I know! Let’s put work in the bin – JD, 4
Friday evening. In the morning I’d be in London at a conference.
I put the kids to bed, tidied the house with Mark, caught up on emails, booked a taxi for 5am, packed my bag, found my Oyster card, lost my Oyster card, found my Oyster card, did Little Miss J’s midnight feed and flopped into bed, reluctantly setting my alarm for 4am.
I slept badly, as I always do when I have that got-to-be-up-soon feeling, crawled out of bed at 4am, chomped down some cornflakes, showered, sterilised the express pump, freshly boiled the kettle, answered some emails, dressed, brushed, made up, hugged Mark, kissed a sleeping JD goodbye, and stood at the foot of Little Miss J’s cot, wondering if she’d wake up in time for a last feed.
With minutes to spare until the taxi arrived, she woke up. No time to breastfeed, Mark made up a bottle. As I stood by door I could see her refusing the formula, turning her head, looking for me. What if she refused her feeds all day?
As I went downstairs and saw the taxi pull up, I could feel my boobs tingling – like a maternal spider-sense.
I went outside, paid the taxi, came back inside and got undressed. I texted the event organiser, lifted Little Miss J into bed with us and cuddled her in, feeding her until JD woke up.
If I’d gone to London, I’d have been away from the kids for 15 hours. I’d have had to “pump & dump” and Little Miss J would have had her first full day on formula only. I just couldn’t do it, despite that fact that in reality, both kids would have been absolutely fine – Mark’s a fantastic dad.
All morning as I watched the conference hashtag fly around, I thought about how lucky I am. At this moment, I’m on self-imposed maternity leave. Save for the odd project, I’m not working. I don’t *have* to work – we are very lucky that we can afford for me to take a break for a little while longer.
I watched I Don’t Know How She Does It starring Sarah Jessica Parker recently and found it entertaining but dire. It glamourises work and undersells parenting in cliches of equal measure. It panders to the glossy contradiction that women are simultaneously shallow and better than men. It fails to communicate parenting beyond milestone moments. And it underestimates just how painful leaving to go to work can be.
In the film, SJP leaves her kids in daylight, standing at the door, saying goodbye. In reality, a busy jet-set job often means leaving before they even wake up. It means you have to kiss them goodbye knowing that they’re unaware. Climb into a taxi in the dark, hair brushed and styled, make up on, when your heart says you should be the other side of the cliche, curled up with your kids, make-up-less, covered in baby sick and spilled cornflakes.
I love working, I will continue to work – I don’t just want to, I need to. I don’t just need to, I want to.
I’m not saying that being a stay-at-home parent is all morning cuddles and walks in the park, it really isn’t, but being a working parent is frankly awful sometimes and after Saturday, where I had the luxury of being able to choose to stay home, I’m savouring this time more than ever before.