Fierce Women: Dispatches from an Office Mum

Fierce Women: Dispatches from an Office Mum

A Guest Blog Post from Jenni Phillips

I’m writing this on a phone, in the dark, in my son’s room. Squirrel Nutkin is playing on Audible and I think he’s almost asleep again.

It’s my fault I’m in here, he was asleep hours ago but I got in late and wanted to hear that little sigh he does in his sleep.

And the reason I got in late and ended up lying flat on my back among the Clangers and wooden toys? Well, that would be work.

But actually it’s exactly how I want it. Although the Clanger embedded into my leg, that can go.

I am a mum and I work full time and I love it. There I said it.

It really shouldn’t be such a scandal or a shock. But those judgey looks, the inaudible “oh,” – it’s still happening.

My heart sinks every time people ask how old my son is and in the next breath cock their head to the side and ask if working with a toddler is hard. “Bet you’d rather be at home?”

Of course it is hard. I’ve got a toddler and a full time job, a husband who works full time and two really demanding cats and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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I went back sort of part time to start with, in my old job, 30hrs a week over four days plus out of hours cover. Convinced by managers it would be “easier” it soon became apparent that plenty of people assumed I’d pushed my career ambitions out with my son, maybe the epidural meant I didn’t notice or something? Passed over for promotion and getting a bruise from the glass ceiling I decided do something I’d promised myself I’d NEVER DO. I went back to journalism.

Working on a paper (well one website which is then turned into two daily papers and one weekly, plus all the associated social media channels) is all consuming, full time, full on and full of stress. You deal with some horrendous stuff – death, every day, angry people screaming at your down the phone because you put their nearest and dearest’s latest court appearance in the paper (which FYI we can and will do) – day in, day out. But it is also the only job I want to do, my current role as Social Media Editor didn’t exist last time I was in media around 7 years ago. It didn’t even exist when I started six months ago but now I get paid to be on Facebook and Twitter for most of the day. It’s great (come and find me at www.facebook.com/glosonline, my virtual home).

And here’s the thing, I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one. I work with other mums who like what they do. I also work with a fair few dads, and of course it’s a bit different for them. My husband, who currently does most of the childcare stuff, never gets asked if he’d rather be at home. He wouldn’t ever be asked about childcare in a job interview (this happened more than once, see also: the time I went for a job interview at six months pregnant and didn’t mention my HUGE bump) or if it’s tough. It is tough for him too, he does just as many bathtimes and bedtimes and has the “don’t let him sleep on the way home in the car” challenge most days. It’s a gripe, that the old gender roles are still firmly there.

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Only once since going back full time have I had anything close to the dreaded”mummy guilts.” Picture the scene in halfway up Canary Wharf, at a head office seminar I get a text from my husband.

“I’m ill, I’ve had to go home from work.”

Ten minutes later.

“I’ve just had a call from Charlotte [our amazing childminder, who is also my sister in law], the Bairn is ill too and v teary.”

Right. I’m 21 floors up, 100 or so miles or about 3 hours on the train away. WTAF can I do? For a moment I thought I was getting sick too, but it was just the guilts.

In the end I texted my mum, she sorted it.

The rest of the time, in all honesty, I’m too busy. Hourly deadlines, targets, endless lists, there’s barely any time to think let alone anything else. And, it’s great.

It’s not that I’m not maternal or I don’t like being a mum but it’s not my whole life. I am me, I like food, cats and non-league football but I also have a child. It is part of who I am not all of it.

My son and my husband (and the cats) are everything but I couldn’t spend all day every day at home. Full respect to the stay at home mamas and the part-time folk, it takes all sorts.

Weekends and rare days off are totally focused on us as a family, we love a timetable and I meal plan like someone with OCD. And it works.

Sometimes, usually when I’m on the train or in the bloody traffic outside GCHQ on the way home I half dream of being an InstaMum, blogging and having babycinos with a super soft focus and hair which doesn’t look like a 6am birds’ nest construction but then I remember that I can’t swear like a sailor in front of the Bairn or in polite company and remember the newsroom is the place for me.

About Jenni

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Jenni Phillips is a journalist and social media editor living and working in Gloucestershire. Mum to one wild Bairn and two demanding cats, wife to the EVER patient Matt, she can normally be found on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter usually while carrying a toddler in a fireman’s lift or a large cup of coffee.

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