Today I am officially 'not working', however as I stood up to my elbows in scalding water, scrubbing out bottles and contemplating the kitchen nightmare that is the inevitable result of family breakfast I began to ponder just what the meaning of work is. After all when I am working I pay someone else to do what I do when I'm not working, so really doesn't this just mean I am on call in one way or another 24/7, 7/7, 365?
A typical 'not working' day pans out as follows:
Get up, dress some configuration of our four children with the help of husband, cajole big boys to brush their teeth (that's on a good day, on a bad day I just say 'Sod it, they're only baby teeth, they'll fall out anyway), feed babies milk, feed babies breakfast, scream at big boys to eat their breakfast as we are as ever, in a hurry. Change son number two's clothes as he has spilt jam/milk/chocolate spread/bodily fluids all down himself. Make packed lunch, force son number one into school shoes and out the door with husband who is working.
Force son number two into school shoes, coat and out of the door whilst simultaneously strapping babies into double buggy to walk him to nursery. Walk home with babies, clear up breakfast chaos and start the first wash of the day. Put babies back to bed for a nap, whether they want one or not, so I can fold washing, do some cooking, sneak in a little clandestine work/blogging, have a shower and get dressed properly.
Get babies up, feed them milk and lunch (hopefully home cooked, see above, but more often than not overpriced organic goo from a pot). Take babies for a walk to pick up son number two. Park number two in front of a DVD to recover from nursery, entertain babies, provide unending drinks and snacks for the TV watcher. Bundle up all three into pushchair, coat, shoes for arduous walk to pick up son number one from school. Spend the journey explaining to son number one just why the babies can't walk so he can go in the pushchair because his legs are tired. It must be exhausting all that Ben 10 watching, poor lamb.
Collect son number one, walk home with not one, but two, sons complaining of aching legs, thirst, hunger and general discontent. Try to avoid the corner shop which seems to stock the world's largest supply of E-number laden sweets and ruinously expensive magazines adorned with flimsy toys which break the instant they are unstuck from the cover resulting in tears of despair all round.
Park son number one in front of his computer to recover from the stresses of school. Try to persuade son number two to play upstairs or outside as he has already mainlined enough TV to cover his weekly quota. Fail abysmally and comfort myself that at least they are both quiet. Amuse the babies by dangling toys in front of them and smiling at them for about a nanosecond before I get bored with that and embark on yet more laundry and tidying.
Feed the babies milk and tea, while fielding the older boys pleas that despite the mountain of biscuits, juice, dried fruit and yoghurts they have consumed since coming home they are now at the brink of starvation and require feeding NOW. Cook big boys tea only for them to refuse to eat most of it on the grounds that it might actually be good for them, and this despite the imminent starvation of just moments ago.
Scrape remains of tea into the bin, tidy up chaos left on the table, floor, chairs and toilet (don't ask) following tea time.
Bath babies and big boys, a wet and perilous affair only leavened by husband's possible early arrival back home to lend a pair of hands. Dry children, easy with babies, a wild chase around the house with big boys. Cram all four into pyjamas, brush teeth for those who have them, read the babies a story and put them to bed. Read the big boys a story to the accompaniment of blood curdling screams which are the only way twin one seems able to lull himself to sleep.
Put son two to bed, for the first time of the night. He will inevitably be up later in search of water/company/reassurance following a scary dream. Son number one trails downstairs to force us to watch children's TV for even longer or pursue an endless conversation about super powers. Sink my first glass of wine, order a takeaway, collapse onto the sofa and hand over the reins to my husband.
Compare this to a working day where I hand over most of the above to someone else who is paid to do it and spend the day on the phone and tapping away at my keyboard and I think that perhaps I should split my week more accurately into days when I am paid, and days when I am not, as this sure doesn't feel like a day off to me.