Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

My carefree younger years were great, but I wouldn't swap them for my crazy life now

By Kerry McLean

Do you remember the days when you had more spare time on your hands than you knew what to do with? Those days of lazy lie-ins, long weekend lunches and binge-watching box sets over a whole weekend. Those days when you would lounge in the bath with a face mask on and remember to shave your legs regularly. I do. Vaguely.

At the minute, I'm existing on an average of about four hours of sleep a night, I can't remember the last time I stood in any room in my house, yes, even the smallest room, on my own without one of my three kids or my husband appearing to ask something.

I've tried locking doors but the toddler throws herself at them like a battering ram with a level of noisy violence that an army of Orcs - those menacing characters from Lord of the Rings - would find hard to match.

My day starts before 6am, when I'm up with the toddler, who likes to gently wake me by pulling my eyelids back and trying to shove random things in my mouth.

It could be her dummy, my phone, her tube of nappy cream.

I consider it a good start to the day if it's something clean ... not always the case. Then it's up, full steam ahead, sorting lunches and school uniforms for the older two.

Rummaging through handbags and my husband's pockets to gather up enough cash to cover money needed for some school trip away that they found out about two weeks ago and only remembered to tell me on the day that it's due.

Next, I'm on the road from the north coast to Belfast, into work at BBC Radio Ulster and a job I love, presenting the afternoon show. When I step in the door, I'm all set to go because once the kids are fed, bathed and asleep in the evening, that's when I start preparations for the next day, working into the wee small hours, choosing music, finding stories and editing interviews.

Let's just say, trying to fill my day is never an issue.

But it wasn't always so.

There's a sweet spot, just between finishing school or university and starting work in earnest.

A time when you've landed your first proper job, earning not a great amount probably, but enough to just about cover your bills and go out a few nights in the week.

It's a time when choosing to eat tomato sauce sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner seemed like a great way to save my pennies for those parties with friends. Tomato sauce sachets, I might add, which had been 'liberated' from the canteen at work.

I still have to fight the urge to fill my handbag with salt, pepper and sauce sachets, a hangover from those hard-up days.

They were fun times, getting up to mischief, but would I swap it with my life now? Honestly?

Thinking about it, I would have to say no. Why? Because it was boring! Not all of it, of course not. I had mad, crazy adventures with fantastic friends but I also had endless hours with not a lot to do.

Maybe if you're loaded and able to fill your time with new, fun activities it would be a different story but for the majority of us those carefree years are also pretty cash-free ones.

You can only have so many long lie-ins and pamper days at home before you realise that they aren't a treat and are, instead, a way of passing your time ...

So what do I do with all that free time these days?

Well, in the last week alone I have spent eight hours in Casualty with the toddler after she decided a jar of chest rub was a good alternative to porridge for breakfast, four hours with my eldest teenage daughter trying to find an outfit that we both think is acceptable to wear to a wedding (we still haven't found one) and two hours attempting to make fishing lures with my son.

Who knows what next week has in store for me but I can tell you now, it won't be boring.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph