Like most working parents, balancing work/family/marriage/everything is a constant game of plate spinning. And by game, of course I mean trial. One careless comment at work the other day completely floored me, so I thought I'd compile a list of things NOT to say to any working parent, Mums in particular. You're welcome.
1. 'I don't know how you do it'
My personal favourite, this one. The reality, of course, is that I don't. My house is a tip, my son goes to school in wiped clean clothes more often than I'd like. Nursery has given up even trying to get its bills paid on time. Our library card is blocked because I forgot to return a book for three months. Yep, three. Work deadlines are aspirations these days, and there's always slack built into a deadline isn't there? Telling me how you feel about me 'doing it all' only serves to remind me how I am completely failing to do anything at all well.
2. 'You look tired' (usually accompanied by a sympathetic look)
Thanks. No really, thanks. I know you mean this in a sympathetic way, but I'm fully aware that the six years I've been a parent have taken their toll on my once wrinkle free skin. The two years my daughter hasn't slept through the night don’t exactly make me glow. But in my head I am still 22. 22 I tell you! Please don't remind me that this constant exhaustion shows and heaven forbid, I look close to my age.
3. 'Don't you take it in turns to have a lie in at the weekend?'
Sometimes, yes, mostly no. Having already been woken (and not for the first time that night) at the crack of dawn, listening to my husband slowly let chaos descend downstairs once a week is not exactly relaxing. And neither is dealing with two BOUNCY children that have been penned into a room so they don't wake me for an hour. After many months of trying, I have totally concluded that it just isn't worth it.
4. 'They're not little for long'
Oh really? By my calculations, our toddler has been little for two years and two months so far. That's quite long enough to be woken every night, deal with nappies and all the other 'joys' that come with young children. Sometimes the hours the kids are awake and clinging to my legs take years to tick tock their way through. YEARS. So thanks, but it definitely is not 'flying by' most days.
5. 'You can make the out of hours meeting at 5.30pm just this once, right?'
Yes, yes I can. It's no problem to bribe my son with chocolate just before bedtime to keep him quiet during the call. And yes, sure, I'll pick our daughter up from nursery at 6.30pm, because her day isn't long enough already. And absolutely no worries, I can delay our entire evening for you, because time really isn't in short supply at all. Of course I can make it.
6. 'Yes, but you only work part time'
Only. That's right, I'm 'only' doing a full time job (work) in part time hours. And yes, my other job (parenting), is also part time. Correct! I'd describe both these as 'only' part time, too.
7. 'Date nights without the kids are so important'
If by date night you mean slumped on the sofa, asleep, then yes, I completely agree. Going out out is not really a feature of my life anymore. Unless you count Pizza Hut with the kids. I can talk to my husband for a few minutes while they're occupied with ice cream factory faces. And I'm not asleep, so that counts, right?
8. 'Oh that is a long day'
I know my kids have long days sometimes, you do not have to tell me this. I'm doing my best here to balance work, family and our basic need for finance. I do not need you to remind me that my kids have long days sometimes. I minimise it where I can, but sometimes that's just how it is. And you know what? We're all doing just fine. Thanks though.
I'd love to know what 'gems' people say to you, do you get these too?