I have often read
on Mumsnet in Grazia in writings on gender identity, that it is the burden of working mothers to feel guilty about abandoning their offspring to go out to work. The accepted line is “I only work because I have to”. This is totally how I felt before I went back to work. I would have been absolutely delighted to be a stay at home mum for a few years. But now I’m back? I’m not quite as certain. If money were no object, perhaps I would stay at home, not out of a sense of duty, but because being Leila’s mum is bloody good fun and I think it would be nice for both of us if I was around full-time; plus, going out to work, to the job I do, involves a logistical juggling act in order to ferry Leila around, that verges on the ridiculous and makes me more grateful than ever for the village of grannies and friends who are raising this child alongside us.
But that “perhaps” is a decided Perhaps, a definitely maybe, rather than a you betcha. Because I’ll tell you a secret: I like going to work. I like wearing smart boots (though one day this week discovered at 5.45pm that I was wearing mismatching boots- one black and high heeled, one brown and low heeled), and not having avocado in my hair, and putting lipstick on at lunchtime. You can see I have my professional priorities in fantastic order here… I also like the office banter- one doesn’t banter at playgroup, or rather, one could, but one might be bantering with oneself; I like talking about news and stories and people, and writing scripts and correcting colleagues’ grammar when they didn’t really ask me to. I like meetings (I’ve always liked meetings. I’m weird).
I don’t like the fact that, while I hoping to roar back into action with a piece of searing filmic current affairs journalism, I’ve ended up uttering more of a whispered growl with my first project, thanks to a story that crumbled to nothing before my eyes as the days passed by. But I am enough of a grizzled old hack to know that that’s the way it works sometimes.
And I don’t like the fact that I see Leila for only half an hour or so before bedtime. That pretty much sucks. But here’s another secret: I don’t feel that guilty about going to work. Well, I do, twice a day: first, when she wails at me as I turn to leave her with childminder (she’s cottoned on to the fact that Fun Childminder’s house is also the place where Mummy is not), though I know she will be fine, in fact the other day I turned round before I’d even reached the door- the playroom door, not even the front door, put a bit of effort into it, Leila! – and she was singing a little song and trying to bounce herself off the sofa. And then when I get home and she shrieks “HI!” with such crazy joy, hurls herself onto me like one of those toy rubber frogs you throw at wall and it lands- splat!- stuck fast til you peel it off, and ROARS if I dare to put her down (who needs to take their coat off, anyway?). Those are the times I feel guilty.
But on the whole, I don’t flog myself mentally for daring to earn a living and conduct a life for three days a week which doesn’t involve my dearest bean. I miss her, but I don’t feel guilty. In fact my main source of guilt is the absence of guilt. I feel I ought to feel guiltier, and that makes me guilty. There is a twisted logic there. But sod it! I never heard a working father berate themselves for going out to work all day. So why should I?
In other headlines:
Leila turns one on Wednesday! Hurrah, sob, etc.
I just saw a kid set their hair on fire with a candle. Who says church isn’t rock and roll?! (She was fine, by the way, so am not laughing at an injured child. Absence of working mother guilt aside, I am not a total heartless cow).
I have told you many times that I birthed me a goblin. Here is the pictorial evidence: