In the old days, getting up and getting to work was such a simple affair. By my mid-20s I had got the process down to around 10 minutes [I had breakfast at work and it was in the pre-moisturising your legs and scrutinising your eyebrows days]. Now, it takes forever. There is getting people up [an art in itself], last-minute homework, waiting for the bathroom, finding socks, finding socks that people will deign to wear and a whole hub of activity in the kitchen – making pancakes for only son’s breakfast, daughter two blending a vegan puree, me singeing her lunch, my partner making his gourmet lunch, the cats running riot. Every day only son complains that the toothpaste is “too spicy”. Every day it is as if the brush is a torture instrument.
And there have only been three people to get up recently. Daughter three is coming on the school run for the ride so she feels she has travelled to school [she is trialling internet school]. Daughter two is doing work experience at only son’s school, which has brought its own issues. Every day she has fretted over her teacher outfit before opting for a polo neck jumper [in the height of summer]. She sees the polo neck as an essential marker of teacherliness.
On Friday we had to add dance club to the general routine. Only son has decided he hates dance club. “I know how to dance, mum. Why do I need to go?” he asks. The dread of dance club builds slowly from Wednesday. By Friday morning he is refusing point blank to go to school. “I’ve paid for it and you’re going till the end of term, then we can talk about it,” I told him. He loves dancing. He just hates doing dance club. Partly, I think, it is because he and his friend are the only boys in the class. I’ve done my pioneers talk. It is not working.
Daughter two was feeling reluctant to go to school due to work experience fatigue [it was day three]. I had to get to London so I needed to drop them early. No-one was moving. Eventually we got to the school and only son had a meltdown at the gate. “I hate dance club!!!” he sobbed. The deputy head teacher came over and did her best to console him. “You’ve got a school trip on Monday too,” she said. Oh dear. Only son is really not looking forward to the school trip either and I’ve been trying to avoid mentioning it. He refused to hand in the form so I had to take it out his school bag and deliver it myself. I think part of his meltdown is due to tiredness caused by his sleep being interrupted by people going to bed too noisily after Love Island, him not sleeping due to the heat and him waking up in the middle of the night and getting into our bed.
Meanwhile, daughter two was sitting in the car waiting to go in for day three, boiling in her polo neck. When I picked her up later it seemed things had gone a bit better than the previous days. She is bonding with the kids a little, though she did mention that she was walking down the corridor with the kids when she heard one four year old girl say that she thought she was about to be sick. Daughter two has a phobia about sickness, particularly the norovirus. At the first sounds of heaving she runs for her room and bolts herself in, only emerging for emergencies with a scarf tied around her face. “When I heard those words, mum,” she said, describing the scene at school, “I started walking a little bit more quickly.” I fear teaching young children may not be the job for her.
Nevertheless, when she filled in the assessment form about her first week, she replied to a question about what the work experience has taught her, saying: “I have found a new respect for teachers.” She didn’t mention it was mainly related to the daily potential for catching something nasty and clearly she knows she is writing it for a teacher. Daughter two’s entire school career is an exercise in diplomacy and telling the teachers what she thinks they want to hear.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.