etc columnist: Louise Margaret

Louise
Louise

Happy birthday to me...

Louise Margaret on why cleaning out the hamster or scrubbing a cooker beats yet another birthday celebration...

I have my birthday this month, and people have started asking ‘oh, what are you doing for your birthday?’ and I want to reply, ‘becoming another year older’ but I don’t.

I just dismiss the question with something like ‘going out to dinner, nothing fancy, you know.’ If I was ten, and had a bouncy castle party booked, then fine, but I’m mid-forties now and seriously, my birthday is just another day of normal stuff.

I’ll get a message from my mum first of all, because, you know, being the day she gave birth to me is quite significant to her, and me of course, but I will still have to do my job, drive home, I will have to clean up after the children/cats/hamsters, do dinner, clear up the wreckage in the kitchen, do some laundry, yell at the kids, chase up homework completion, write some more of my novel and go to bed.

Why do people expect you to do something on your birthday, or in fact on any ‘day off’? It’s called a day off for a reason. I’ve found myself, on a quiet child-free weekend, cleaning my oven. Admittedly it’s a chore that once completed, is almost as satisfying as clean, ironed sheets, but seriously?

What was I doing? It was my day off, a day free from any responsibilities, or expectations and I’ve gone through a whole bottle of Cif, and four scouring pads.

If I get any spare time and manage to get two or three loads of laundry done, I am beyond smug with myself for catching up. If the ironing gets done too, even better and if I manage to cram in an episode or two of a TV programme whilst ironing, it’s a perfect couple of hours.

Why do we do this? If it’s an occasion like a birthday, it’s just another day of the week and we play it down, but if we get say, four hours to ourselves unexpectedly, it’s like the free-time bonanza button has been hit in the casino of real life, and we all become Stepford Wife Superheroes of chores, errands and tasks. It’s like we have an in-built guilt trigger if we go and do something purely for ourselves, as opposed to something constructive.

I have a weekend to myself coming up soon and there are myriad things I could be doing with my time - go out for a walk in the countryside, go out for dinner, read a book, watch a film, or have a glass of wine at lunchtime (oh hark at me and my rebellious ways), I could go anywhere, and do anything, the possibilities literally are endless.

Alas, I know that deep down, rather than doing something frivolous or freeing, in my free time, I have an under-sink cupboard that needs a damned good sort out, and a pair of Marigolds with my name on them, and I can’t wait.

This first featured in the May edition of etc Magazine pick up your copy now.