I’m a mum of three (did I ever mention that…?!). And I work full-time. Properly full-time. Swiss full-time is 40 hours per week – 9.00am till 6.00pm, minimum, and I seem to do a lot more than that. Plus I commute. At least an hour each way (and up to two hours on a very bad day when accidents and road works and snow and fog and other random incidents that can’t ever be predicted end up conspiring against me).
Believe me, I’m very grateful to have a good job which pays the bills and keeps us in the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed (ski passes and new bikes ain’t cheap). Plus I think it’s important for my kids (and, I have to say, my girls especially) to see me go to work, to learn the value of a job (both personally and financially), and to realise that snow is free but not much else in life is.
But it’s pretty tough, no matter how much I try and sell it to myself (and to others out there, pretending not to judge).
Here’s what being a full-time working mum means to me:
Being a full-time working mum means always playing catch-up (and never succeeding). It means being late for work, late for meetings, late to come home. It’s being late to feed the kids and being late to put them to bed; being late to eat dinner, and then put yourself to bed. And then it’s late getting up, late to work, late for meetings, late to come home. I pass through life on a bike with no breaks: watch me, perched precariously on the saddle as I hurtle down a hill – squeaking and squealing my way to the bottom. There’s no way of stopping and no ability to take my hand off the handlebars for even the tiniest second to flag down the rest of the world as they zoom past, smooth and smug in their brand-spanking-new 4x4s (with their kids actually strapped in at the back and no-one poking each other’s eyes out with a pencil).
Being a full-time working mum means watching what you say. All the time. No-one at work wants to hear about how you don’t want to join the running club, thanks, because your pelvic floor has never quite been the same since you pushed out yet another sprog and that you’re genuinely scared you’ll wet yourself if you go jogging with them. Nor do they want to hear your ‘birth story’; they don’t want to know that this weekend you spent the whole day stinking of sick thanks to the unsurpassed ability of your beautiful daughter to projectile vomit in the most inappropriate of places; and they certainly don’t care about that ‘hilarious’ moment when you stepped in your baby’s turd.
Being a full-time working mum means always wanting to be somewhere else. It means spending the whole day working flat-out so you can leave early; passing up (again) on those after-work cocktails and dinner with the team; dreaming of rushing home to those little darlings that you’ve missed so much whilst you’ve been dealing with unhelpful suppliers and unfathomable spreadsheets. And then it means arriving home to screams and wails and snot on the walls; making you long for the quiet of the office where no-one whinges or cries or asks you to wipe their bum. (Not too often, anyway).
Being a full-time working mum means porridge on your suit, and nappies in your handbag, and your baby chewing your Blackberry as if it were one of her five-a-day. It means never having enough sleep, never having time for a wee, and never ever replying to your friends’ emails (sorry guys) because on the rare occasions you get to sit down for five minutes you either fall asleep or have to immediately get up again (usually to stop your offspring discovering yet another ingenious method of nearly killing themselves and each other). It means not knowing who their teacher is, or who the other mums are, and having no idea, quite frankly, when it’s Sports Day, yet again. You won’t help them with their homework, or pick them up from crèche, or even cook them dinner, very often. (Hopefully though you’ll have a perfect Alpine Papa in your life too, to pick up on all these essentials. Otherwise it’s just neglect, you know. That ain’t good.)
Being a full-time working mum isn’t easy. And it often isn’t fun. But it’s life (for me, anyway). And so, for me, being a full-time working mum means muddling though the best you can, with a smile on your face, cash in your pocket, and an extra-large glass of wine in your hand. In my experience, it usually works out just fine – the hugs received on your return home from the office will make even the crappiest day seem OK again, I promise.
Though you will have to get that suit dry-cleaned. There’s snot on your shoulder. Again.