Archives for September 2011

Packed Lunch, Gym shoes, Calpol.

We’ve all done it, here cure haven’t we?  One of the littlies complains of a sore tummy or is a bit on the warm side and not too fussed for their Weetabix of a morning, seek but we pack up their school or nursery bag, page dispense cuddles and a spoonful of Calpol and send them on their merry way. The reasons why we do this vary from person to person, but a recent poll by the Daily Mail indicated that just short of 30% of 2000 mums asked were concerned that taking time off because their child is poorly would result in them losing their job. If those numbers are anything to go by, I think I fall into the ‘very lucky’ category. My organisation makes provisions for the fact that as working parents, it is inevitable that at some point one of our offspring will be struck by dreaded lurgy and we need to be there for them at home. It doesn’t stop the feeling however that somehow, we’re in the wrong as working parents for wanting to be at home with our poorly children.

I’ve had many instances in the last four years where one or other of my brood have had an ailment of illness that has precluded them from going to school or nursery on the basis of them either being a) genuinely too poorly that I wouldn’t dream of letting them leave the house or b) slightly under the weather but sporting a runny enough nose / sticky enough eye / higher than normal temperature (despite being fine in every other way) that nursery won’t allow them across the threshold in case they start an epidemic.

Despite my boss being very understanding, and not a working parent herself,  I can’t help dreading having to tell her I can’t come in because one of the children is sick or that the nursery have called and simply insist that I collect a very hot and bothered two year old.  My boss trusts me and knows that I’m a big enough girl to know what I need to do to get the job done on those days where I just can’t be in the office, the buck stops with me at the end of the day if I don’t deliver what I need to. But I still can’t help feeling bad.

I do recall being back at work only five or six days after a year of maternity leave, and receiving a call from nursery – Little Monster Blue has conjunctivitis. Whilst my first and very natural response was a feeling of sorrow for my little man as its a yucky ailment and not very pleasant at all, I quickly moved to wondering how long I could get away with staying in the office before leaving  to collect him. Quite simply, I was afraid of telling my boss that I had to go.  I had absolutely no reason to be, but well, it just doesn’t look great, especially to my colleagues who have just seen me return from my year long ‘holiday’.

And to top it off, there has been many a time I’ve been called to collect a nipper who has been really under the weather and by the time I’ve gotten to nursery (and after a dose of Calpol) he’s running amok dressed up as a cowboy and swinging a pink leopard print handbag. Yes, really. Now I don’t for one second suggest that the carers at nursery shouldn’t have called, quite the opposite, I secretly believe this is my two-year olds way of getting me back for those mornings where a spoonful of Calpol has helped me get out the door and into the office when perhaps a longer morning at home filled with cuddles, cool drinks and CBeebies might have been the better option.

I have to confess also that I am guilt ridden when I think of the time where I played to the ‘off you pop, you’ll feel better when you get there’ approach when it was nursery photo day.  Poor Little Monster Blue was actually suffering from tonsillitis (though I absolutely didn’t know that at the time) and I have a photo collage full of prints of the little guy looking downright sorry for himself. Gulp. Bad mummy.

Yesterday we turned a corner.  Little Monster Blue is poorly once again (we’re not a disease ridden family generally, I do believe nursery breeds everything but the plague, and it is that time of year isn’t it?) but this time Super Daddy got the nursery call, and bless him he was there in a flash. This morning when it was clear that LMB would be banished from nursery if we dared take him anywhere near the place, Super Daddy donned the stay-at-home-parent mantle and I went to the office.  Sad though it is, there was something fairly empowering about me being able to say, yes I have a poorly child, but here I am. Aren’t I dedicated? Aren’t I committed? Look at me, I’m showing how much of a priority my work is to me.  I rang home ever hour to check how he was of course. I looked at the clock and gauged that he’d be finished watching his movie of choice (Tangled!) by now.  I ate my lunch wondering if the wee scone was able to manage his.  I dashed out of the door at home time, took my rightful place beside him on the sofa, and settled down for an afternoon of CBeebies.

And that made everyone feel better.

