"Do you work?" People ask me. "Yes" I tell them, " I have three children and a husband."
This is not the answer they were expecting.
For many people "work" is a place, a job description, a salary, a suit, a boss. Staying at home all day, playing with kids and drinking tea? That's not work... is it?
Well let's look at the "working-family-member's" (WFM) morning and a "non-working-family-member's"(NWFM) morning. Just to compare. Just for fun...
- Get up, shower, put on posh, nicely ironed clothes.
- Drink coffee (normally made by NWFM).
- Kiss family members goodbye and jump car. Drive to work listening to Radio 5 Live debating some worthy cause. Ponder worthy cause and then other worthy causes. Listen to news bulletin and ponder latest news events.
(OR Train journey spent reading a Metro/kindle/facebook or someone else' Metro/kindle/facebook over their shoulder).
- Arrive at "work". Time for tea.
- Do "work" for a few hours. Perhaps at a nice desk, with a comfy swivel chair, or maybe in a big meeting room, with more tea, and biscuits.
- Lunch break. Pop out and get a nice sandwich, and maybe ten minutes of fresh air to clear the mind after all that "work".
(OR sit round and chat about worthy events heard on Five Live/news bulletin that morning with co-"workers").
- Day starts whenever the first child gets up. Normally between 4am and 6am.
- Pull on first clothes that come to hand. Likely to be a pair of leggings (possibly with a hole in), a baggy jumper (probably stained) and warm socks (definitly not matching)
- Stagger downstairs with children. Long for tea but have to put on Mr Tumble first, then change a nappy or two, then stop a fight over which child gets to sit on lap to watch Mr Tumble.
- Do lots of signing with the children and Mr Tumble. Quickly put kettle on for WFM and self. Prepare kid's breakfast.
- Serve WFM tea whilst simultaneously feeding weetabix to children, gulping down own tea, and attempting to stop children kicking one anther's chairs.
- Shout at children. Chase them when they then run off and force them back onto chairs.
- Eat their leftover weetabix for breakfast.
- Kiss WFM goodbye. Attempt to dress the children. Cue lots of chasing, shouting, hollering, tears, tantrums, threats, rugby tackles and wet wipes.
- Gather up packed lunches, coats, hats, library books, ballet kits and children.
- Drop some items and start again.
- Carry children and some surplus items to car. Wrestle with children to get them into car seats.
- Attempt to collect some of the rubbish from the floor of the car and place in the bin whilst making second trip back indoors to collect more items needed for the day.
- Get in car. Strap self in. Turn car on.
- Turn car off. Unstrap self. Take the four year old back indoors for a wee.
- Get back in car. Strap self in. Turn on car. Drive. Refuse to go back for special teddy/toy/book for nursery.
- Sit in traffic with other non-"workers" (NWs) eyeing up parking spaces, attempt to shush the three-month-old crying for a feed.
- Attempt to find parking space close to nursery/school/childminder. Fail. Park very far away and drag children and surplus items over shoulders, in headlocks and round necks to various drop off locations.
- Drive back home. Put kettle on. Maybe sob slightly.
- Breasfeed the three-month-old.
- Make beds. Load and unload dishwasher eight times.
- Breastfeed the three-month-old.
- Do 400 loads of washing. Make three dentist appointments, two doctors appointments, one window cleaning apppointment, three phone calls to British Gas, one to BT (while breastfeeding the three-month-old and chipping dried weetabix off the highchairs).
- Retrieve the three loo rolls shoved down the toilet by the 19-month old.
- Phone the pumber.
- Breastfeed the three-month-old.
- Forget to drink tea.
- Prepare children's dinner. Start hoovering. Run out of time.
- Get back in car to pick up children.
What do we think then? Sounds a bit like " hard work" to me.
It's not just the 1000 mile-an-hour-exhausting rollercoaster (or "hoster-coaster as the four-year-old calls it) of being a "non-working mum" it's also seclusion of it all.
Take for example, a conversation between a WFM and NWFM (non-working-family-member).
WFM: How was your day darling? Mine was productive. Figures looking good. Had an interesting conversation with some potential clients. Got some big meetings coming up in London next week. Might need to stay over in a hotel"
NWFM: "Well, let me think...I learnt the sign language for lighthouse"(does sign for lighthouse)
WFM: "What about that earthquake in Japan?"
NWFM: (who had to watch Mr Tumble all morning, sing Disney classics all the way to and from nursery and can't hear the radio over the orchestra that is a hoover/dishwasher/washing machine/tumble-drier all going at once) "What earthquake?"
WFM: "What do you mean "what earthquake"? It's all over the news. Everyone is talking about it."
NWFM: "The four year old isn't. More tea darling?"
And what about the amount of tea breaks a WFM gets compared to a NWFM?
A WFM gets teabreak opportunities galore! A cheeky visit to Starbucks on the way to the office, (with no kids to get out the car chase across the carpark and round the cafe or refuse cake to at 8am).
More offers of tea at work (maybe in a special mug the NWFM made for them, covered in their offspring's tiny hand prints). Tea at 11, tea at lunch, tea at 3pm. Tea coming out their ears.
(To be fair a NWFM may get refreshments made for them when the children play tea parties. In my experience it normally involves un-flushed toddler wee out the toilet however, so largely remains un-drunk.)
And also, note in the above comparisions, how when the WFM is "working" they get solid chunks of golden, undisturbed time in which to do their "work".
The NWFM has to not "work" inbetween feeding a baby, or chasing a toddler, or stopping the children pulling each other's hair out. Plus all the "non-working" makes them so exhausted they normally fall asleep about five minutes after the children do (once packed lunches are made, school uniforms and WFM's shirts are ironed etc) and then get woken up again about ten minutes later by one of the children.
Also, the WFM gets extras such as bonuses, holidays, days off, pay-cheques, sick pay, time in lieu, appraisals.
Not that the NWFM needs any of these things of course. Who needs a day off from "work" when they don't actually "work"?
Maybe my home is my "work" building. My sink is my desk. My children are most DEFINITLY the boss and as well as being thier employee, I am also the firm's cleaner, caretaker, dinner lady, receptionist and HR manager*.... Not a bad day's "work" afterall then...
Man, if I only I could salary that?!