The bad day at work problem

Today, I had a ‘bad day at work’. I’ve been having a few of them lately, but this one, bringing as it did a definitive ‘no’ from a pending and desperately needed new business prospect, was quite spectacularly depressing. 

On the one hand, having children has made bad days at work a whole lot easier to deal with. It’s just work, after all, and in the grand scheme of what’s important, I can usually get a fairly good sense of perspective. But, and here’s the problem, when you’ve chosen to leave your kids in childcare and go out to work, and you have a day where you don’t feel you achieve anything, it kind of makes a bad day at work twice as bad. Because you haven’t been with your kids, AND it wasn’t even worth it! Failing on all fronts, give that gal a high five! 

Today, after the bad day at work, I came straight home because my husband had done the nursery pick up. I rushed through the front door, having comforted myself all afternoon with the image of 2 adoring (and hopefully freshly bathed) children flinging their arms around me lovingly and banishing all thoughts of my workplace woes. 

What actually happened, was that I could hear the cacophony of toddler and baby crying before I’d even got the door fully open. Both children, catatonically tired from a full day at nursery, were throwing a simultaneous tantrum about being in the bath and not being in the bath. And not being allowed to eat a biscuit in the bath. And about wanting to go to bed and not being at all tired (all communicated through wailing). 

Bags thrown hastily to the floor, I joined forces with my husband as we silently took a divide and conquer approach (aided by a dummy for the baby and the promise of THREE stories for the toddler). With both kids in bed and asleep in a matter of moments after lights out, I put my trainers on and headed out of the door for a run. Not, for once, because I felt like I should, but because I was desperate for the sense if release, and dare I say it, actual achievement. I ran until my legs hurt, pushing myself harder and further than usual, as if that would somehow wave a magic wand over the rest of the day. 

And in a way, once I was home, it kind of did. For I came home to a house with a lovely husband and two wonderful (and crucially, sleeping) children. They both went to bed feeling happy and loved, and dreaming sweet dreams of Curious monkeys and deep sea adventures. I know that nothing has really changed for the better. I’m still not very happy at work, not sure I’m doing the right thing by working, and yet too saddled with a huge mortgage to do much about it. But my kids are (bath related tantrums aside), happy. God willing, they are healthy. I know I’m not getting it all right. But for tonight, for right now, that’s enough. 

Don’t call me a Yummy Mummy

As anyone lucky enough to have sacrificed their pelvic floor in the name of children will know, motherhood isn’t easy. In fact, it seems to get harder as it goes on, less physically demanding maybe, but emotionally, mentally more difficult in more complex and nuanced ways.

And that’s why I realised today that I really, really hate the phrase ‘Yummy Mummy’. It’s such a loaded term – dividing mothers by definition into yummy or not (un-yummy? yumless?), conjuring up an image of a lithe, perfectly groomed woman in a crisp white shirt, with a perfect tan and an impossibly beautiful baby on her hip. Victoria Beckham, carrying Harper through LAX, both looking better having just stepped off a plane than I have ever looked in my entire life, wedding day included. Setting everyone up to fail, basically.

And I’m not even sure it’s meant as compliment. Think about the last time you heard/ said it. Wasn’t it in a slightly snide, condescending way, as if having a child and looking vaguely presentable is reserved only for the very dim/ those with nothing better to do?

As mothers (and women in general) we spend so much of our time beating ourselves up, wondering if we are right to work/ not work, worrying that we aren’t giving our children everything/ worrying that we are giving them too much. And yet on top of that, most of us run a constant internal commentary about our weight, our hair, our make-up (or horrifyingly in my case these days, lack of it). It’s like having Monica from Friends’ mum to stay, inside your head, forever. (Get used to the Friends’ reference by the way – stick around, I’ll do that a lot).

I’m rambling. But my point (I do have one) is that it’s a phrase that doesn’t help. It sets up artificial targets for most women, and is used as a cosh to smack down anyone who has actually found the time to make an effort (and I say that in genuine praise, not as a back-handed way of saying they neglect their children and spend their entire time in the nail salon).

I have 2 kids. I have a husband. I have 3 sisters and a mum and dad and friends and a job and a house and laundry and admin, and LIFE. I would like, very much, to be able to breeze through the day to day either looking like a million dollars, or being perfectly happy that I don’t. In truth, I’m somewhere in between. I try not to eat the entire contents of the fridge everyday. I run a bit. I aim to put on at least mascara before I leave the house. (Unless I’m going to a playgroup, because, you know, who can be ARSED?) But I constantly measure myself against other women (especially other mums). I look at my scraggy nails and un blow-dried hair, at my slightly podgy face and uneven complexion. And you know what? Men aren’t doing it. I think Caitlin Moran says it in How to Be A Woman – that’s why they get more shit done. They don’t constantly second guess, or self-censure, or compare. They just get on with it.

And that’s because they are allowed to. Because there isn’t 1000 years of bullshit behind them, putting them into boxes, judging, condemning, and generally GETTING IN THE WAY. They are allowed to just be.

So that’s my point really, we should let each other be. Phrases like this just pile pressure on to women in various different ways, none of which are helpful.

So next time you hear someone use the dreaded ‘YM’, do a sister a favour: dig them in the ribs and march them to the Caitlin Moran section of Waterstones.