But I've also really enjoyed this week. And if I'm honest, I haven't really missed them. I have loved my millinery course and I have loved doing the sort of things we used to do before we were parents. We have done something every night this week: we have had dinner with our neighbours, who (like the song says) have become good friends in the five years we have lived here, we have been to the cinema, we have had friends round for dinner, we've even been to the opera...
That's normally about six months' worth of activities and we've done it in a week. And it's been fun.
But more than what we have done, what strikes me is what we, or in fact I, have not done. I have not been provoked to murderous, blood-boiling, rage. I have not raised my voice. I have not been worried. I have not had to repeat myself fifteen times. I have had to deal with nobody's bodily functions other than my own. I have cooked no fishfingers.
I have been calm and rational and content.
And so I have been wondering whether I would actually have been happier had we never had children.
Now, I can't actually answer that question. Because I do have children. And a week without them doesn't mean that I have really been without them. I am a mother. It is part of who I am, and it tempers everything I do and think and say. My girls came from me, and although I no longer physically carry them with me, they are, nonetheless, always present. I can no more understand what it would be like to be without them than I can, really, understand what it would be like to to be an elephant. I can empathise, or sympathise, or imagine, but I can't understand.
So I looked it up. If you Google my question you get sixty-four and a half million hits (this may actually be the real sixty-four million dollar question) so I'm clearly not alone in wondering. I clicked on a few of the first to come up....
"Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers,"says Newsweek. The Times agrees:
"numerous scholars have found evidence that parents often report statistically significantly lower levels of happiness, life satisfaction, marital satisfaction and mental wellbeing compared with non-parents."Which seems pretty straightforward really.
But then I think.
And I think that what I have been this week is content. And then I think about spending time with my girls, worrying, frustrating, annoying as they can be. And I think about all the millions of moments we have had and hopefully will have with them. And about just one, unexciting, ordinary moment in the northbound services on the M6 toll road about four weeks ago. 7.30 am. Been up since 5. Sun streaming through the windows. Mmm Bop on the cheesy service station speaker system. All three of my girls crawling around, giggling.
And I knew, in that moment, sublime happiness. Us, and our girls, and the sunshine and the cheesy pop.
And I think I wouldn't swap those moments for a lifetime of contentedness.