Living the portfolio life

I have read a report about the future of work and apparently “talented” people are going to be able to juggle several jobs on their own terms. I think they call this having a portfolio career. It is a bit like having three children. You can do it only if you try to balance all the needs at the same time and don’t let your eye drift for a second or you’ll find one of them washing their hair with soap or cutting up their shoes with baby scissors.

A portfolio career, I would have thought, is ideally suited to the skills that mothers have in spades. They’ve done the training big time. The thing is that work/life juggling skills are totally disregarded by most in the working world or seen in a negative light. However, the things juggling teaches you – prioritisation, time management, man management – are the very skills that head all the job descriptions. It’s just that the home context is not seen as relevant for work and instead you have to explain any “time off” [why do men always refer to maternity leave as a holiday? One of my colleagues likened having a baby to writing a book. Obviously that would be without the blood, pain, several years of sleeplessness, total responsibility for ensuring they survive childhood and a lifetime of guilt].

I am getting increasingly militant over application forms with their demands to demonstrate evidence of timekeeping et al. I would love, in place of filling in the slot on the form, to upIoad video footage of the first couple of hours in the morning. If we’re talking time and man management, getting three children out the door on time, relatively fed and clothed with all their homework done has to be up there with at least 20 years’ experience of shuffling papers around in an office. This is on top of one wanting plaits, then wanting you to have plaits to match, then the other wanting to take a bag full of “robots” to school with her and the other sitting at the table semi-comatose, with the piece of toast in her hand that she has taken 35 minutes to chew the edges of. And what about arranging sickness cover when your childminder calls at 8am to tell you her son has been throwing up all night and you have an urgent meeting at 10am? She is okay to look after your child, but bear in mind they might get the vomit bug. Every day you wake up not knowing what kind of moral or practical dilemma is going to throw a spanner in the works.

This week I have entered the tangled world of girls’ relationships. Hippy daughter managed to break up with her best friends, spend playtime alone, screw all her courage up and ask to be friends again, be rejected, screw all her courage up again and ask the same question, be readmitted to the pack, be accused of punching someone when she didn’t and emerge happy and secure all in the space of one morning. Who needs a social life when you can live one so tortured and dramatic second hand? Hippy daughter has decided to be a tomboy and wants a skateboard and to join a football team. I have to say that, given the horrible domination of pink fluffy stuff everywhere, I take this as a sign of independence of spirit. On watching Sport Relief, she also asked, unprovoked, why “they” had turned Leona Lewis into a robot. What a girl! She also won a million Brownie points when I said her dad was more fun than me and she said how could that be when he “sits around all the time doing nothing and has siestas”.

Bonkers daughter, meanwhile, rejects all things “boy” and wants to do ballet and wear pink on every occasion. However, when I say pink, this is more punk than Swan Lake. Today she had on a pink poncho worn as a skirt, a short denim bolero jacket and shocking pink leggings, plus a bright red bandana and seven pigtails with different coloured hairbands. Toddler daughter has taken to carrying a huge gold carrier bag with her everywhere she goes. It contains a plastic golf club, a puzzle and several emergency books. She calls it her “robot”. She has decided that, for her birthday, she would like a horse…or sweeties. We are going to Belgium for Easter by ferry and she was quite inspired by Sport Relief and says she is going to swim there with the dolphins. This is the same girl who clings to me for dear life when I even dip my toe in the swimming pool. She wants to be a dolphin trainer.

I am still getting to grips with the bonkers one’s religious musings. Easter is delivering ever more confusion. She was very interested in the last supper and particularly in eating Jesus’ body. She couldn’t understand how his body could be made of bread. Today she had to draw a picture of “God on the cross for Saint Friday”. She was very excited when I told her that Jesus rose from the dead and said she would tell her teacher that there was a happy ending to the story after all. I ventured the ‘some people think it’s all made up’ bit, although I added, for the benefit of balance, that it might be loosely based on some sort of historical truth. However, she had already moved on to questioning how Jesus could be an angel when everyone knows “angels are girls”.

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