Profile of a working mother’s bag

It’s that time of year again and I’m finally planning to get round to that New Year’s resolution – the eternal one about being More Organised. Better late than never. In this quest, I am starting with the big one – sorting out my work bag. I have not actually ventured past the first layer of my bag since my last maternity leave – two years ago. My bag follows the law of endless addition. I always add, but never take away. It is now so full that when I carry it it feels as if my shoulder is falling off. That would be in addition to the back spasms I’ve got from carting children around [and all their accessories], the hair falling out due to lack of sleep and general stress and the continuing – and unmentionable – fall-out from childbirth. It’s a wonder I can walk at all – and just yesterday I was demonstrating my trampoline speciality of touching my toes while in mid-flight.

Unfortunately, this particular manoeuvre was designed for a mega-trampoline and not the teeny tiny and remarkably springy kiddy trampoline which our neighbour kindly donated to us…

Anyway, back to the bag. It is quite scary to venture inside. The top layer is all scraps of paper with things to remember written round the corners, ranging from notes about the government’s policy on higher education [I am an education journalist] to the sketch of a short story about the Drippy Drop family [I have been doing a correspondence course in creative writing for children since my first child was born eight years ago – I am on assignment two] and notes to remember to make Halloween costumes [and how], shopping lists and an assortment of receipts.

Then there is my address book. It’s falling apart and has lots of extra addresses stuffed in loosely between the covers [one day I will write them all in alphabetically – the same day that I will buy extra pages for the sections which are so full that I have taken to writing up the sides and round the corners. This applies mainly to the section with my wandering brother’s various addresses. Each one is entered as Jason’s new address, Jason’s new new address and so on].

Underneath this top layer of essential, ongoing projects is the dark region of reports that I have not read or have only skimmed, but thought I would like to read at some future point and from there we venture into the scary nether regions – there are sachets of Calpol, biscuits wrapped in tinfoil [emergency rations for the kids], a nappy [just in case], breast pads [from last maternity leave], a plastic mobile, an invitation to the South African embassy and, bizarrely, a pair of my partner’s socks.

Surprisingly, given the tangled jungle that is my bag, I always manage to find what I’m looking for. Indeed since becoming a mother I have developed an amazing ability to find Just About Anything in no more than five minutes. Today it was a tiny plastic blue cat which my eldest daughter at the last minute before school decided she desperately needed. If only I could lose a few things along the way…

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