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My partner has been away on one of his regular trips to Spain since last week. Typically I have come down with some dreaded lurgy which reduced me to a shivering wreck around bank holiday Monday when I had promised the kids a day out in Brighton. Daughter three was not best pleased. She had been looking forward to the trip for months, given that apparently Brighton is the Land of Zoella. You would think I had got sick on purpose.
Daughter three is going through what can only be described as pre-teen hormone rage. The night before she had had some sort of fight with her older sister which escalated pretty quickly from daughter two calling daughter three an idiot to daughter three issuing a blood-curdling scream, shouting “I hate you” and slamming out of the room.
Unfortunately, we are having a bit of a problem with doors in the house. When daughter two slammed the door of daughter three’s room a month or so ago, the whole thing jammed, resulting in daughter two having to be rescued from the room via a ladder and me taking the door out with a hammer. We can now get into daughter three and only son’s room, but only by stepping over the frame bit.
When daughter three slammed out of the room, the door locked, leaving daughter three isolated upstairs and the rest of us doomed to stay in the living room for ever. The door has glass panels. It was around this point that I began to feel unwell. My partner texted from Spain. “Everything ok?”
Fortunately, daughter three was still angry enough to be able to push the door open after several attempts.
On the Monday I tried to drag myself towards the car, but though the will was strong, the body was weak. “You are too sick, mum,” said only son, the soul of compassion. I called my mum, basically to tell her how sick I was feeling. She offered to take the kids so I drove over to her house. By the time I got there I was veering between a raging fever and feeling extremely cold. I put on my mum’s woolly dressing gown and retired to bed. Only son offered to give me a massage to make me feel better.
So there I was lying face down in a woolly dressing gown covered in goo in a semi-delirious state. Daughter one came in and chatted to me about philosophy. I think daughter two arrived at some stage to tell me the latest developments in vegan cuisine. Daughter three’s disappointment had dissipated and she was in the garden playing rounders. At some point I rallied and lost a game of dominoes against only son.
We returned home and I retired to bed, leaving daughter one to put everyone to bed. I could hear only son in the bathroom. “Can you cuddle me up like mum does?” he asked. “It’s okay if you don’t want to, but if you could just sit by the bed that would be good.” He came in to check that I was okay. “Do you want me to cuddle you up, mum?” he asked. I said that would be very nice, but not to get too close as I was probably horribly contagious. Daughter one told him that he had to make sure that he didn’t wake me up till at least 9.15 the next morning.
I was awake at 6am with a pulsating headache. Only son was lying peacefully beside me. Luckily, it was a light day at work – just the whole hoo ha over childcare. Childcare is consistently one of the top three barriers to women going back to work. It’s good to see so many parties announcing policies on free childcare for pre-schoolers. Whether or not they remember how much they cost is surely a bit of a side issue for parents. What matters is that they are fully funded and offer high quality care and genuine support to those who want to get back to work. It seems bizarre that in 2017 we are letting large numbers of people with vital skills drop out of the workforce because of the horrendous cost of going back, particularly if they have more than one preschooler.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.