I’ve been reading about the elusive work life balance this weekend. I am not sure balance is the word I would use to describe my approach. It’s more or less what gets me to the end of the week. The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy work-wise and that has coincided with half term, of course. It’s an interesting cocktail, but we’ve made it to the end and no-one is sobbing so I consider that a work life balance success.
Due to feeling slightly bad about the half term situation, I decided that the end of the week when work had subsided a bit would be devoted to FUN. Having encouraged only son to create a home cinema during the week, complete with ticketing and torches, we went to the real thing on Friday. My partner pulled the long straw and got to see Bohemian Rhapsody with daughter three. I got Small Foot with only son. I’m not a big fan of cartoons. In fact, I’m not any kind of fan of cartoons and I’ve spent a lot of brain power steering children away from cartoon-related films over the years, but only son saw a preview for Small Foot and was sold immediately.
The film told the tale of a village of Yetis. As a bonus these were singing Yetis. It was in fact the perfect antidote to a week of talks on trade war, the future of Europe and Brexit. I also pledged to take only son to something called Inflatable Fun the following day. It sounded exciting. Some blow-up slidey things for only son and I could swim around in the shallows. Watching the weather forecast the day before my enthusiasm waned a little. No other member of the family volunteered to take my place, however. The teenage section pleaded impending periods and my partner has a problem with chlorine making his skin itch.
I contemplated steering only son into something a bit drier and less cold. “I’m so excited,” he whispered first thing on Saturday morning while he was semi-awake. “Today is inflatable fun.” Oh dear. We turned up at five to the start time. There were a group of small kids in life jackets getting some safety training. I peered in the direction of the pool. The inflatable stuff seemed to occupy the entire pool. “You need to put on a life jacket,” said the lifeguard. It appeared I had not in fact signed up to swimming in the shallows but to an hour of racing up and down “inflatable fun”.
As I slid under a giant inflatable arm, I considered, not for the first time, the absurd nature of the work life divide. One minute you are discussing the implosion of all life as we know it and the next you are lying under a giant inflatable ball trying to haul yourself to the end while your son whoops that you are a total loser. There were two dads and another mum who had braved Inflatable Fun. They were being soundly beaten too. Only son got so bored of beating me that he went on his own for a personal best against the clock.
I emerged feeling strangely awake, but by the following morning my upper body strength had drained entirely from my body. “Can we go again next week?” asked only son.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of workingmums.co.uk.