Our relationship is hanging on by a thread. We sleep in separate beds. Our day-time conversation is limited. We both moan about work. Sound familiar?
Fear not. We've just had a bad week. Our relationship continues to survive. I'll tell you why.
We meet for coffee twice a week.
Terribly sophisticated I know. It's our us time.
We have this routine each saturday and sunday morning when we sit in bed together (around 8am), watch a little television and drink coffee carefully prepared using our Nespresso machine, whilst the children watch CBeebies in a room which used to be our fancy living room but which now resembles a poor version of Hamleys.
Sounds normal. Sounds nice. Sounds idyllic.
Yes it does. But the only snag in this romantic tale is that our us time only lasts four minutes. That's 240 seconds to rekindle the romance by enquiring about each other's jobs, by listening to each other's worries and to generally do what other romantic couples do.
Not to dwell on a point, but that's just 240 seconds to relive a little slice of the sophisticated life we led before we had babies, when we drank coffee and ate breakfast slowly and in one sitting.
Now I'm not suggesting we dress for these coffee mornings or anything. I don't bring flowers or chocolate to our dates. It's just a moment in our week which we enjoy; when we can relive what life used to be like before we had babies. This is important as we need to be reminded that life, whilst it will never be the same again (and we wouldn't want it to be), will get easier than it is now and will revert to a semblance of normality someday soon.
But why only 240 seconds I hear you ask?
Well, four minutes (I've timed it), is way enough time for our dynamic duo to chug down their milk and to hurtle into our dreamy coffee morning demanding Peppa Pig DVDs, biscuits and our full attention. That's all fair enough. That's what we all sign up to when having children. But the sweet aroma of coffee soon disappears along with any romance. But that's the sacrifice.
Last Sunday was a fine example of how weekend coffee-morning liaisons usually go.
Picture the scene. It's 7.50am.
The four of us muster in the kitchen area having slept in one of two cots or two big beds scattered around two bedrooms. You see, our son has a particular penchant for mother sleeping on the battered-old mattress next to his cot these days (well, for the past six months actually) from about 1am onwards, which isn't exactly great for maintaining an adult relationship. You wouldn't call this situation an aphrodisiac shall we say! This arrangement also serves to demonstrate the importance of our coffee dates.
But I digress.
Back to Sunday. 7.53am.
Our daughter tends to be our head barista, decked out in a permanently tomato-sauce stained Peppa Pig dress that I dare not wash. This arrangement doesn't always guarantee a coffee that George Clooney would be pleased with; that's reassuringly smooth. She doesn't exactly take instructions well! Lucky for everyone then that our favourite coffee isn't a skinny latte w/Sugar-free Hazelnut (tall)!
Sitting on our breakfast counter (again, terribly sophisticated) besides the coffee machine, mother instructs our daughter to press the button to fire up the Nespresso machine to make the coffee.
Together they count...
"One, two, three..." (this is so educational for her) "...eight, nine, ten."
At ten seconds (which we know is the optimum time needed to create the perfect caffè latte with this machine) mother instructs: "Turn it off darling."
"No," our daughter snorts (she's wearing a Peppa Pig dress remember).
"Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen..." the Nespresso machine rattles on.
"Turn it off darling," mother pleads.
"No," she replies (remember, she's only two so "no" is the only word she knows; or is at least prepared to use).
"Turn it off," I plead from the bedroom from where I had retired to prepare for our coffee date.
Now I know what you're thinking. Why didn't mother just turn off the machine? And that would be a fair question. But, as you may well know, when dealing with a two year old, logic literally plummets out of the window. Burning our daughter's Peppa Pig dress in front of her might well have induced a less hostile reaction from her had we turned the Nespesso machine off in front of her then.
Basically we're sacred of her!
Finally, at 16, she finally played ball, the machine was turned off and the coffee was made. What the coffee was going to taste like was irrelevant, not that I would have been brave enough to send it back! You see, how we executed the next few minutes was crucial to the successful outcome of our entire coffee date. Timing was crucial.
To best optimise the time allowed for our coffee date we aim to serve our children their morning milk when all drinks (Aptamil Pepti 2 baby milk and Nespresso Arpeggio coffee) are prepared and all clients are seated. Apart from the runner (mother) that is.
So, once our daughter's barista duties were completed and our coffees were placed on a tray, mother kindly requested that she and her brother take a seat and wait for their milk to be served.
That all sounds very civilised, but by now our daughter was demanding her milk in a fashion which suggested she hadn't eaten for days (which was probably true).
"Are you ready darling?" mother shouts to me, leaning over the children with their milk bottles.
"Yes," I shout back. "Give them their milk. Get in here!"
The clock starts ticking...