While the vast majority of working mothers are ordinary women who happen to have both jobs and children, whenever the likes of the Daily Mail report on how they can’t handle their kids or that their kids are destined to pursue ‘unnatural sex acts’ (I’ve always liked that phrase given the utter lack of naturalness in our diet and daily activities, why ought our sex lives be “natural”?) or that working mothers increase cancer causing immigrants to enter the country, the picture tends to be of a woman in a suit, wearing heels and disregarding her child. A popular image is her looking glamorous and frustrated, seemingly because her child can’t be managed like a spreadsheet. The woman is rarely shown dropping the kid off at school in a v-necked jumper and low heels mostly on time for her ordinary office job. That’d be a bit boring.

I wouldn’t say I’m especially glamorous but my work in public* involves client meetings and networking events and as a copywriter I am my own product so I aim to look at least polished and professional. Perhaps not quite as smart as the typically depicted power women inconvenienced by offspring but in that direction.

On Thursday mornings I attend a business club, GIN. I get up at 5.30am to shower, blow-dry my hair, apply make-up and put on a smart outfit. As I make the short journey to Hatherley Manor I think about what I’ll say in my 60 second pitch about my business. I aim to arrive in plenty of time for the 6.45am start.

In a fortnights time the husbands ex wife will be dropping off their youngest son as the event draws to an end. My handbag will contain a sticker book and a drink to hopefully occupy said four year old while I finish up any conversations with my fellow club members. Me caring for my stepson each Thursday is the best childcare solution we have come to given a recent change in family circumstances and I’m thrilled to be doing it but it represents a big change in how I compartmentalise my life.

Anyone who knows me at all well knows I have stepchildren. It’s one of the things that first made me realise I had become a parent; parents can’t help but talk about their children. It’s hard to make casual conversation and not mention them given how they influence your life.

But with me it was a vague thing. I didn’t do school runs, I wasn’t an in the thick of it parent. It was known there were children in my life but I wasn’t a mum. I’m still not of course but I’m taking on the role. After GIN I will drive my stepson home and change into something more suitable for a day with a child. In the afternoon we’ll pick the eldest up from school. Aside from responding to emails and answering my phone I won’t be working but our day together will include my weekly errands.

I’m comfortable with my working self and I’m comfortable in my role as Kay (what my stepsons call me, a name that is just for them) but I can’t quite get my head around there being a public transition. Sticker book alongside business cards, handshakes exchanged for a small sticky paw to ensure safe passage across a car park, ‘Email me and I’ll send you the details’ then ‘yes honey we can go to the airport to look at planes this afternoon.’

When my mum first met the boys she commented on there seemingly being a stage missing. The husband was holding hands with the eldest as I pushed the sleeping baby in the buggy. My pushing a buggy without having been pregnant, planning a nursery and having a baby was surreal for her. This for me is the surreal moment. I suppose it’s because until now I’ve been an occasional babysitter or co-parenting with the husband. This is the first time I’ll be running part of the show.

Last week the boys’ mum dropped them off around 3.30 in the afternoon. The husband was at work and they were both a bit grouchy after a long car journey. I decided to take them to the park and realised it was the first decision I’d really made for them. It was liberating but daunting.

You expect to practise on a baby. In fourteen days I start doing it one day a week with a four and a seven year old.

Wish me luck!

* Of course the majority of my time is spent at home and I don’t dress up purely for the benefit of my cats.

Andy D
4/19/2012 05:38:12 pm

It must be incredibly difficult to balance work and kids. I've done both exclusively, but I don't think I could ever handle them simultaneously on an ongoing basis.

I heard a tale of a working mum who went to a meeting with her dress on back to front! ;)

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Kathryn
4/19/2012 06:36:09 pm

I don't think anybody noticed!

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