A Pox On Both Your Houses

There are times, occasionally, when I wistfully wish I didn’t have to work for a living. I don’t mean the idle, speculative lottery-winning fantasies (I have those far more often), but rather I think enviously of my mother, giving up her career as soon as she had my elder brother, and dedicating herself to the nurture and care of her home, her husband and her children for the next couple of decades.

Does she regret it? No, I honestly don’t think she does. I mean, for starters, she sent us all away to boarding school so it was a frigging picnic right but, also, she went back to work in her later years and then held a very respectable magesterial office (sp? magisterial? I mean she was a magistrate, not entirely sure why I couldn’t just say that) for some years which now allows her to hold forth in strident tones on all manner of subjects of which she has no actual knowledge, most particularly my pathetic attempts to combine a professional career with rearing a small lunatic. She and my father live very comfortably and take many holidays and generally enjoy a lifestyle that I couldn’t begin to aspire to despite both H and I holding down effectively full time jobs.

Far wiser people than me have said far wiser things on this subject of deep and divisive controversy but I think what I want to say but can’t be bothered to set out a properly reasoned argument for is this: out of my mother and I, who had more choice? who had more freedom? who was happier? And the answer is: I have no idea but I am slightly concerned by the direction of this ramble that I am turning into a right wing fundamentalist.

What I really want to say is that, whilst having the Nipper has in many ways made me more insanely and deliriously happy than I could ever imagine being, and whilst I love him from the top of his curly head right down to his frankly quite odd looking toes, and whilst I couldn’t live a day without him, I do feel that I have suffered from a post-natal crisis of confidence, in that I feel I am utterly shit both in my job and domestically. The domestic thing doesn’t really bother me, I’ve always been an utter slattern, and I don’t actually think I’m a terrible Mum, even when I’m feeding the Nipper cheerios with chocolate sauce just in the hope that he will actually eat something, but the incompetence is more striking now that there is a whole tiny human who needs looking after and, man, I have become so useless and indecisive and ineffective at work that sometimes I don’t even know why they pay me. And, more, a lot is talked about equality but very little is actually done. I work in an industry that sells services on a time-based model (no, I am not a prostitute, not in a literal sense). By virtue of being a working mother, I have less time than my male colleagues. Consequently, my male colleagues outstrip me unless I am prepared to put in extra time and work to overcompensate for my audacity in having a child, i.e. by working for free on my “non-working” day; being constantly on call at any hour, and constantly feeling guilty, guilty, guilty about everything. How am I equal to my male, childless peer, who gets into work at 7.30 a.m. five days a week and leaves at 5pm, but is always one step ahead? Or my male boss, who has children… and a stay at home wife. I am not, I cannot be, so why do we all insist on pretending that I am?

Maybe I’m just tired. I mean, I am really, really tired. And it’s not like oh I had a bad night last night and now I’m tired, it’s like I’ve had a bad night every night for the past 4 years if not longer and now I just feel about ninety and that’s why I like to sit in my armchair and drink red wine whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Anyway, I digress. The point of this is that the Nipper has chicken pox and I therefore find myself taking an expectedly week’s “holiday”, by which I mean I still have to do my work, because it’s nearly year end and god forbid I should have an actual break, but I have the privilege of doing it at night instead of the day and of using up my holiday allowance as well so as to tend for a very spotty and very grumpy small person.

Here’s what I planned to achieve:

  • Full day’s work before 8am
  • Revamping wardrobe
  • Manicure and deep conditioning treatment
  • Cooking healthy, nutritious light meals which Nipper will love
  • Playing in the garden
  • Spring cleaning and decluttering entire house
  • Working on novel
  • Become an expert in Italian cookery and having 3 course meal on table for H every evening
  • Conquering Laundry Mountain
  • Generally being a domestic goddess and bonding with my son

Highlights of my first day as a “SAHM” have so far included:

  • Failing to wash or dress child or self
  • Trying to write a long and overdue report in 5 minute bursts, 4 minutes of which are spent trying to recall where I was up to
  • Trying to give illusion to work of being absolutely on top of my game (i.e. by replying to emails within 9 seconds, even if response is gobshite)
  • Cheerios and chocolate sauce for breakfast (see above)
  • Phonecall with boss re: important project whilst Nipper runs around naked waving aloft a potty shouting MUMMY I’VE DONE A BIG POO and dog walker chooses this moment to let self in and collect dogs who go mental
  • Allowing Nipper to get arm stuck in roll of kitchen roll (how? I mean how?)
  • Slicing 3 million grapes in half, of which Nipper consumes not one
  • Making an exquisitely decorated badge for Nipper (CRAFT FUN)
  • Watching Nipper throw said badge on floor in disgust
  • Turning Optimus Primal into a robot… into a dinosaur… into a robot…into a dinosaur…into a robot…
  • Starting to declutter wardrobe. Piling 85 garments on bed and then throwing them randomly into either bin bag or floor of wardrobe
  • TV
  • Unloaded and reloaded dishwasher (BOOM)
  • Doing online supermarket shop in about 3 minutes and ordering mostly wine
  • Greeting H with a badge that says DAD and telling him to make supper
  • Going upstairs to do work and instead writing this ramble

Sort of like a mini-maternity leave secondment, really. It made me quite nostalgic and quite keen to return to work at the earliest possibly opportunity




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