I spoke to someone the other day and they mentioned their HR team had noticed that at the end of the holiday year they had a bunch of women who had not taken all their leave. Why was that? HR inquired. Well, it turns out that it was because the women were all mothers and had been saving up their annual leave for “emergencies”. Things like norovirus on a loop, chicken pox, unexpected inset days, school closures due to all kinds of weather conditions, etc. You know the kind of thing. I confess that I have not taken anything like my full holiday allowance for years due to disaster planning. Early experiences of norovirus on a loop hang in my memory. Similarly, I have not taken many [any?] sick days for many years in case other [smaller] people get sick. The impact of this after more than a decade, combined with the exhausting effects of the menopause, is difficult to calculate.
Half term is something I view with mixed emotions. On the one hand, there is no school run. On the other there is the extended work day – getting up early and working late. There are the multiple child-related things to fit in – optician’s appointments, dentists, home admin, etc – plus dropping off at friends’ houses and, of course, entertaining the kids. Washing up becomes an endless task. As soon as you leave the kitchen the sink fills up as if by magic.
The kids, once they are up [and that is a long once] understand that fun will be had, but that they may have to wait for a bit until I finish the urgent work [the non-urgent is left for the evening shift].
Mid-week we had the optician’s. Only son was in a bit of a huff because I wouldn’t let him borrow my phone and sat with his nose against the wall in the optician’s room. Daughter three was having her eyes checked. Only son’s silent protest ended about halfway through the eye examination when he decided to check on daughter three’s progress. “N, K, Z,” said daughter three. Only son held up his thumb to let her know she’d got them all right. The next line was a bit more iffy. The thumb went firmly down. Daughter three needed new glasses and is not the most decisive person. Only son was bobbing up and down precariously next to a wall of glasses. I decided to abandon my principled stance against lending only son the phone.
We returned home for a pit stop before heading to my mum’s house. The trip passed mainly in silence due to me bringing up an argument over the previous night’s washing up which had cleared the living room in seconds and left my partner and I in the unusual position of being able to watch our tv. When we arrived at my mum’s I had to do a Skype call. I had borrowed my partner’s computer which is much better than mine even though he only uses his for leisure. I was under strict orders to protect it from all children. I set up in my mum’s bedroom while the kids and my mum had lunch. A couple of hours later we were on the road home and everyone was in good spirits. I faced a six-hour work catch-up session. Only son wanted me to watch Home. I’ve caught bits of it out of the corner of my eye. It may have to be a midnight sitting.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.