WORKING mums get very little 'me' time. And working single mums are likely to get even less, as there is nobody to hold the fort when they're gone.
It has been years since I last had a Saturday afternoon off to wander around town, but last week I finally got around to it. I had a half-price voucher for a manicure and I was determined to use it before it expired. So I headed into the city in a very good mood. The sun was shining and there was a great buzz about the place. I had forgotten what it felt like to wander around the shops without a buggy.
After strolling around the streets, without a little person shouting at me for sweets and treats, I finally got my nails done. It was the second manicure I'd had this year and I was thrilled not to be embarrassed by my chipped nails anymore.
But just after I emerged from the salon I got a call that no mother ever wants. Gary's minder said he'd had an accident and could I come urgently. I jumped into a taxi and 10 minutes later I was standing on the flyover bridge at the Stillorgan dual carriageway.
Gary had crashed into the railings on his bike and had split his chin open. His little face was covered in blood, as were his clothes. He was hysterical.
Another taxi took us to Crumlin Hospital. The waiting room was packed, mostly with little boys. I reckoned the warm weather encouraged boys to be more adventurous and they had damaged limbs in the process. I knew we would be in for a long wait.
The evening dragged on. Ambulances came and went. My three-year-old, whose eyes had been closing in the taxi, much to my alarm, suddenly perked up in the waiting room when he saw so many other kids the same age as himself. He ran in and out of the toy house and seemed to think he was at a party.
Night fell. We had been there for six hours. The little hospital shop nearby was closed and the vending machine in the waiting room was empty. We got food in the cafe at the other end of the hospital.
I chatted to the other mums. Nearly all the parents in the waiting room were mums with sons. Most of them did not work, although they told me that they had worked until childcare just became too expensive. I nodded in agreement. I understood about childcare and how paying a full-time child minder makes it almost impossible to earn a decent living.
I told them about my half-price nail voucher. I'd had to pay a babysitter for the afternoon, then taxis to and from the hospital as well as the €100 Accident & Emergency fee. It had turned out to be the most expensive manicure of my life.
Gary was eventually seen at midnight and bawled his eyes out as he got his chin stitched up by the doctor. And as we left the hospital I was dismayed to see the rain lashing down. But at least we were going home.
Some children we had met that evening would not be going home that night. We were the lucky ones.