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Working Mum Movie Moment

 

{Two months ago……}

As many of you know last week, I finished my forthcoming book. It takes a long time to officially sign off on a finished copy. My last task was the index. Oh the index. It is a huge painstaking part to a cookbook. I have done a reference list for a doctoral thesis and still find a cookbook index harder.

To meet printing deadlines especially with a COVID buffer now, I was really pushing to get this index wrapped up. I had done work on it throughout the weekend but needed to the last part on Monday. It is also not something that is easy to do in pockets of time – it needs to be smashed out all at once.

Last Monday could have literally been a clip from a movie. There is a book turned into a movie called “I don’t know how she does it” and it so reminded me of this.

Monday started at 1am when my oldest son, Arjun, came in to bed saying he was in pain from a mouth ulcer and could not sleep. Arjun basically never comes into bed and less so complains of something being sore, so when he does, I know it is truly sore. The husband had fallen asleep on the couch, so Arjun curled into bed with me.

My alarm goes off at 5.30am on the dot each morning and there is a military style operation to get all three changed, fed and out the door by 6.50am….and myself ready too. Somewhere in the process of getting changed Arjun came and asked if he could talk to me. He did not want to go to school (there was a school trip on).

I decided early in the boys schooling that I was not going to force them to attend school things that they firmly expressed they did not want to do. Largely because I was a highly anxious child at school and struggled immensely in big social settings. I do not believe it builds resilience or character. I like to think I am someone with a reasonable level of resilience and it certainly has not come from this. I was also a bit worried about his mouth ulcer. Part of the reason for having my own business is the flexibility as a working mother to adjust to the needs of my children without having to check in with a boss. It is not to say it is easy, but I have a lot more options to work around it especially when we have no family to call on.

Managing this request with a full work schedule and the needs of two other children required a deep breath and quick thinking….at 6am. Sahan (middle son) struggles to go to school on his own without Arjun. Only because he has always had him there. It is not that he then does not want to go to school - just a day without Arjun is hard. Ray in this case was the easiest to manage as at 18months I do not need to explain to him what is happening he just goes to daycare as usual….just getting changed with him around my feet makes for an interesting start to the day.

In record time we came up with a second plan. I was going to take Sahan to school and Ray to daycare. My husband was going to take Arjun into my clinic where I would meet them there. Arjun would stay with me in the morning and Vijay in the afternoon. Sahan was promised a soft snuggly toy for going to school on his own. He is obsessed with these at the moment and while in the world of parenting bribing a child with a $10 soft toy to attend school is probably not recommended, if his needs and tank gets filled with this for now it is the easy option.

Onwards with the day and onwards with the index.

Arjun was happy just to come along to work and be with me. At eight years old he can do this with little bother, and I did not have clients on. He enjoys sitting with me while I attend to some of the admin tasks and asks lots of questions. He had some iPad time when I needed to concentrate a bit more.

At lunch time I went and got Sahan his snuggly toy. My grand magical plan was I would be home by about 5pm to do dinner, make sure they were all ok (give Sahan his promised snuggly) and put all boys to bed.

The index had other plans.

Once I got stuck into the last part, I could see it was going to take longer than I thought. I kept going in the hope that I was wrong. Come about 4pm I had to make a choice. Either head home and know the index was not finished and would need to be after I put the kids down or stay back. I did not like either choice.

I have done the first option many, many times. It means I am not present at home and am frustrated all while knowing a midnight bedtime awaits. It is also not high-quality work time having done a full day (which kicked off at 1am), then 2-3 hours of ‘mum-shift’ then back to ‘work-mode’. The second option I also did not want to do either, for obvious reasons.

Sigh.

I messaged my husband and he said just stay and get it done. The older boys do not go to bed until about 7pm and asleep a bit later so I could still get home to see them in time.

Just get this thing done.

Cue more coffee and go.

As 6.30pm rolled around I was just doing the very last little bit. Well and truly over it but this process is important as it serves as a vital check for the whole book. I could have left this bit for after I got home but was so close and mentally just needed to know it was finished. I could then use the drive home to switch from work mode to mum/house manager/wife mode.

I was back and forth messaging my husband to make sure the boys were happy and still awake.

7pm came.

Nearly there, like literally the last 10 recipes to cross check.

Messaging the husband. Yes, boys still awake – keep going.

Done! Done!! Emailed manuscript off. Checked again boys awake (yes!). Off home, Sahan’s snuggly beside me on the front seat.

Got home.

I did not take anything from the car except the snuggly. I did not take my shoes off and in full work clothes walked into the boys room.

You know exactly where this is going right……

Both older boys curled up in their bunks sounds asleep.

My heart just ached.

After trying so hard all day to keep all the balls in the air, I just did not not quite make it.

I stroked Sahan’s hair. Tucked his snuggly under his arm. The snuggly he had been waiting all day for. That he had bravely gone to school on his own for. Against my better judgement I so very gently whispered his name a couple of times. I was so hoping his little eyes would just flutter open enough to know it was there, but he kept sleeping on.

I leaned up and stroked Arjun’s hair. Kissed them both. Adjusted their covers and walked out.

I dared not go into Ray’s room – I just stared at the monitor instead.

I did not know but my husband had come to the door of the boys room and just watched me.

As I came out, he said “I am so sorry babe, they were honestly awake when you left the clinic. They are ok though, they understand.”

He said watching me was like watching a movie for working mums.

As I walked down to the corridor to get changed, my heart still wishing for a different outcome I caught hold of my inner dialogue. I have been down the path of beating myself up for the difficult choices I have to make daily so many times. This time, I just allowed myself to feel what I was feeling but also thought of all the women around the world who would be experiencing the same thing. All the women who from previous generations carved this path out with their blood, sweat and tears, so that I could even feel what I was feeling.

I had just wrapped a cookbook – a whole entire cookbook. About to be published through my own self-made publishing company after extracting from those horrible misogynistic publishers; led no less by a privileged, white male - who had tried to destroy me.

I have been reading Glennon Doyle’s ‘Untamed’ memoire and I felt her voice flow through my veins at this moment.

I felt all the things, sunk into them, felt the league of other women making difficult choices day-in and day out with me, and then I felt peace.

In her beautiful words – we can do hard things.

The next morning, even before my alarm went off Sahan came bouncing in with his snuggly that I had tucked in under his arm. I said, “I am so sorry baby, I tried so hard to come home on time, but I just missed you.” He said, “that’s ok mama, I found this snuggly when I woke up in the middle of the night, I knew you would put it there.”

My heart swelled.

Balls not completely dropped and shattered on the floor.

A child, a young boy, who understands so much beyond his years.

A cookbook completed that will make a difference to so many others and that I am unbelievably proud of. Completed not without sacrifice, not without hard decisions or hard work but completed, nonetheless.

We can do hard things, we can create a different socio-cultural norm for the next generation. We are not alone.

P.S If you have not yet read Untamed I employ you to do so. It is a book and a voice so desperately needed today and has helped me immensely over the last few weeks – and no doubt the future! If you are an avid reader check out our book club through my publishing house we meet the first Thursday of the month!

x Dr Julie

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