We working girls are fond of rather smugly claiming that we have it all. The four bed detached, the Boden-clad children, the successful career… but I’m beginning to wonder what exactly it is that I have in such abundance. Indigestion, mostly, it seems.
Today I was late home for the nanny for the second time this week. It’s only Tuesday. At 5pm, when I should have been walking in the door and wrapping myself around my children, I was sitting in a meeting that clearly wasn’t even half-way through. I sent a surreptitious text and tried to appear as though I was checking something vital on the Blackberry instead of resolving my childcare issues. We may pride ourselves on our approach to flexible working, but the reality is a room full of middle-aged men with adult children and stay-at-home wives.
I shifted a piece of paper over my ‘to do’ list, reminding me that not only have I not yet organised the logistics, finished my team’s appraisals or completed any of my current projects, I haven’t drafted the new nanny’s contract, bought nappies or painted the chicken house.
Desperate to get home, I had a more pressing nappy situation to address; this morning I handed the nanny three children and a matching number of nappies. “Make them last!” was my helpful suggestion. So I ducked into Sainsbury’s amid the usual array of single shoppers (fresh pasta & sauce, bottle of Rioja) and happy families (two trolleys, multi-pack of crisps). I attempted to hide the contents of my basket. A pack of nappies, a bottle of gin and some paracetamol. Ah, the perfect mother… I am a shining example of having it all, am I not?
So let’s recap; I work forty hours a week at work and another ten to twenty at home when the children are asleep. I race out of the house at 7am and struggle to be home in time for the nanny to achieve any work/life balance of her own. By mid-afternoon I find myself refusing a cup of tea because I know I won’t have time to go for a wee. Surely that’s not normal? I accept work I have no capacity to complete and sacrifice sleep to achieve it. I make hands-free calls as I drive to work, pick out e-mails on the Blackberry as I stand in the bus queue and never watch TV without simultaneously reading a report. When I’m at work I find myself longing to be at home, and when I’m at home… well, you guessed it.
This isn’t having it all at all; this is just doing it all. And not terribly well. Something has to give… but what?