'Working Mums': Why The Term Is Meaningless

01/02/2017 17:12 GMT | Updated 02/02/2018 10:12 GMT

I've been back at work for two weeks and already I can feel the old syndrome is kicking in: destroying my posture by slouching forward onto my desk, resisting the need for caffeine, every hour, on the hour, feeling the urgency in every single task.

There's a conflicting undercurrent in the office, a mixture of complete apathy and boredom offset by the sense that everything needs to be completed yesterday.

I'm tempted to refer to my return as a transition from 'mum' back to 'working mum' but I don't think I will. I feel like that implies I'm returning from some sort of holiday, sun-kissed and full of energy, ready to once again face the trials and tribulations of schedule and responsibility.

Like that's a new thing for me.


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A much more suitable phrasing, in my opinion, would be from 'non-financially remunerated title-holder of the most important job on the planet' to 'potentially financially remunerated title-holder of a job other than the most important job on the planet'. This also makes it equally applicable to 'working dads' who seem to have been forgotten about in the whole 'working parents' scheme of things.

I do accept the fact, though, it's not quite as catchy as the original.

And you may disagree with me on the 'most important job on the planet' front, but I ask you: what would happen if we dropped tools over pay and conditions and refused to do it? The human race would probably die out. And then there wouldn't be anyone to fill the role of president or prime minister or whisky distiller.

And even presidents and prime ministers can be working parents too. Although, they probably don't find themselves standing at the sink, washing up, at nine o'clock at night. Or hastily putting together a shepherd's outfit, cursing themselves over safety pins and tea towels.

Or maybe they do? Thou shalt not assume...

I would prefer the term 'working parent' to recognise that we are not new to this. I appreciate that for some of us, it may be the first time we have gained paid unemployment (or unpaid, if in a voluntary post). But we are not teenagers fresh onto the paper round scene, quickly figuring out that there are consequences to missing deadlines and to not following procedures correctly. This is not the first time we've had to juggle priorities or manage the expectations of someone with needs more specific than a space rocket launch sequence.

We may not be altogether down with the jargon, I grant you, and our systems knowledge might be a bit rusty, but don't think we can't recognise bullshit when we smell it. We're likely to have had more experience with the 'brown stuff' than you realise.

Returning to paid work is more akin to a diversification of responsibilities. It's a re-wiring of objectives, except that now, if we connect the wrong lead, we risk a county-wide power cut rather than a temporary zap of static. Missing a deadline at work may mean having to stay late to compensate, which in turn may lead to a delayed pick up from nursery or a hurried call to a relative to step in. And, oh, how exciting for little 'Johnny' that Daddy has come to pick him up instead, the reverberations KO-ing bedtime like a drop-kick to the temple.

But don't worry, like a prize-winning champion we'll be back in tomorrow, ready to do it all over again.