Being there

I have just successfully managed to get my boss to agree to me reducing my hours at work.  Obviously I am talking about my ‘proper’ work, sildenafil i.e. the place I go to where I do grown up things like present papers to Executive Steering Groups, engage stakeholders to work collaboratively towards critical deliverables, develop project plans and change the date on my weekly programme status reports. Not the one where I wipe snotty noses, build Hello Kitty jigsaws puzzles with my eyes closed  and iron what feels like the contents of the entire children’s clothes section in M&S on a weekly basis.  As at today, that work still remains unpaid in hard cash terms.

No, this turnaround from ‘Throw it all at me, I can do it!’ to ‘Perhaps I need to redress the balance just a little,’ coincided with Little Princess Pinks’ first week at school. Up until then, much in the way of advice on the matter of mummy working / children schooling had been extremely conflicting, from the ‘it gets so much easier to do it all when they are at school’ to the ‘trying to get everything done, especially when you need to factor in homework now, is just so difficult’.  I decided (in the stubborn way that I often do) that I would make it work.  After all, I’m *ahem* supermummy.

I’d never entered the unknown territory that was the After School Club until I decided that my working pattern would remain as was, and we would quite simply have to make use of said club as a means of childcare for LPP from a Monday to Thursday.  Decision made, but still battling with this voice in my head which would occasionally bellow in my ear – ‘Are you really sure?,’ we set about registering, booking and arranging all childcare requirements from school bell at 3.10 to which-ever-one- of- us-could- get- there- first (but somewhere in the region of 5pm) at the After School Club.  From day one, it niggled and niggled at me.  It just wasn’t part of the master plan.  I have very clear memories of my mum picking me up from school, taking me to the library where I would choose six books (yes, even back then I was a read-y / write-y book geek) and off we’d trot home for milk, biscuits and homework at the kitchen table.  I remember the hours mum spent with me, reading, drawing and answering countless ‘but why’ questions, and so along with primary teachers 1 – 7 and the entire cast of St. Kentigerns Academy, she is to be credited with me turning out fairly okay.

But, we ploughed along regardless.  After School Club it was.  Until day one when I arrived to pick LPP up after her first full day at school and after school club only to find her in floods of tears (despite being dressed up as Snow White which is usually a smile-inducing activity in our house.) I had to fight with myself not to stuff the cheque I’d just written to pay for the month hurriedly back into my handbag, whisk her away in a stealth like manner, yelling ‘Thanks, it’s been lovely, but we won’t be back any time soon’ over my shoulder as we made haste for the door.

Now, I know day one will always be the tough one, and the most logical part of my being says the same as everyone else is thinking – I know she’ll settle and I know it will all come good.  But I couldn’t argue with the part inside me that said, ‘You know what you need to do.’  I should have gone with my gut in the first place.  After a week of number crunching, case building, looking where we could cut the cloth accordingly, putting forward a request to my boss, seeing LPP settle more and more into the After School Club (well, it was always going to happen wasn’t it?) we got to the point this week where it was a done deal.  I’ll be an even parter-part-timer in the workplace and hopefully a there-when-I-really should be mummy.  Conversation with boss and bosses boss was very much in the realms of ‘don’t for one minute think I’m any less committed, because I’m not.’ And truly, I’m not.  In fact I already anticipate that I’ll put in more than I’m contracted to, as it’s an unwritten and unspoken rule that part-timers need to prove their worth, part-timers need to show just how productive they can still be, no slippage of quality, no dumbing down of the old grey matter.  Still on the career ladder, perhaps just teetering on the edge as opposed to two feet firmly on the rung, but still there and hanging on.

So here we are, from next week, I’ll be picking LPP up from school, and after school club will become a great option for us when I just have to be in the office late in the afternoon, or when school holidays come around and between us we still don’t have a enough annual leave entitlement to cover all the days needed.  Little Princess Pink has already expressed some disgust at the new arrangement in the form of “BUT I LOVE THE DINO CLUB – THEY HAVE PICTUREKA!” however, shes coming round.  I’m not sure if it was the grand plans for French on a Tuesday or swimming lessons on a Wednesday that did it, or perhaps it was the promise of Tuesdays being solely restricted to library visits and milk, biscuits and homework at the kitchen table.

One day, I hope she too will reflect fondly on it, knowing that us mummies only ever try to do our best by them.

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