I often wonder what my kids make of my work. Because I do it mainly at home, it doesn’t have the air of mystery that, say, my partner’s has. Sometimes we go to his office in the holidays to have lunch because his office is right next to a massive Tesco, which is very handy for last minute emergencies. The kind of last minute emergencies that happen every other day in our house. “Can u get red food dye for comic relief” or “black boy socks emergency” [we are currently down to one school sock with a hole in it and an unmatching sock with fluorescent orange on the top which we have to turn down. I have to rinse the socks every night. We had about 10 pairs of black socks at the beginning of the summer term. Where have they gone? On a happier note, one of the ties has returned. Apparently only son and his two friends spend break time with said ties round their heads running around giggling, which explains how the ties go missing, but the socks?].
Such emergency messages from me to my partner compare with his texts to me when I am in the locale of a supermarket of a weekend – “mascarpone cheese”, “fresh mint”, “virgin olive oil”. You can tell which one of us is the Masterchef fan. The problem is that my new phone has predictive text which means some of my requests come out slightly garbled. This also applies to emails sent on my phone. The other day I pressed send to a friend called Ranjit before I realised it had auto-corrected to Dear Rabbit.
Anyway, the kids are mightily impressed by their dad’s office, bar daughter one who is not impressed by anything at all, being a teenager and all. I tell her about people I am interviewing and she just rolls her eyes. “When you interview Nick Rhodes, mum, then I’ll be interested,” she says. She has developed a love hate relationship with Duran Duran and delights in reading out criticism of how they represented 80’s consumerism while all the time playing Hungry like the wolf on her record player and obsessing about Nick Rhodes’ “bad hair”.
My partner’s office is fairly spartan. A computer, a phone, a desk and a splendid view of a car park are its main features. But the kids think it is something amazing. They swizzle in his chair and check his drawers for interesting objects such as bananas. My partner’s desk is very minimalist, compared to my workspace which is gradually taking over the table in the living room. I did get a desk from a charity shop to put in our room and made a very cogent argument, I thought, about how it was an investment in the future and would mean there was more space downstairs and I would have better mobile reception upstairs. However, several months on, it is mainly a space for piling my clothes. The thing is being downstairs I am at the centre of things, whatever things may be.
Being at the centre of things, though, is not mysterious or exciting. No-one shows any interest in my workspace, bar daughter two who merely complains that I am messing up the living room. Little by little she has been daughter two-ing the entire house. The DVDs are all sorted and there are an awful lot of photos of only son on the walls and in alcoves as well as plastic flowers and pot pourri. She’s even created a series of jars full of spices and sugar in the kitchen and a bottle labelled “treats”. The only fly in the ointment is my workspace. No amount of appealing to her artistic sense – arguing creative chaos – has worked. Daughter two may be the artistic genius of the family, but this is a girl whose main inspiration is the home decor pages of the Argos catalogue.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.