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Confessions of a working mother: And I thought empty house would be the answer to my prayers

By Karen Ireland

At the end of last week I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I vowed if I heard the words “Mum I need ... Mum can I ...” one more time I was going to lock myself in the bathroom and not come out until September.

I blame day two of the summer holidays when the heavens opened and everyone was stuck inside, getting in everyone else's way and on each other’s nerves. That’s when the choruses of “I'm bored” began.

On day two of eight weeks!

It didn't help that I had a pile of work to do which involved researching and lots of phone calls. Each time I lifted the phone someone appeared screaming “He hit me,” “He took my ball,” “He won't play with me”.

I quickly realised that working from home during the summer holidays was going to be some fun. Needless to say, I got next to nothing done.

Then something pretty remarkable and unheard of happened — I got rid of all four of them.

Yes, all four of my noisy men (husband included) decamped to Belfast’s King's Hall for five days.

Along with more than 3,500 others they were attending Summer Madness, the largest Christian event for young people in Ireland, which takes place annually during the first weekend of the summer.

So, off they set on Friday afternoon with their youth leader dad, 20 other young people, their tents, sleeping bags, very few clothes and enough food to feed the 5,000.

I was left behind for the first time ever with just the dog, the cat, two guinea pigs, the goldfish and a pile of work for company — my wee men had flown the coop.

That peace and quiet I craved was suddenly mine in abundance.

So the first thing I did was charge up the lap-top and get stuck into my to-do list, right?

Wrong. I had copious cups of tea, loving being in charge of the remote control for the first time in years.

But after a few hours of Friends’ re-runs, I started to miss the chaos that is my family life.

I did knuckle down and make some of those all important phone calls but in the calm and quiet they were done in record speed, and suddenly the house seemed a little too peaceful.

A call after midnight on the first evening confirmed the boys were having the time of their lives — relishing their new found freedom and friendships with no notion of doing anything normal like going to bed.

And I didn't even have the luxury of a lie-in without them as each morning I got a text to say they were all up and raring to go from about 7.30am.

Over the weekend I tried to make the most of it as all my friends advised. But by lunchtime on Saturday curiosity got the better of me and I headed for the King's Hall.

I promised myself that I would work extra hard on my ‘freedom days' at the start of the week. I just wanted to check out how they were getting on...

I was met by my eldest son who was casually strolling around the complex. My youngest was nowhere to be found.

This, I was soon to realise, was the norm. My six-year-old had become king of the King's Hall, exploring and making new friends. It was “Hi Teo” everywhere we went.

The boys had a great time experiencing everything from drumming lessons to live bands and even managing to rescue their tents from Sunday’s gales.

And I realised that as mad as they drive me, things just aren't the same without them. I also got a glimpse of the future when they won't always be in Belfast, where I can just pop down and check up on them.

So be careful what you wish for. It might not be all it's cracked up to be.

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