Only very rarely do I wonder what life would be like if I'd not taken up fostering.
Once in a blue moon I find myself noticing other people my age doing things that are tricky when you foster.
I sometimes see a lunchtime group of ladies who have just done Pilates and are having a slice of pizza and a glass of Chardonnay before going off to have their hair done. Well actually I could do that if I wanted to.
A woman I vaguely know stopped me recently and said all chirpy: "Do you know anywhere I can get a model or small statue of a whippet?" I had to be honest and say that I didn't. "You see" she went on "I make items of jewellery which I sell to raise money for the animal sanctuary, and I was thinking that a whippet would be rather good, don't you?"
I could do that too, if I wanted to.
I see people my age jogging and cycling who seem to be trying to stay fit enough to live longer in order to spend more time jogging and cycling in order to stay fit enough to live longer in order to...
As you grow in life, the question of what to do with your days becomes sharper. When I was young I just got on with the things you HAVE to do with your days, no room for thought: go to school/college, buy nice tops to wear on Friday and Saturday nights, go to the cinema, bowling, disco/night club. Look for love. Find love. Lose love, start all over again.
By the time your children can organise their own weekends, you find yourself with time again, only this time you know a bit more than you did before.
We all seem to want to try to be as happy as possible, but not many of us actually manage to put together a whole joined up day of feeling contented. You might get a day when one of your children passes exams and a big worry is lifted, or a friend gets an all-clear. It takes something special to get us to the place we'd like to be all the time, and the feeling doesn't last long.
Last (Friday) night one of our foster children was a pain. Had a bad day at school, spent the evening being cantankerous. Went to bed without the usual "Goodnight, sleep tight don't let the bedbugs bite" routine, instead slammed the bedroom door after announcing that we were hated.
It's now early (Saturday) morning and I'm sitting in the kitchen with a cup of tea and a warm glow. Warmer than the glow I'd have if I was going jogging or getting ready for pilates or baking model whippets so that I can tell passing strangers that I am the champion of needy hedgehogs.
I'm waiting to make someone who needs me their favourite breakfast, which at the moment is a potato fritter with a slice of bacon cut up into bits and tomato sauce.
I know my job well enough to know that a night's sleep will chase away the surface blues of a foster child, and ten minutes lying awake and thinking about last night will make the child feel contrite. Not fawning or frightened, just a bit worried they might have upset me. The smell of bacon will advertise the fact that all is well.
The child will appear in dressing gown and ready to play X Box while munching breakfast, a Saturday treat, memories of yesterday at school all gone.
This is why I really really love fostering, learning the little things that count in the job, and enjoying the best feelings the world has to offer.
Mind, I'm not knocking Pilates. I have noticed when I bend down that they've started to put the ground further away than it used to be.