6 months. 6 Months of anticipation and excitement, and when they day finally arrived, so did a sickness bug which took down the little one and our plans.
Today I had a rare moment of calm and stillness. Alone with my thoughts I started to think about a 5 year plan. I didn't get very far before I realised that in 5 years the little one would be older than the big one is now, and the big one would be 11. I then got a bit weepy at the thought of my babies growing up, because right now 11 might as well be packing his bags and leaving home. So I stopped with the 5 year plan.
Being a parent has given me a new appreciation for time, in the sense that I know how quickly it passes us by. I know every parent says, "It only seems like yesterday," but it really does. I blinked and 6 years have flown by. I look back at my life before kids and yes, sometimes I miss the spare time that I had. The time I got to spend in the bathroom. Alone. The time I got to laze in bed on a Sunday morning with no one prizing my eyes open, demanding to be fed, or requiring me to be anywhere else. The short time it took me to leave the house before 2 became 4. Now there are 8 feet for 8 shoes, and 8 arms for 4 coats, and enough bags to look like I was going on holiday. For a month. Leaving the house is a military mission that should be recognised in some kind of award ceremony for parents.
Mostly I look back at my life before kids as a different lifetime. It was a happy one, but a very different kind of happiness to now. There were a lot less grey hairs though!
Sometimes I look back to the newborn days and I feel sad that I will never experience that again. I feel cheated that it all went by so quickly. But then one of my small people will bowl me over with a bear hug, or tell me something they have learnt today, and I am back in the here and now, loving the people they are, and appreciating all that I have.
Becoming a parent changes the measure of time. It's not so much about hours, weeks, months and years. It's measured in the time between feeds. Units of sleep, or lack there of. Milestones and growth charts. Changing faces in photographs. First steps to first loves. School pick ups and term dates. New shoes for ever-growing feet, and the piles of outgrown clothes for the charity shop. Reading levels, and ever-changing out of reach hiding places.
We urgently will time to slow down so they stop growing too fast. We wonder where our helpless babies went. Then we will it to speed up so we can get over the current 'phase' of biting, saying the word "poo" on average 72 times a day, or the Ninjago obsession that is costing a small fortune.
There are moments in parenting when time inexplicably stands still. Normally in confined spaces such as cars, for prolonged periods of time when you just been asked, "are we nearly there yet?" for the 157th time, and you are fighting a strong urge to jump from the moving vehicle.
My head is often tied up with tomorrow and what needs to be taken to school, and what do I need to prepare for dinner. I'm equally proud and embarrassed by my gift draw, for moments of forward thinking, sale bargains and forgotten emergency gifts for last-minute parties. My calendar is full of appointments, after school clubs, meetings and play dates. But as for the 5 year plan? Forget about it*.
*If I don't forget about it, you will find me weeping in the corner and muttering something about, "It only feels like yesterday."