It’s an interesting exercise getting your kids to say what they think about their parents and their work. I am testing how to make an imovie for work so I thought I’d experiment on the kids, given that they are more likely to know how to do it than I am. They set up a studio in daughter two’s room, which looks like some sort of art gallery, being as the walls are covered with her works. These mainly involve old bits of botched Ikea furniture repurposed as artworks.
Daughter two cleared a space against a white wall, shone one of her lamps on it and put a giant bouncy ball which she uses for exercise purposes in the middle so people could sit while they were being interviewed. NB A bouncy ball is probably not the best seat for interviews which involve staying still.
Daughter three went first. She is a child of the Youtube age and, although she now appears to have gone off Zoella after subtle appeals from her mother due to the exorbitant cost of Zoella products [in her mother’s view], she spends probably too much time on cake sites or organising trips.
“What do you think of your parents’ work?” I asked. Despite bursting into laughter for much of the interview, she managed to say some quite nice things about our jobs and about me working from home. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked. “An archaeologist,” she replied. A bit later on I asked her if she had thought about how she would work if she had kids. “Well, I don’t think I could be an archaeologist from home,” she started. I fear I have given her the idea that you can only do the whole work and family thing by working from home. I had visions of her digging out the foundations of the house looking for dinosaur fossils. I think I need to have a long talk with her.
Daughter two felt daughter three had been very unprofessional by bursting into laughter. She wanted to go next. “My mum is a journalist and works from home and her desk is very messy. My dad does helps people with learning difficulties and is in an office,” she said after being reminded what her dad does. The younger section of the family were mightily impressed by their dad’s office. They are not quite so taken with their mum’s ‘workspace’ – the living room table where my papers spread like a lurgy among the general debris of family life.
“Lots of my friends’ parents work very long hours,” continued daughter two, “so I think I am very lucky that my mum and dad are around more and they are very equal.” Very on message. She had absolutely no idea what she wanted to be, of course, and had not given the slightest thought to the future, let alone next week. However, she volunteered: “I think the mums and the dads should be equal and both can look after the children the same.” Daughter one harrumphed. “You are sooo heteronormative,” she said, taking her position on the bouncy ball.
Daughter one thinks deeply about all things. She recalled her intense dislike of holiday playschemes. She also said a lot of her friends’ parents work very late and that things should be equal “in an ideal world”. She doesn’t think we have an ideal world, of course. Women, she said, tend to still be held back at work. For her, the main thing in terms of work was earning enough money to be able to afford to live away from home. “Everything is so expensive,” she says. She would like to be a writer or journalist, but she’s already discounted that on the grounds of it being very poorly paid and because “no-one wants to pay for journalism these days”. I fear I have repeated these words once to often. I must start bigging up my profession a bit more. She’s considering something with a few more prospects.
Only son was on the Wii, dancing to the Ketchup song. He has no idea what he wants to do or what his parents do. When asked a while ago what his mum did for a job, he simply said: “She stares at a screen all day.”
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.