I was so, SO looking forward to getting back to work after taking almost a year off to cultivate a small person. She’s a very lovely small person, but familiarity doesn’t half put you off someone.
I’d done the slew of baby groups and had started to experience that familiar wave of boredom, itchy feet, and unsettledness. Surely there was more to life than singing a few songs, changing shitty nappies and sorting out dinner? Oh, and let’s not forget the endless literal cycle of washing, where it’s perilous to skip a day and the radiators are 24/7 festooned with my ratty old knickers.
(Disclaimer: I do have some nice knickers. Somewhere. Maybe.)
So then work happened and the office happened and my expectations of greatness quickly fell a bit flat. In classic “the grass is always greener” anticipatory suicide, I’d bigged myself up into someone who could totally rock the working-mum-of-two life. Actually, it’s pretty sodding hard. I KNOW this because I’ve already done it once. Yet this time, I seemed to think that a unicorn cup and a new bag would make it all better. They do not.
All the working parentals, do any of these strike a chord?
Exhaustion vs Exhaustion
It’s knackering chasing small people around all day. I feel like an OAP with juddery joints and malnourished wispy hair. I was very much looking forward to legitimately being able to sit on my arse at my desk for two hour bursts, imagining myself to be brimming to the tits with energy. However, I’d neglected to recall the actual job part. You know, where I have to think of words and meet deadlines and produce reports that feed into a wider picture and can’t just be full of waffly lies. There’s a fair bit of accountability that comes with being gainfully employed, and while it’s fine (why, expected!) to wing the odd day, you need to be fairly on the ball mentally.
This is a bit of contrast to homelife, where as long as you know the lines to the Frozen soundtrack and can trot out some garbage about why trees don’t have legs, you’re basically fine. Your body goes to the dogs, but you don’t have to meet targets or gather data. Urgh, data.
My first few weeks saw me struggling to align the wheels – I flew around in the mornings gathering coats, shoes, bags, foodstuffs and car keys to extricate four people outside before 7.45am, then sat at my desk and forced my brain to work. Lunch would come and go in a mindless brisk walk, I’d yawn and fatigue my way through the afternoon, before coming to my senses to send an email or two somewhere around 4pm. Then it would be time to reverse the outward leg and bustle up my dependants, summon a meal out of thin air, sling them to bed and either go to the gym or collapse in a heap. I don’t actually know what’s harder – all day perennial slave, or all-day office worker with a side order of slave. I am SHATTERED.
The Hot Tea Myth
My first day back in the office, I let three cups of hot beverages go cold because the notion of having time to drink them was such an alien concept. It must have been my selfless mother instinct kicking in and reminding me that hasty tea breaks have to be earned and bargained for. So on my second day, I made a conscious effort to knock back as much almost-boiling water as possible. Like I said earlier, I’d got myself a lovely new unicorn cup, but like a prize dick I was reluctant to whip it out because it was TOO nice. I have a habit of this: buying coveted things and saving them for special, until they either go off or I forget about them. So, I found an inoffensive floral mug at the back of the kitchen cupboard and I filled that mother up.
After my third cup of strong, black coffee, I thought it best to dilute the wild java juice with a nice litre of peppermint tea. Which brings me neatly on to…
The Solo Wee Myth
True dat, there generally aren’t small feral children hanging off your ankles when you have a comfort break in the office. But if you’re a girl, like me, and you work in an office with other girls, like me, then there’s very often a chat to be had. Plus, the tricky gauntlet of toilet socialising etiquette. For instance, does a closed cubicle door mean that conversation ceases? No, as it happens – not always. So actually a two minute quest for solace becomes a frantic powerchat of hello, how are you, how are things in your team, how’s your mum’s bad leg, does the lady who sits next to you still have those fancy shoes, and so on and so on. All conducted whilst trying to quietly piss like a racehorse because WHO DRINKS A LITRE OF PEPPERMINT TEA?
Let’s be honest, times have moved on since you left to pop out a child. You can’t just swan back, like you own it, and expect to slot right in to the fat, pregnant hole that you left behind. All it takes is a desk reshuffle, a managerial change, or a suspicious stain on the carpet to completely upend the dynamic that you left behind. I had more than a touch of the new girl woes where I couldn’t remember anyone’s name, and referred to someone’s wife without realising that they were very much an ex-wife. It’s a very curious state – largely a case of “same crap, different year” but there ARE a thousand subtle changes and it takes a while to bed in and find your place. You know that annoying thing that new people do, where they chime into every conversation in a bid to make friends? Don’t do that. I did that. Pipe down, newbie, and absorb via office osmosis. Offmosis.
Remind me…it gets easier, right?
-SJW February 2017