When people find out that I am a stay-at-home mum, mostly they take a sharp intake of breath and say: "Wow, that's a full-time job!" which it is. Except the hours suck, the pay is ridiculous, the contract of indeterminate length and the boss(es) are prone to change the terms at any time, by any means (eg tantrums, throwing, screaming, general non-compliance). And no one really, actually recognises it as a full-time job. People say that because they feel bad for you and your vomit soaked, mud covered clothes that have faded through incessant washing and were last fashionable before your first child was born. So they call what you do a" job" to make you feel less wretched about it all.
Please don't misunderstand, I am very fortunate to have been able to stay at home with my kids. But some of the time I do feel quite wretched and put upon and nowadays would consider a corporate due diligence (something I became well acquainted with while I was a lawyer) to be the height of glamour and excitement- trawl through contracts? Me, yes? Yes, please! Let me just discard my apron and wash my hair...no.no, come back....!Oh... I'll go back to refereeing the toddler fight then
I'm sure most people think we mummies don't get dressed until midday and as soon as we do, we're drinking wine in a bistro with fellow mummies.
Anyway, I have been told one too many times recently that it is a full-time job (often in a high-pitched tone- you know that tone, when people are covering something up: "No, you don't need to wash your hair!!" a few octaves too high), so I got to thinking I should probably try and formalise this working relationship in some way. Y'know, get some rights for me.
So what defines a job, a full-time one? Well, firstly: pay. Not much I can do there. Unless I want to get paid in mud, monkeys or stones, that's a non-starter.
Second, working hours. I like to think that my hours are- more or less- 645am to 730pm (and I work, weekends, obviously). Sadly, this very often doesn't work. The start time doesn't present problems for many (except me) but my tiny bosses seem very loathe to adhere to the end-of-the-day hours. In theory, even if they've been ditched in their rooms by 730pm, they're always yo-yoing out: "Can I have a drink?", "I'm hungry", "Can I tell you what happened at school today" (this one is especially sneaky, I swear my older withholds information deliberately to extend her time up before bed), "I need a kiss and a hug" (sounds cute, I know, but proves wearing after the 16th foray into the kitchen) and, of course "I need a poo" which my older daughter coordinates precisely me sitting down to eat my supper. Good bowel control, I say. If my working hours do end at 730pm, these visits and requests are like a workaholic boss who insists on calling you on your Blackberry after you've left the office. I love them dearly but, really, by the end of the day I NEED to be left alone.
Recently, things have been a bit chaotic for me and I always seem to call service providers after hours (still haven't got used to the fact that in Cape Town everything starts and finishes earlier) and I constantly seem to get the message "Our offices are now closed. Please note our office hours are x to x. Feel free to leave a message and we will deal with your call during office hours. In case of an emergency, please dial xxxxx". This frustrates me enormously, but slowly I am learning to make the effort to call during office hours. So...
Here's my plan: for all requests after 730, I will simply hit a button and a creepy voice over a loudspeaker will say: "Mummy's office is now closed. Mummy's working hours are between 645am and 730pm PRECISELY. Feel free to leave a message and Mummy will deal with it during office hours. If it is an emergency, please ask Daddy or, even better, press 1 to speak to a grandparent who might give have the strength and will to deal with you. Thanks for your call. BEEEEEP".