One of the most shocking things about becoming a mother is adjusting to the lack of privacy. When you're a Mum other people's priorities come before your own, even when it comes to the most basic need of having to use the toilet. I remember my Mum doing the washing up or preparing dinner working urgently with her legs crossed. The more desperate she became the tighter she'd cross her legs until finally she'd be nearly bent over double - but she wouldn't stop what she was doing until it was finished, and only then would she bolt into what she called 'the powder room'.
When I first met Tim years ago I remember being acutely embarrassed about having to use the bathroom in his flat. I would even run the tap to give myself some privacy. It sounds ridiculous now thinking back, but I suppose that's what romantic love is all about - you're still trying to make a good impression on each other and each little piece of intimacy shared is like baring another millimeter of your soul.
Ten years and two children later I can actually urinate unabashedly with the door open. Not wide open mind you, but I can't close it because Charlotte will throw a fit if she finds it shut and realises I'm inside. So I leave the door slightly ajar and hope that I'm not missed, just for a few minutes. More often than not however someone needs me, right at that moment. Even if I've been brazen enough to actually close the door Tom will shout suddenly 'Mum!' or he'll just come straight to the toilet, slamming down the handle and throwing the door wide open with a crash and demanding that he needs to use the loo, right now! Charlotte will hear the commotion and before long there is a crowd of small people impatiently pressuring me to yank up my trousers and vacate the bathroom. Everything, at least with my children, is always urgent. I even have a memory of Tom as a baby having to breastfeed and I was so desperate to use the toilet that I had to hold him on my lap while I went. Long gone are the days of romantic love.
Unlike me however, Tim resists giving up his privacy and continues to lock the bathroom door, even if it means the next fifteen minutes are a cacophony of screams and abuse directed at the impermeable wall. Behind the closed door the shower runs, the toilet flushes, the sink gurgles. My children do not understand why they are left out, they hurl their small fists angrily at the door and their screams crescendo till their faces are red and sticky with saliva and tears and they are nearly hyperventilating with distress. Suddenly, finally, the door opens and Tim emerges in a cloud of steam, steps over the bodies and vanishes off into the wardrobe.
By contrast, Tom has no concern whatsoever for privacy. "I need to do a poo" he will announce and within minutes will be sitting astride the toilet, legs wide apart, usually with most of his clothes removed for the job. It is quite a sight.
When he was young, only two or three, he had a funny habit of having to stand on the toilet seat to urinate. He would remove all clothes from the waist down, then climb up and with both feet apart would lean forward and brace himself on the tank. I was very happy with this arrangement as his little penis always pointed straight down into the bowl and he was in easy reach of the button. I remember my brother-in-law staying with us though, erupting into laughter when he finally caught site of Tom in the act - he'd been wondering why there were always two perfect little dirty footprints on the toilet seat and couldn't work out why they were always pointing backwards.
When Mum stayed with us recently there was even less privacy than usual, and I remember having one particular day where every time I needed to use the loo I was interrupted. All I wanted in the world was a few minutes of peace and quiet in solitude. It seemed I would never get them, until, quite by chance I fell asleep putting Charlotte to bed and woke up after midnight. The house was dark and quiet and I was now wide awake. I crept downstairs in my slippers and made myself a cup of tea. I didn't care that if I stayed up I might be exhausted the next day, just the luxury of having no one around made the choice of what to do thrilling. I could read, I could work on my computer and, I realised, I could go to the toilet - alone.
I was so excited by this prospect that when the urge came I took great pleasure in closing the door and actually closed my eyes and sighed with relief as my bare bottom came to rest on the seat.
But the experience didn't go to plan. I had this awful nagging feeling that I was being watched. I tried to reassure myself that everyone in the house was sound asleep and that I was being paranoid, but then I opened my eyes. There, less than a metre away, sitting on top of the soap dispenser was a huge brown cockroach, staring straight at me. My eyes bulged, my body stiffened and I felt vehement hostility towards this loathsome creature for invading my cherished privacy. It was a stand off, neither of us moved a muscle, except the cockroach who defiantly waved its hideous long antennae as if to say 'What are you going to do about it, huh?'.
I wish I could say my better, ethical, compassionate self intervened, but it didn't, and as soon as I was done, my precious moments of solitude spoiled, I crushed the damn cockroach and took great pleasure flushing it down the loo.