One to one time

A portrait of young mother with a small daughter in autumn nature at sunset.


The hardest thing about having four children is not the practical stuff, although this can send your mind into contorsions. The day to day can be complex, but the real difficulty comes in trying to give everyone an equal amount of attention. Daughter three is a big fan of one-to-one time. She is also highly accomplished at forward planning while daughter two, who equally could do with one to one time, is a spontaneous, live by the seat of your pants sort of person so had never planned anything in her life.

Only son hasn’t really noticed much whether he is having one to one time or not, but tends to claim it in a rather in your face kind of way by, for instance, lying on top of me in the morning and whispering in my ear how much he loves me before five minutes later telling me I’m not his favourite person because I have refused to let him have ice cream for breakfast. Daughter one would, of course, never admit to needing any one to one time with someone as uncool as her mother, but she does occasionally need someone to chat to about the eighties and whether David Sylvian had a weird voice in the early Japan albums.

So on Saturday, daughter one was off to Reading Festival for the day with a friend so daughter three decided it was her time. In fact she had been planning the trip since I took daughter one to a jazz club in Barcelona three weeks earlier.

She is slightly obsessed with transport, mainly because she is bored of the car after four days in it so all her ideas centred around getting a train. She has also been a bit frustrated by the rubbish August weather so is keen to get out. She wanted to go to Brighton with me, only me, on a train. Daughter two was not very impressed. “You only want to go to Brighton to go to the tea shop Zoella has written about in her blog,” she said. Curse Zoella. Daughter three mentioned the pier and the funfair. Daughter two decided she might like to go to Brighton too and drag her mother onto a rollercoaster for some premium one to one time. Her mother is not a fan of the rollercoaster and has been known to have palpitations even looking at it.

My partner said there was no way he was going anywhere near Brighton on a bank holiday Saturday. Daughter three, who had written a project on Brighton by this point, was not very happy. I tried to limit her expectations slightly. I suggested a short ride on the central line and a trip to Superdrug to window shop Zoella’s latest products. It was not quite what she had in mind.

In the end, as ever, we had a long talk about how if I was to spend a whole day of one to one time with each child it would mean she would have three whole days when she didn’t see me at all and one more if I threw in a day for my partner. Maybe the odd hour or two would work better? Daughter three is a reasonable and thoughtful person. Really all she wants is to have some time with her mum on her own.

She just likes planning and wants to make it something special and the internet offers so many options. Daughters two and three and I headed for a local cafe and she had a coconut smoothie. We chatted about life and stuff and then we went to the local pet centre to see the rabbits and the fish before going home to create a sleepover scenario in daughter three’s room. She and only son were going to share a mattress on the floor. “It’ll be safer,” said only son who worries that his bed is a bit too far from the door in case he needs urgent access to his parents in the night. We put the Marvel comics duvet on one side and another duvet on the other for daughter three. Only son thought it was ace. Daughter one texted from Reading. Only three days of summer to go…

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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