Child logistics

I have ended up at work. Despite feeling even worse than yesterday the guilt at not being there yet again assailed me like a battering ram until I gave into it and dragged myself out of bed in the manner of a corpse attempting to walk. Fittingly I look and feel like death and productivity levels today have hovered around the zero mark.

Meanwhile daughter no 2 has developed a bladder infection, yet again.  The surgery require a water sample. This seemingly easy to achieve task may as well comprise putting up an IKEA flat pack chest of drawers for all that I am capable of managing it.

We could not leave the sample at the surgery last night as too much time would have elapsed before it was tested. It is not possible to drop it off until after 9.30 in the morning even though the surgery is open before this. No logical explanation is offered by the receptionist for this anomalous state of affairs, other than to repeat in a tone that does not invite further query that it will not be possible.  I have to leave for work every day by 8.15 – work is 20 miles away and a 45 minute trip. The doctor’s surgery is 10 minutes in the wrong direction. When I explain this I am met with a disapproving eyebrow  that implies I am putting my career before my child and should be ashamed of myself.

I carry on, very reasonably, not yet rising to her, that as the hospital to which the sample will be conveyed later in the day is in the very city that I work in I could drop it off myself there at lunchtime.  I am informed firmly, but not to my surprise, that this will not be possible either.   The only other alternative, she advises sniffily , would be for me to drop the bottle off after school but before 4 when the samples are picked up. This means I would need to leave work early – i.e. before 3 o clock in the afternoon to get back to sort out the sample. I have an afternoon meeting, I cannot do this, regardless of the fact that my working day does not finish until 5.30. By this point her lips are pursing into an o resembling an angry prune. I suspect she is considering phoning social services.  “I should STRESS the importance of getting this water sample tested,” she snaps, as if I were unaware of this fact.

Meanwhile I have received a letter about parent consultations next week. “Sign up for your preferred times in the foyer before or after school!” This drives me crazy. Where is the emailed accept/decline appointment? I know that I am being unreasonable when almost all of the mothers at the school do not work but Why Why Why? can they not operate like normal people rather than living in the dark ages and requiring parents with insane lives to physically sign up on a piece of paper inside a school they rarely set foot in? I do a drive by drop off at 8.25 when the foyer is not open. I do not  pick up, the nanny does and she will get it wrong, even if she isn’t too late which is more than likely. I am at work. I have three children at the school and in order to book their appointments I need to coordinate them cleverly so that I do not end up sitting there for three hours in between.

The yummy mummy stay at home mothers with all the time in the world will be in there first thing tomorrow morning taking their pick of the best slots.  The thought of this drives me further crazy. I cannot hang around or I will be late dropping child no 4 off at his school, a state of affairs which throws him into a condition akin to hysteria at the fear of a demerit. I want to email the school secretary to ask her to put my name down, but last time I did this she sent me a snotty note back in similar tones to that of the doctor’s receptionist telling me that most of the slots were now taken by those parents who had come in as requested (my italics but she didn’t need them) and gave me some carefully chosen times that meant I had to sit there for three hours anyway.

As if the working parent were not guilt ridden enough.

Anyway, there followed various phone calls begging yet further favours from friends and an early morning excursion to drop a small bottle of urine in a labelled plastic bag off,  along with complex instructions as to dates and times for the consultations. And I was still late for both child no 4s drop off at school (tears etc) and work (tut tutting from secretaries aka self appointed prefects).

Stress and sick days

I pulled a sickie today. This is a terrible thing to admit. I am a conscientious person who abides by the unwritten rules of honesty, fair play and hard work and yet I succumbed. Or perhaps… I didn’t, I have yet to make up my mind. Some shameless attempts at justification will follow.  My new business means that I work 6 days a week. 5 at being a lawyer, 1 at the internet business, whilst also managing 5 children plus husband plus hours of admin every evening. In the true spirit of the age I should be glowing with health, fitting in a daily gym session and zumba dancing classes twice a week, whilst throwing in a spot of yoga for fun and baking cupcakes every other day. Plus reading War and Peace in my spare time for my upcoming monthly book club meanwhile looking like Cindy Crawford. Instead I am a stressed nervous wreck, waking every morning at 4am in a cold sweat at the debt I have taken on to finance a foray into the business world in the middle of the worst financial crisis the world has possibly ever seen. Not to mention I am exhausted. Usually when I wake up in the mornings I feel as if I climbed Everest the night before in my sleep. Plus had a sledgehammer dropped on my head for good measure.

