Am on the final straight of the long crawl towards Christmas. This week have bypassed several potential disasters and survived a party of 16 eight year olds. Have written 10,000 Christmas cards and spelt out every one of bonkers daughter’s friends’ names at least 10 times. She has, of course, insisted on signing them on the back of the card so have had to put an arrow to show them where to look. Toddler daughter has had quite a spartan selection for her friends on the grounds that she only talks about two of them and I have no idea what the others are called since I only manage to rush in in the mornings looking harassed and exit quickly to tackle the morning traffic. Oldest daughter is highly selective anyway [no boys, mummy. This immediately does away with over half her class, but I think this phase may end soon as she is big-time into McFly].
I am readying myself for the Christmas onslaught – my brother and family are coming to stay, plus his wife’s father and girlfriend are over and then we have some French friends, their children and a brother coming for New Year and my mum is moving. I think we have practically every day filled up till 2nd January and already I can feel the family tensions bristling under the surface. The girls are excited, though, and it’s hard not be excited with them. In fact, today was the last day of term and I think I was more excited than either of them not to face the usual commando style exercise that is getting them to school on time [or thereabouts]. I could barely stifle a ‘yahoo’ and a rousing chorus of ‘school’s out for Christmas’ as the final bell rang.
Then there’s work. Having three part-time jobs is fairly entertaining at this time of year. It can mean several helpings of Christmas – or none. I have missed one office party due to it being on a day I am not in. And I just missed another due to my mum being sick so I had to leave early and pick up toddler daughter. The other one is organised by mothers and hence is being held in January, on the grounds that no mother worth her salt has any time for partying at this time of year.
I had one wobble at the end of the week where I broke down in tears after writing something and having it picked to pieces in the nicest possible way. It is just that I have over 17 years’ experience in journalism and I feel I am having to start all over again just so I can work flexibly. It’s been okay up to now. I have done all sorts of new things this year – I am now a dab hand at photoshop and Quark and I even know what an rbrowser is. But I am sure any 18-year-old knows all this much better than I do. Have I got nothing at all to show for the last 17 years? And why is so much flexible work so poorly paid and most of the managers men who have followed a relentless upward curve to their career? I have been checking the career progress of women who did my journalism course. Whereas the men mainly seem to go on to great things or at least to go upwards, the women often drop off the journalism radar when, shock, horror, they reach their mid-30s. I wonder what happens then? They then either have a blank or retrain as a child psychologist. If I could afford to retrain as a child psychologist I am sure it would be very rewarding.
Until then I will content myself with sobbing in front of a crowded room. What was worse was that the woman I was sobbing in front of is a mother and said she had thought I was superwoman until that moment. Part of me was thinking ‘I am superwoman, how dare you’ which is, of course, lunacy. However, on the plus side, the multiple identities that come with having a ‘portfolio career’ can be highly productive. Your mind is constantly learning new things and there is a lot of what can loosely be referred to as ‘cross-fertilisation’.
And I am seeing the girls more, which is fantastic. I have been trying to persuade them of the need to think of others at Christmas. Okay, mainly to think of me. I am digging rather forlornly for them to make me a nice present. Something subtle that says how fantastic I am. It’s not much to ask after I survived 16 eight year olds bouncing on the sofa playing something called 52 Bunker. I’m not sure there is such a game and it was not all an excuse to bounce on the sofa and scream very, very loudly. Unfortunately it was probably all my fault as I gave chocolates as prizes [have to use up the Quality Street somehow], only realising too late that one of the girls was lactose intolerant and another two didn’t eat chocolate [and they call themselves children…]. The lactose intolerant one did very well at Sleeping Lions. So much so that I thought she might have swallowed a sweet by mistake and gone into a lactose-induced coma. Luckily, she was just very good at the game. Anyway, roll on Christmas. I’m ready.