Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Confessions of a working mum

I read a funny Tweet the other day from a fellow parenting writer who said something along the lines of 'Now it's that dreaded time of day when I have to stop writing about the joys of motherhood and actually look after my kids'. Oh how well I know that feeling.

I know us working mothers are meant to feel endlessly guilty for failing to properly nurture our children. Just as breast is best, so a mother's love cannot be replicated by the most capable or loving childcare. Or so the theory goes. I began to feel a little suspicious about this hypothesis back when my children where in the Playdough and finger painting phase. While my nanny actually appeared to take pleasure in sharing these pursuits with them, I found them boring to the point of pain.

I would often sneak upstairs to tap out a blog post or whizz off a pitch leaving them to their own devices, dreading the moment when I would hear that familiar thud, thud, thud as they made their way upstairs to my lair. It's not that I don't love my boys. It's just that I am not sure I was cut out to be a full time mummy, as rather than feel guilt at the requirement to work, I felt nothing less than a joyous sense of release.

Naturally I played this down as it is not the done thing to admit that working was way more fun than running around after a toddler - even when commissions were backwards in coming forwards, or I was forced to make ends meet by writing pious sermons about the benefits about NHS support groups.

Now I know a lot of stay at home mums take this attitude to be somewhat patronising, as if their lifestyle were beneath us high flying (har de har) working mums. Instead I am in awe of anyone who can entertain children all day. Just as I look on in wonderment at downhill ski racers, when I myself can only weep terrified tears as I slither and snowplough down blue slopes, or admire those gifted souls who can coax beautiful melodies from an instrument when I am tone deaf, I recognise that a knack for childcare is a talent and one that I simply do not possess.

For example, I would love to be the kind of mother who enjoys, rather than endures, baking with her children. I love making cakes, but I absolutely hate cooking them with the children. I like my cakes to be things of beauty with smooth icing and colour co-ordinated decoration, with perfect swirls of butter cream and a rice paper daisy placed just so on top. I do not like flat as a pancake fairy cakes, dribbling neon bright glace icing with a thousand smarties dumped on top. It pains me to see what a mess they can make of a cake.

This does not make me a good person. I am well aware of this. I should be passing on my passions so that one day my offspring would credit me with igniting their own burning desire to bake. Instead I try to bake in secret, or save the decorating (the bit I like best) till when they are out. I know I am not alone. One mum admitted to me that she too baked late at night so her children couldn't get their mucky fingers all over her icing.

Another episode that highlighted my lack of aptitude in this sphere was when I spent a rare weekend afternoon on London alone with my husband. We went to the South Bank Centre and as I strolled through the couples stopping for coffee, idly browsing in the bookshop or simply walking unencumbered by small people I had a sudden feeling of being at home. I turned to him and said: 'How is it that after nine years as a mother, I still feel like this is normal life?'

His response was simply to drag me into a nearby pub for an illicit mid-afternoon drink, which reminded me why I love him so much.

A great friend of mine always put me to shame. She would constantly say how impressed she was with me for combining a career (of sorts) with children, flatteringly forgetting that actually I didn't as while I was working the children were being looked after by someone else. Meanwhile she was the kind of mother who would fashion a fantastic birthday party complete with hand painted decorations, thoughtfully chosen going away presents, hand sewn costumes for her children and a knock out home made cake, while actually looking after two small girls. Now that is impressive.

So it was with huge relief that I discovered that my beloved nanny who is a whiz at board games, loves making banana cakes with the kids and endlessly plays hide and seek with them is not leaving me until school can take over where she leaves off. That means I can carry on doing what I am good at, generally wasting time at the keyboard, and she can do what she excels at, looking after my children. Harmony is restored.


  1. Yep! I get you, I totally get you! In my world there are two types of cakes: the ones I allow them to do for their own entertainment, only since they have started to show good enough motor skills (I always crack the eggs though, always) and the cakes I bake sneakily away from them and if they appear before the end I simply say "all finished, sorry I didn't realise you wanted to help, oops". They go away moaning and I just smile... I am very grateful for anyone happy to do all this with my children!

    1. Ha, I knew there had to be a tribe of us OCD bakers who can't bear to see our creations ruined by little 'helpers!'