At lunchtimes I have taken to driving out of the city to a small wooded area where people without day jobs wander past at a leisurely pace with their dogs. I park my car and weep and don’t know why I am crying. Other than I feel like a small child who wants to scream – I hate my job! I can’t cope! I am cracking up! Over and over again. Then I go back to work, wash my face, see clients and smile and give them legal advice like a normal competent lawyer with a grounded kind of an attitude and common sense in spades.

But I couldn’t email my secretary with these reasons for non attendance or with an explanation that I feel, not for the first time, on the verge of insanity.  So my perfectly respectable excuse, which I would be happy for her to convey to my boss if she needed to, was a stomach bug. And I have accordingly felt guilt all morning. Am I am a bad person? Am I? The stomach bug may well still ail me tomorrow. I am on the edge and I have to lie about it, because if I admit to suffering from stress I will commit in that one moment in time career suicide from which I will never recover. It is like adultery, once admitted it is there for ever. Festering between you like a never ending funeral marching around the heart of the recipient (Miller not I sadly). The stress label is every career woman’s greatest fear, the shameful secret she must hide. The one illness she can never recover from. I feel like I am in a vat of treacle and my muscles will not move, but I cannot admit it because my middle aged male boss will think I am a hysterical female who cannot hack the pace.

And yet these days, I wonder if I actually am a career woman. Whether I fulfil the criteria? I loathe my job with a kind of passion I have never felt for anything, other than my mother in law on a couple of occassions. I fantasize daily about being a stay at home mother. One who manages to have clean, pressed school uniforms actually ready for Monday morning and who does not have to iron them dry at 7am screaming at children to leave her alone and find their own PE kits.  A mother who doesn’t forget to pick her daughter plus two friends up from an evening dancing class, who actually cares by 8 o clock at night whether the children brush their teeth or not; Who can spend jolly Sunday afternoons doing craft activities from the Cath Kidston Telegraph pull out rather than sleeping on the sofa trying to shut out the never ending nightmare of another Monday approaching or in the alternative her new business going tits up.

I think perhaps I have always secretly wanted to make jam and grow vegetables. Clean my own house. Iron shirts for my husband who seems to have the stoicism of an ox.  NB View of work from husband’s eyes – Work five days a week is just what you do and there is no point in contemplating alternatives. Get up, go to work, do the job, come home. Don’t think about it too hard. Don’t analyse or dream. Don’t stress, it is only work. Accept and get on with it.  Leave it behind at the end of the day. A lack of imagination has perhaps always been the  saving grace of the male species.

Nits do not go away

Earlier a friend said to me, in shocked and confiding tones, “we just can’t get rid of them, we keep trying, but we have actually had nits now since August”. Bugger me I thought, lucky you that’s not long and then said, (admittedly without thinking – but my competitive nature came out)  “that’s nothing we have had nits since 2006”.

I realised immediately that this was not something a lawyer mother of five, businesswoman and generally assumed to be supersonic type multitasking woman of the 21st century extraordinaire should be admitting. The friend chortled, a bit nervously, obviously assuming that I  must be joking. Ha Ha Ha, not. IF ONLY.

It set me thinking – about how de nitting has become so much a part of our family life that I have stopped even believing it is actually possible to rid ones loved ones of these nasty pesky blood sucking insects. Long ago I realised that the only way forward in the battle against nits is to accept that it is impossible to win the war and then get on with your life. Whatever nasty and expensive pesticide you can bring yourself to coat your innocent child’s head in risking brain cancer in later life will only work for a maximum of five days before thousands of eggs that stick like superglue to the hair will hatch and the whole cycle begins again. And even assuming you are an organised and adult type of a mother who buys a second dose of the weedkiller to re-treat the hair a few days later thereby guaranteeing a maximum of one nit free night in your child’s life, they will return via another child’s head at school the very next day. Grrrrrrrrr. Acceptance is the key – you cannot get rid of them! Hold the candle and pass it on. Adjust your breathing. You have to live in harmony with them, accepting and acknowledging their presence whilst concentrating on keeping their numbers down as low as you can manage.

Nits in our household commenced when daughter number one was 5 and started school.  That was five years ago. Years of tortuous bath sessions with combs and conditioner and endless wads of tissue paper later we are still not rid of them  and with daughter number 2 still only six I see no end in sight for another five years. But I have learnt to live with it. I have made progress.