Sound of the Times

There are many of my hobbies and interests that have kind of fallen by the wayside since having children. I think that lots of people find that. I loved the theatre – me and my husband went to watch King Lear with Derek Jacobi when my daughter was six weeks old. Booking the tickets when I was pregnant, I never thought for a second that would be an issue. I’d lined up my mum to babysit and was really excited. When it came to it I spent the entire time worrying, and my husband spent the whole time asleep, grateful to be in a dark room at last after weeks of having the lights on all night so that I could watch the baby and see to latch her on constantly.

We have not been back to the theatre since, though I’m actually going tomorrow night, soooo excited!!  No Shakespeare tomorrow though, a bit of Sue Perkins doing some comedy. I have generally found that my attention span these days is non-existent. One-liners and double entendres is much more my level. I used to LOVE reading. My books were (and still are) my pride and joys, though I spend more time these days just looking at them in wonder than actually reading. I remember before children, my grandmother telling me about being in a car crash, and having a head injury. Since then she couldn’t read books anymore. She just couldn’t hold the information in her head long enough, she’d read the same line over and over. I used to love reading complex books, poetry, philosophy, sometimes several connected books at the same time, cross referencing and making notes. Five years into parenting it feels like I imagine my grandmother felt, slightly brain injured. Unable to form those connections or sustain those thoughts. The very few books I have managed to read have been non-fiction, often parenting related, things I can dip in and out of. I desperately hope one day to be able to manage reading again. Maybe my (eventually, when I finally get around to finishing it) Konmari’d and decorated reading room will help me find that quiet space again.

The thing I think I miss most, and which I’m most surprised to have lost, is music.

I was probably slightly late to the music scene, but hitting my teenage years at exactly the point that Britpop hit, made it impossible to miss. Growing up in a small town there wasn’t much access to live music, but as soon as I made it to university I was at gigs most weeks, following my most beloved bands around the country with fellow fans. I made some great friends and blagged my way to some backstage parties. I was a regular festival-goer, something that became quite pivotal in my relationship with both my mother initially, who would come to Glastonbury with me every year, and later, my husband. This culminated with us honeymooning at Glastonbury, complete with my mother in neighbouring tent.

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When my daughter was born, a lot of thought was put into my birth playlist. All the hours bouncing up and down the kitchen trying to settle her were always accompanied by music. Alone with her in the house all day I had the radio, 6 music, on at all times. I found lots of new, and old, music through that time which very much remind me of those days.

It was when she was about two years old that we really started noticing her response to the constant noise of the radio. It became obvious that it was distressing and overwhelming her. Once we’d realised, and turned the radio off, we found it made a huge difference to her behaviour. As she got older and communicated more, she will quite clearly ask is to turn it off. She is fine with an occasional song to dance or sing along to, but as soon as it starts to become background noise she will ask to turn it off.

Even in the car these days we have a series of children’s audiobooks that she follows and loves, so music is pretty much out there too. I feel quite bereft without it.

I remember as a teenager asking my mum about punk. I was horribly disappointed in her when she replied that she was too busy having babies to know much about punk, her first was born in 1977. Now I find myself unable to identify any music released in the past five years or so, unless it gets played repeatedly on the cheesy local radio station in the office at work, and even then it’s unlikely I paid any attention. These days my music listening is really limited to the five minutes I occasionally get to myself post-shower. Still there is nothing I love more than those five minutes, cranking it up to eleven, singing at the top of my voice and having an over exuberant dance-along.

I am hoping that one day these things will come back to me, along with going out for meals, travelling, art galleries and romantic weekends away. And for now I will be thankful for the new interests that motherhood has brought to my life, the new interests my children will introduce me to, as I did with my mother, and my five joyful minutes of towel dancing in the morning.

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