The Third Space

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

Our evenings now involve trying to eat spaghetti bolognese over the baby’s head without dropping it in his ears.

This is also the only time my husband and I get to talk to each other face-to-face. All our conversations are a competition about who has had the worst day.

My husband tells me about his awful commute and then, and this seems to be the most stressful part of his day, ‘the salad bar ran out of beetroot.’

I tell him there is breast milk squirted all over the car windows because I tried to eat a petrol station sandwich in a car park while feeding the baby.

I also manage to get in a comment about how I haven’t had time to go to the loo.

Once we have finished being passive aggressive my husband pours some wine and says. ‘I worked something out on the commute. I worked out everyone needs a Third Space.’

He says this phrase as if it really does have capital letters.

I re-position the baby so that he screams down my other ear.

‘People live in a house…’ he says.

I watch as he sucks pasta into his mouth, flicking sauce all over the sofa. He seems a little distracted by the screeching baby. ‘Maybe he needs more milk?’

I give him the ‘don’t ever say that again or I will chop off my boobs and sew them on to your chest’ look.

He continues with his observations. ‘People live in a house and go to work and then they come back to the house.’

‘Yes,’ I say, thinking I have better conversations with Milk and Mayhem.

But my husband continues. ‘That’s two spaces. And that’s when the rot sets in, because everyone needs a Third Space.’

‘Do you want to go to the pub or something?’ I shout above the noise.

‘Some people might choose that but I mean like going to the gym, or an allotment, or something away from the house, or even something in the house, but a special place where you can’t be disturbed.’

The idea of not being disturbed gets my interest. ‘And what does one do in this Third Space?’

‘See life differently, see different people, different sounds, different smells. Have space to think!’

I nod rather enthusiastically and the baby is sick down my back.

I put him gently on the floor. ‘Here’s a different person for you to see. And a different smell. Would you mind changing him while I go to the loo?’

I head upstairs as slowly as possible, savouring the feeling of being a single entity.

I close the door of the bathroom and realise with a little sigh that I am probably sitting on Milk’s wee, and my feet are also probably standing in Mayhem’s wee.

My husband is right about the Third Space, but I have a newborn who is rarely more than 10m from me. I look at my thighs. I could have a go at Baby Yoga.

Baby Yoga involves lying on the floor with a baby (preferably your own), lying next to you on a special mat. When the baby makes a position with his arms and legs, all the mums have to copy it.

I know if I try this with our baby he will squirm around on his back, fart or poo and then puke to one side. I’m not sure I’d enjoy copying this, and anyway I did plenty of that at University.

I ponder the other Third Spaces available to me.

The garden. Not during the day when Milk and Mayhem are terrorising the rabbits or kicking balls at my head. I’m talking about the garden in the middle of the night, when the air hangs as still as the stars, and I look out of the window and wish I smoked, because then I would have a reason to go outside and blow smoke rings at the moon.

Another Third Space of mine is when we have all left the house at the weekend, but someone has forgotten something, so I run back and I stand for a moment in the debris of our morning activity breathing in the silence.

That’s a special Third Space: That small but peaceful moment before I unfreeze and grab the hat, or sock or water bottle and race back to the car full of chaos in the drive.

The bathroom door opens and my husband is standing there with the baby.

I look at him. He looks at me a little sheepishly. ‘I think he is.. hungry…’

‘But I’m on the loo.’

My husband nods. ‘You’ve been up here for ages.’

I shrug. ‘I’m not going to apologise for being on the loo.’

He agrees at once. ‘Oh I know, I just feel sorry for you.’

‘Why? I’m not constipated if that’s what you’re thinking.’

He grimaces. ‘No. I mean I feel sorry for you because this is it.’


‘This is your Third Space.’

I look around at the bath toys and toothbrushes, the dripping tap and the floor covered in wee.

‘In that case we need to get a Do Not Disturb sign,’ I say and kick the door shut.



Author: Felicity Cousins


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