Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Why being a working mum is perfect escape for me ...

Surprise survey: Justine Roberts of Mumsnet

I occasionally like to go to the toilet without an audience. It's one of the luxuries I enjoy most about having an office to go to every day, one where you can go to the bathroom most of the time without someone following you in there.

It's also quite nice having lunch without having to jump up and down from the table at least five times. And being able to raise a fork to your mouth without someone swinging off your elbow.

Work is also the place I go to to have conversations that don't revolve around Dora the Explorer – and to drink a cup of tea from start to finish.

So I for one was not remotely surprised by the Mumsnet survey which showed that only 13% of working mothers feel guilty about spending time away from their children.

The parenting website also found that more than half said staying at home was tougher than working.

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet's mum-in-chief, echoed surprise over the results when she said: "We often think of working mums as harassed and time poor, rushing from the school gate to the office with not a second to spare.

"But the reality is often more complicated. Most want to work."

It's true. I feel slightly ashamed of saying this but I didn't completely enjoy maternity leave.

The theory sounds good – no alarm going off at the same time every day, no office to stampede to in heavy traffic, no deadlines, no need to worry about a bad hair day (just stay at home and hide it).

I found all those things were very nice but after a while the reality was surprisingly lonely and isolating. My psyche is not built to sit in a house all day. Looking after a baby, for all its glorious moments of bonding, is exhausting.

There's no clocking off time, no weekends and the new alarm is really cute but can't be programmed to go off at the time you wish.

The time I spent with my daughter in her early months was lovely.

They were special times we will never get to do together again.

But I was shocked at how lonely I became.

You definitely get the feeling that the rest of the world is moving on without you. You start to wonder if you'll ever be able to do anything normal again, like sustaining an adult conversation from start to finish.

Going back to work was a break, there's no doubt about it, and a revelation that is possible to balance the two. Yes, life is harassed and time poor. I run around like a headless chicken most days.

The stress of trying to cover every base is incredible at times, especially when it all starts to fall apart.

Having said that, I appreciate that there is a part of my life that belongs completely to me.

There is a part of the day which is free from someone saying "no!" as the answer to every question and where bathroom incursions are banned by law. Even when I eat lunch at my desk, there's no one at my elbow saying "I want some of that too" while refusing to eat their own.

It's good to know I'm not the only one who doesn't feel guilty about these small but rich luxuries.

I always had a wee suspicion I wasn't alone.

To those who stay at home and do it full time – with no pension, salary, breaks or holidays – I take my hat off to you. I don't know how you do it.

Here's to kindness of a tall stranger

Did anyone see two crazy women trying to coax a large helium balloon down from the ceiling of the Europa Bus Centre?

If you saw this strange scenario unfolding last Saturday, I was one of the two mortified mothers jumping up and down trying to rescue a big green dinosaur with a neon spinning glowstick.

The balloons and sticks were from the Peppa Pig show we and several hundred other excitables had just enjoyed at the Grand Opera House. Despite tying the balloon to its delighted new owner, it still made a bid for freedom.

Many thanks to the tall stranger who came to the rescue and restored the happiness of two little girls.

For the lady who has everything ...

Sometimes the most genius inventions come from the simplest of ideas. Someone has invented a garment which looks like a stylish ladies trench coat, but is actually a walking bag.

The Scottevest keeps you warm, but its main purpose in life is to help you carry, in 18 handy compartments, all of those things we ladies need at all times.

There's a special pocket for your iPad, lip gloss, sunglasses, mobile phone, keys, camera and bottle of water.

The hand pockets are heated and it's even machine washable; what's not to like?

The only downside – is this the end of the handbag?

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