It’s half way through the school holiday and we’re all still surviving, just. I’m getting a little bit tired of refereeing between the two eldest, who have moments where they can’t get on for love nor money. Yesterday we had a ten minute discussion about who had pressed which buttons at road crossings and in lifts during a trip into town. Each was claiming the other had pressed more buttons, whilst I exasperatedly explained that it was totally equal, before I came to my senses. ‘For goodness sake girls, they’re just buttons!’ They’re obviously not ‘just buttons’ to them, rather a method of judging how fair the world is at that particular moment.
The time of day when the little one has his nap is still the only time when I can get some serious work done and, credit where it’s due, I’m lucky that the other two have been very good at staying upstairs and playing relatively quietly during this time, so that he can sleep and I can work uninterrupted for an hour or two. It’s proving very hard to do Everything these days and I’ve come to the conclusion, as many working mums do, that it’s virtually impossible to ‘have it all’ without building some kind of time machine.
I could merrily spend all day writing, forging contacts with new stockists, marketing on social media and keeping my accounts up to date, whilst the children watched telly all day and the house work backed up. Or I could throw myself into cleaning and tidying and have an immaculate home, whilst my writing went unattended and the children turned feral. Or I could spend all day having fun and going on days out with my children and totally ignore everything else. Or I could get up at 5am and not go to bed until midnight every day, making the most of every second of the day to do Everything, but I suspect I’d soon be a hollow shell of a woman! What I actually do is this: I try to find some kind of balance where the children get some attention and feel like they’ve done something they enjoy, I’ve done a few jobs to keep on top of the housework and I’ve managed to get some work done too. I then try not to feel too guilty about the few hours that they spend in front of the telly, the housework that is neglected and the work that has to be added to tomorrow’s list. I suspect this is the same for many working mums.
People often ask how I manage my time and I usually reply that it’s the same juggling act that many mums face. It’s a question that dads are rarely asked though. I don’t usually hear my husband being asked at a party how he manages to spend quality time with his children whilst working so incredibly hard to be the provider for us all, or whether he misses his children when he is required to work away from home or even how he manages to do so much around the house despite his long working hours. And yet, I know that it is a concern for many dads. We have male friends who have made job and career changes because it means they get to spend more time at home with their family. My husband tries to get home in time to join us at the tea table, take my eldest to Brownies, mow the lawn, tidy the living room, read bedtime stories, put the fire on, fix things in the home or on the car and any other child- and home-related activities that he tries to squeeze in after a long day at work. At weekends, he frequently cooks for us all, makes improvements to the house, ferries the children to dance lessons and spends quality time with family and friends.
As parents we have inevitably joined in the ‘Who Is Most Tired?’ competition and the ‘Who Has Done Most Work?’ debate and the ‘Whose Work Is Most Valued?’ quiz, but recently I’m pleased to say that we both agree we work very hard to benefit our family in a variety of ways to reap the rewards. Someday it should all pay off and the work life balance will be tipped in our favour with less of this ridiculous juggling and arguing over buttons.