“Bring me sunshine, in your smile” The ringtone had woken me as my Son phoned me from his bedroom that morning. His voice sounded overly pitiful as he said that he felt unwell and didn’t want to go to school. It was snowing outside and he had an hour long bus ride, followed by a half hour walk to school each day. Since he had been fine the night before, I figured he just couldn’t be arsed going out in the cold, so not falling for that one, I turfed him out of the house.
I had a meeting in Bangor, N.Wales at 10am booked, but also had an electrician booked to come to the house as well. The recent heavy rain had somehow gotten through our walls via either a naffed chimney or roof (possibly both), soaking the electrics so that we were all at the risk of going *Boom*. I had to ask my Dad to be at the house, so that I could make my work meeting.
Hoping the house wouldn’t explode with my much loved Father in it, I had zoomed as fast as I was legally allowed to Bangor. That meeting ran over by half an hour, which wrote off my opportunity to check on the house and grab some lunch, as I was due in Newtown, Powys (approx. 2 hour drive if you don’t meet tractors and bikers on any of the many narrow roads) in exactly 2 hours. Cutting it fine, but potentially do’able.
As I wiped the snow off my windscreen, I got another call “Bring me sunshine, in your smile” My Son called to say that he was feeling even more ill and the school wanted to send him home. It was then that I faced the dilemma which Mums and Dads everywhere face, and one I had battled countless times in the past. Do I put my job or my child first?
My meeting was 80% irrelevant to my job role, but was a networking opportunity in an area of Wales which I had yet to crack. Hmmm.. But then, it was snowing and I didn’t know how much heavier it could potentially get…Hmmm… My boss wouldn’t be impressed if I ditched the meeting …. But if my Son became any worse, I would be hours away and would not be able to get to him…hmmm…If he magically became better as soon as I collected him though, then I may have to launch him ….I could collect him and then drop him at his Dad’s house …. but then I would have been 30 minutes late for the meeting and the networking intros are at the start of the agenda…. argghhh
The choice was to be a bad employee or a bad mummy!
I chose to be a bad Mum. I didn’t like myself very much for my decision and felt terrible hustling him out the car at his Dad’s house and speeding off. All through the two and a half hour drive (damn tractors) I was playing mental ping pong guilt and having to convince myself to keep going and not spin the car round and run to my baby’s rescue. I felt like a shite parent yet again, but eventually made it to the meeting. Everyone was already in the full flow of the presentation and I had to wheel myself a chair from the corner and sit on the peripheral; it looked like I had abandoned my boy for nothing. Crap Mum!
“Oh you just got a text thingy” shouted Keith Lemmon, which was my Son’s text tone notification. Luckily everyone thought it was funny as I quickly muted my phone and apologised for yet another disturbance. ‘Mum, I am doing ok. Dad gave me Paracetamol and sister cooking my dinner. I think I will stay here tonight so don’t rush back. Love you’. Hmmm… Not needed. Redundant Mummy. This feels sucky too – but it is a relief! Hmmm..
At the 15 minute comfort break in the meeting, I determined to make it all worthwhile. I took off my ‘Bad Mum’ hat, picked up my leaflets and business cards and schmoozed the room, ensuring I spoke with every single one of the 21 attendees. Success, I got 2 bookings and loads of additional interest.
As the meeting continued, I had my metaphorical Mum hat in one hand, my employee hat in the other, but I was very much aware of all the other hats in my mental baggage which I would wear as soon as the meeting was over. The Wife hat, the Daughter hat, Blogger hat, Friend hat, Auntie duties hat …I am literally a swamped mad hatter in my world and I never feel like I can get my head to fit perfectly into them all at the same time, and I just cant seem to wear them individually long enough to warm my head! Hmmm… spouting metaphorical bollocks here and not sure if it is working?
I guess what I am saying is that same thing that all Mums, and a lot of Dads, have been saying for decades, which is “Can we multitask our career, family and private lives effectively, or should we settle for always doing a bit, failing a bit, doing a bit more, failing a bit more?” Women have fought hard over the decades to have these hats (yes, back to that analogy) but are we able to wear them all well?
I am resigning myself to this. I will often be a good Mum, I will often be a good employee. Sometimes I will suck at a task and sometimes I will surprise myself. All I can do is try my best and be kind to myself on the occasions when my best falls short. I need to learn to ask for help when I feel myself losing my shit and not feel like said help from others is an admission of my failings. I love to help other people, I would have a lot less hats if I didn’t and I never EVER think of the people that I help as failures, and certainly not ‘bad’.
That day, I accepted help from my Dad, my Daughter and my ex-Husband. I knew they were all more than capable and in the case of my Son, he was also, at 15 years old, more than capable of looking after himself too! So why did I feel so bad? Probably because I was wearing the only hat that is actually dispensable – my Guilt Hat; in the bin you go…