Yesterday, as I dropped you off at school, you made a passing comment to me. “I don’t want to go to after school club today.” Shortly followed by: “Why do you have to go to work?”
Now, I know that, for you, it really was probably no more than a momentary thought, one which in your mind had no more weight than when you’d asked me five minutes earlier if you could have crisps for breakfast (Um…no), or when you asked five minutes later if I thought your neck would ever be as long as a giraffe (Also no).
But for me, it was a lot more than that.
The thing is, sweetheart, that as you get older you have to make more and more choices. And not easy choices, either, like whether you should wear your Chelsea kit or your Barcelona kit to football training. (Barcelona, every time.) Really really big and difficult choices. And that’s exactly what happen once you have children.
The problem is, that our society would ideally like us to be in two places at once. From the moment you have a baby, you are expected to be both at home, and at work. And, whichever choice you make, you cannot really win. If you go to work you get told you are deserting your children. If you stay at home people tell you you are lazy and lacking in ambition. And all of this is made loads worse by the media, who like to write things to make both the people who go to work and the people who stay at home say mean things about each other, and everyone just ends up feeling a bit sad and upset.
But you know what? All of us are just trying to do what we think the best thing is. Because – and here’s the thing – we love you more than anything in the world. And that makes making our choice even more difficult, because it feels so scary to get it wrong. If we stay at home with you, maybe we’ll be really bad at looking after you and you’ll hate us. If we go out to work, maybe you’ll feel all sad because we’ve left you at nursery or school and you’ll hate us. Either way, it feels like we can’t really win.
And so I decided to go out to work. I go out to work, to a job I am lucky enough to absolutely love, and I do that five days a week. I am really really lucky because I get do a really important job where I look after lots of people, but I still get to take you to before school club, and pick you up from after school club, or even school itself on Fridays, and I can make sure I’m there for all of the most important days for you. Such as Sports’ Day, on Friday, when yes, I will be there, and no, I will absolutely not be running in the Mums’ race, however much you try and persuade me otherwise.
But I am always going to feel a bit guilty. There are days when I know that you’re slightly under the weather, when I know you would rather be at home with me, but when I have to go into the office, so you have to put on a brave face and get on with it. There will be all the things I can’t make – the assemblies, the talent shows, the reading sessions – when I have to explain to you why I can’t be there, and before the words are even out of my mouth you will tell me: “I know. Work.” And those three little words tell me so much, in the way that you choose to say them to me.
I have had to make a choice I never really wanted to make. I really really love my career and my job. I really really REALLY love you and Jamie. And having to choose between you is really really really really REALLY difficult.
But you know what? Most of the time, I think we get it just about right. I think we make it work. Yes, mornings will always be a mad rush and yes, you will never want to get out of bed. Yes, I won’t be at most of your class assemblies, or ukulele practises, or phonics days – and, I’m not going to lie, I’m not always sad about that 😉 But when you need me, my best girl, I will always be there. My work is very, very important to me. You know that, and you know all of the fun things we get to do because I get paid to go to work. (As an aside, I’m glad we cleared up that confusion when you were convinced I had to pay my boss to be allowed to do my job.) But you and Jamie… you are my everything. And whenever you need me, whenever you really need me, whenever you need your mum and nobody else will do… I will be there. I promise.
I love you,