As parents we spend every waking hour protecting, teaching and caring for our children, cleaning up after them and preparing ahead of them. It's a job that you can't do half-heartedly. It has a way of bringing you down a peg literally moments after it has you peeling yourself off the ceiling, I could have just said it's a roller-coaster but they only last two minutes.
The success I experience in my working and domestic life work in tandem. The more I work the more space I can afford to buy us in our home environment. The higher up the ladder I climb the less hours I have to do for more, it's the point to any career, working your way up, starting on £12,000 per annum as a general dogsbody, learning the ropes so that one day you have the tools to go and run the company, charge for your expert opinion, deliver the guaranteed results you have proven to accomplish.
I have recently encountered the perfect contradiction, when work is so beautiful in one respect yet so painfully difficult when looking at it from a very different point of view. Well that moment occurs when work takes you on a eight day trip to the Maldives...
Personally, parental obligations to one side, you'd say I'd had it good. I don't quite know where I am on that ladder but I do see clearly that I am climbing at pace.
To get paid, to financially gain from being taken to an unimaginably beautiful group of islands in the Indian Ocean, to say a few words to camera whilst parading along the beach in my swimming trunks, constitutes progress from my days growing up in a block of flats. You could say my luck is well and truly in.
Chilling in The Maldives
I've believed in my dreams and worked tirelessly. From being branded as reality TV show fodder to get to the stage of presenting regularly, where I'm the person chosen to front such a shoot ahead of many others that are only too willing. My dad once wrote in my 21st birthday card, "earn respect through hard work and endeavour". I think they are great words and I've taken them on as my own.
Now before you either shout "alright Jeff, good for you!" in a sarcastic tone (or in a genuinely pleased for me riposte, for which I thank you) I'm not dropping locations like 'the Maldives' on your toes for little purpose, here comes the leveller, the concrete boots, the bubble bursting truth that makes the trip so bitter-sweet. Being that I'm not without responsibilities in life, just how does such a result make me feel about my role as a parent?
Guilty, thinking of parallels... like I've not brought them any Christmas presents yet? Maybe like I went on holiday and left them at home... Most likely that I'm experiencing something magnificent without them! Simply put, I feel like I'm letting them down. I'm not there to pack them of to school or to tuck them into bed and that niggles me.
I know this is a common conundrum for the working parent, some of you soldier through your working day to come home and spend an hour at best with your child before they disappear to bed, some of you have to give up work in order to stay at home permanently because, you believe it's the only thing you can do, or the best thing to do.
It horrifies me, the thought that some people have to pay well over half of what they earn that day on childcare, effectively going to work for very little because they refuse to lose their independence to the welfare system. We all encounter similar choices as parents and it's down to us to find the right balance so we can feel justified in our actions because let's face it: it's harder to raise children since traditionalism went out the window but maybe we are happier for It? Down to every individual to answer that I think, my mum certainly was! 'Struggling with a smile' is probably an accurate description for her years as a single parent.
Mum got divorced along with most of the nation it seemed; now there are more single parents doing it on their own than ever before. We have developed an awareness that if we aren't happy we have the right to change that without being judged by society. With a positive such as understanding our freedom of choice comes an associated cost and that's that. Bringing up kids in modern times is a full time job in itself and then we want to go and have another full time job at the same time?! Working parents/professional jugglers? Same thing.
I recently read Bradley Wiggin's of cycling fame quote: "The body is like a screw that you keep turning, you never know what it's capable of until it snaps". The working parent has a longer screw than most, because we don't have a choice but to keep on turning (or screwing, but that's what brought us here in the first place!)
In retrospect, I am fortunate. I get to spend a huge amount of quality time with my children. We experience so much as a family, things I didn't as a child. Daddy's career grants us the time to make many of these experiences possible and gives us a quality of life and provides us with options for their future so I remind myself that it's not the destination I'm currently on a plane headed to, nor the eight days we spend apart, that should dictate my emotions. I'm proud of my balance because it works and I embrace the guilt, if it wasn't there my heart wouldn't be in the right place!
I can't end my piece until I have mentioned my mum and the fact that she makes this all possible. She makes herself exclusively available for those children and does it because she loves them, and me I guess. All parents know there are probably only a handful of people they would entrust with their children for such length of time. My career and the success of the children's upbringing cannot be credited solely to myself, we are a team and I take huge pride in sharing the spoils with the person we couldn't do without.