I was sitting round a table last week with some women who were all doing jobs which are low paid, but “flexible”. All were well qualified. I was trying to galvanise them into looking for something better paid, more inspiring, but equally flexible. I told them it was possible. There were increasingly jobs out there like that. They all, to a woman, poo pooed the idea. They’d been around. They’d looked at the job ads. There wasn’t anything in their area – ie near their children’s school – which was sufficiently well paid and professionally challenging. They’d never get a flexible job as a new job. They would stick at the job they were in for the next few years until their children were out of school and keep a lid on their frustrations.
But by then would they be able to get anything better after years of just clinging onto the world of work? Something more challenging? Better paid? Many jobs are paid according to what you last earned, so that doesn’t put you in a very good position if you’ve taken low paid work to fit round the kids. Sometimes it’s enough to make you think if it really was worth all the studying and working hard to get to something that in the end amounts to nothing much more than you could have achieved if you had just had a better time when you were young.
I guess you can always argue that there’s the thrill of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, the outmoded idea that education in itself is a good thing without there having to be some kind of payback at the end of it all. That would be fine, if you didn’t have to support a family and we were back in the days when men did all the earning and women who worked just got pin money. Actually, maybe we haven’t moved so far from those days. Well, it certainly seems so in some jobs.
But then again…who wants to work full-time in the office every day and squeeze their children into the cracks in their working week? It could only work if you had at least a part-time other you at home to pick them up from school, take them to after school activities [all handily scheduled for the hours after school], go to all the school stuff that is held during the school day [eg parenting sessions], look after them when they are sick, take them to myriad doctor’s appointments, help them with homework, talk to them about their problems, etc, etc. I think the enormity of the change being a parent represents only slowly dawns on you. The first years when they can go to nursery or a childminder, it’s a big change, but you can still kind of operate as normal, if you want to. But after school starts, it’s virtually impossible. You can watch the women drop like flies from the full-time workforce. I take a strange interest when I go into London in trying to work out the percentage among commuters of potential working mothers. It’s not high, unless they are some scarily young and glamorous mothers out there who have actually managed to put on make-up and their clothes the right way round at the same time as doing the school run and getting to work on time.
Am really enjoying being at home on three afternoons to pick up the children. This week we went to a party after school. Well, we went to the library, then the nursery, then the GP, then the party. My life seems to be one long dash from one thing to another. We dropped off a dvd at the library, went to pick up toddler daughter at the nursery, spent a very long time in the toilet there [toddler daughter is potty training and is completely obsessed with flushing and washing hands and gets extremely upset if she is rushed in her routine. She would not, at this point, make a good working mum]. We then went to the GP’s which is fantastic compared to the one we went to when we lived in London. There is a whole room of toys for the kids. Even in the actual doctor’s room there are toys for the kids and the doctor, extremely nice and glamorous, had acres of time to talk about interesting post-birth-related medical issues. The girls were very interested too, in a kind of macabre sort of a way. I think hippy daughter has now sworn off having children at all. We then stopped at the chemist for some healthy snacks – they only had Mars bars and Lucozade. Everyone was in after-school starvation mood so I persuaded myself that Lucozade is healthy [on the grounds that my mum gave it to me once when I was ill]. They now want Lucozade every day. We then rushed to the party and, handily, I had taken all their party clothes to work with me in the morning – organisation is my middle name [I never thought I’d say that. You should see my desk].
Anyway, the party went very well, but in the party bags was a small tub of what can only be described as fart mixture. You know the stuff. You stick your hand in and it squelches like a fart. Obviously, this is nirvana for small people. Unfortunately, it didn’t last too long. Before the weekend, bonkers daughter had made it into a hairband and put it in her hair. In addition to the scalping she gave herself the week before to ensure her hairband lay flat, she now has a kind of layered look at the back. In the course of the week, having watched toddler daughter learning how to wee in a potty, she also decided to have a go herself. Except she thought she’d make it that bit more difficult and resorted to a dolly potty. Hmm.