So it turns out that a few months as vice chair of the PTA is about as adequate preparation for survival in the modern office as playing a few rounds of Angry Birds would be for a career as a rocket scientist. The mild bickering over whether to send another chiding letter to the parents over the paucity of prizes for the tombola is child's play compared to the 'push back' required to protect yourself at work.
Indeed, even the terms used are designed to befuddle the uninitiated, for 'push back' is apparently code for telling someone to bugger off and stop trying to offload their work onto you just because you are new and naive.
Problem is years as a freelance and a mummy has left me with an ingrained fear of saying no. No matter how outlandish, unreasonable or downright insane the demand of a child/editor, woe betide the mother/writer who turned them down. In either case it could only lead to tears, in the case of the children on both sides, with editors it was probably only me.
So it became anathema to me to say no. A stupidly tight deadline? No problem. An impossible to find case study? Let me help you out. It's already 6pm and you need quote from an expert on the other side of the world by tomorrow? Please allow me to stay up until the early hours. Really it's my pleasure. You need a pink straw to go in that milk, not a blue one? Anything for a quiet life. A Tardis must be created from egg boxes and cardboard by tomorrow morning? Pass me the glue. You need the toilet NOW? Let me hold you out behind a tree to relieve yourself.
Work out for yourselves which that last one applies to - editor or child?
The thing is as both a freelance and a mum, saying yes is just so much easier.
With editors it is the only right answer, and there are no second chances if you get it wrong. After all there's always a queue of eager beaver interns who will happily botch up the job for nothing, or even more chilling, do a far better job for nothing.
With children, particularly young ones, you are dealing with power crazed despots. They are quite happy to make your life a living hell should you refuse to turn the car round the moment you reach your destination and drive back home to pick up their favourite sippy cup. Should you serve the wrong food their wrath knows no bounds and if you think you are going to go shopping then you best not deny them unfettered access to snacks or you will pay.
Adding no back into my vocabulary is proving somewhat tricky though, as I still have that reflexive yes on the tip of my tongue. So when someone approaches my desk with that chancer's glint in their eye, with an oh so casual request for me to 'Whip something up', my knee-jerk reaction is to agree instantly, rather than question them closely as to what exactly it is they need whipping up.
In general the answer is some time-consuming task that they could probably complete much more competently that this wet-behind-the-ears newbie, but that they hope I won't identify as such.
After so many years as a yes woman I am just too soft, but no more. Recently a colleague, no doubt sick of my grumbling about my workload, snapped that I needed to grow a pair. Light dawned and I realised she is quite right. It's time for this mother to toughen up and learn to kick ass again.
Maybe I will even learn to say no to the children too.