I have an alias known as Beta Mummy. She is a somewhat hapless, try-hard yet ever-failing, wine-loving, very average mum of two Feral Children (FC#1 and FC#2). Beta Mummy is by no means based on myself, you understand. I like to doodle Beta Mummy, and compare her to her practically-perfect counterpart, Alpha Mummy, who is basically the mum that we all imagine we will be, before the children actually arrive and we realise that this parenthood lark ain't so easy after all...
I was contacted recently by a lovely reader, asking if Beta Mummy had any advice for attaining a good work-life balance. (ha ha ha I know, I know). So here is my portrayal of Beta Mummy and Alpha Mummy at work.
Of course, Alpha Mummy probably doesn't actually work. After all she loves her kids too much. Plus those school runs, labradoodle walks, yoga classes, skinny latte catch-ups, maintaining the Ideal Home, and crafting perfectly nutritious meals for her family...that all takes time you know! Anyhow, Alpha Mummy doesn't need to work, what with her extremely handsome, high-earning, attentive and sexually-satisfied husband providing all the cash the family requires.
However, if she DID work, she'd probably glide into the office looking something like this:
I am a Beta Mummy, and I need to work. That mortgage and those bills are not going to pay themselves, and those Feral Children just won't stop eating, dammit! But with a two-year-old demanding Peppa-milk-nappy-toast-cereal-milk-MILK-porridge, and with a four-year-old demanding Batman-drink-wipemybottom-toast-moretoast-cereal-Mum-Mum-Mum, frankly I deserve a bloody medal just for getting 3 x people dressed, 3 x lunches made, 3 x bags packed, and 3 x people out of the door by 7.50am(ish) each day. Let alone managing to switch into work mode, be adulty for a day, and then switch back to mum mode again all in the space of a day.
Truth is, however, I like going to work. I would probably go entirely nuts if I had to stay at home all day every day with the Ferals, much as I love them. Plus, I did actually work quite hard to get to the point I was at with my career pre-children, and work makes me remember that I am actually a real adult intelligent person and not just a baby-vessel-slash-tidier-upper.
The problem with work, though, is that it means that all the home/personal/children jobs have to be squashed into the hours of 6-8am, and 5.30-10.30pm (assuming some sleep is achieved, or at least attempted). Plus the weekends, which end up being harder work that the weekdays. This is simply not enough time to do everything. And the problem with home/personal/children-jobs, is that they squeeze each end of your work day, and have a habit of creeping in to lunch breaks and other points during the day when you have say "Excuse me Mr Boss Man, what you're saying is extremely fascinating and important, but I'm afraid FC#1's school have rung to say that he has an itchy willy, so I need to leave work early". Again.
When you're a working mum (and I say mum rather than parent because I do believe that fathers very rarely experience this to the same extent), you spend the whole time feeling guilty and often inadequate. Because you can never give your full, undivided attention and efforts to either work or home life. You always feel like you are not quite doing your paid job well enough, and not quite doing your parenting job well enough either. Work suffers because of your home responsibilities, and you feel like your kids are suffering because of your work responsibilities.
It also does not help that when you are trying your hardest to be professional and respected in the workplace, you find yourself looking a bit of a state, having forgotten to brush your hair, wearing crumpled clothes because who the hell has time to iron these days, and realising that you do in fact have peanut butter or snot or vomit (or all of the above) on the one pair of "work trousers" that still fit your fat arse.
Meanwhile there'll be an Alpha Mummy-type who makes you look extra bad, or worse still, some pretty, skinny, well-dressed, manicured, YOUNG graduate new starter who makes you want to hide yourself in the stationery cupboard for the rest of the day.
So I'm sorry, dear reader. I have no advice on how to achieve a decent work-life balance. My work-life balance is more like a fucking see-saw on which I try desperately to cling with one hand whilst clutching a glass of medicinal wine in the other!
Still, it's not all bad. I reckon that rushing around like a lunatic actually has made me better at multi-tasking and making efficient use of my time. And at least at work you have a decent chance of a hot cup of tea, a pee in peace, and maybe, just maybe, a hob nob. I do love a hob nob.
This post was first published on www.betamummy.co.uk
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