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.