Tuesday, 30 September 2008


I have a job.

That wasn't part of the plan. I abandoned the old one in May 2000. A new broom for the new Millennium. The eldest child ( there were only two to go at in those days) was three and we were starting to address the thought that before long nursery would no longer be an option and we would have to come up with an alternative for when she started school. I have no idea why people say that it is easier to work as your children get older. What could be easier than taking them to nursery which covers the bulk of the working day, feeds them three meals and only requires you to go in during working hours at Christmas? Suddenly were going to have to deal with ludicrously short days, more holidays than I could ever imagine and lots of parent participation.

What to do? We thought about nanny shares and child minders. After school clubs were in their infancy in those days and so not really an option. We gradually came round to the idea of me giving up work and the idea hung there between us for some time. It was well over a year until a decision had to be made.

And then, one fateful day in February my husband was out and I had two of my closest friends round for supper. I told them of my embryonic plan to perhaps resign the following May. " Why wait?" they asked. "Why not go now?" Why not indeed? Scary but having started to think about leaving I knew that I would be treading water until then and might even start to resent having to go. And so, after a quick session with a calculator my resignation was duly offered and on May 4th 2000 I left and began a new phase of my life.

That phase continued until last week when the youngest finally started his full time education and a new one began. The aforementioned and long dreamed about phase that involves time to myself when I can start and finish projects, have lunch with friends and be able to wear my ipod while I clean as no one will be shouting for me elsewhere in the house. And I have a job....?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008


And they're off! Day two of the rest of my life. So far so good. Autumn-time and the living is easy. Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high. Well, not literally but I am enjoying myself so far. What is the most surprising is how relaxed I am. I have carried out my usual household chores with a spring in my step. I can't believe how much I can get done when there is only me in the equation. It's as if someone has taken my day and stretched it. Does this mean I am achieving more or less? Perhaps I am in danger of over analyzing? Goodness me. Surely not!

All seems to be well with Littlest's school career. Came home yesterday ( first full day ) with reading book and school pants. Hmmm thought I. Not an accident at school on first day. I asked him casually. His face beamed back at me. Turns out he had gone commando on a PE day. Bet that gave his teacher a laugh. Pants were order of the day this morning. A little bit of independence and it all goes awry.

Eldest found some white netball socks but then got another written comment for walking to her locker in a scarf. In my day there were cloakrooms for coats and such like but no longer it seems. There is nowhere to keep any form of outer garment other than an inconveniently situated and smallish locker. It's autumn. It's chilly in the morning. She wore a scarf and got done! When questioned why she had not told the teacher that she was just at her locker and taking it off she said that she had not wanted to appear rude. Another parental dilemma. Show respect to your elders. Defend yourself in moments of conflict. Which prevails? One more written comment and she gets a detention and neither offence so far,in my view as a biased and ill informed parent, justified the punishment. So what should she do? Inform the teacher politely that she was just putting the scarf away - in effect answering back or take the punishment and hope that nothing else goes wrong. When I first received the text confessing to the written comment I was furious with the school, the system, the injustice of it. I rang husband and ranted at him. And yet she had done exactly what I would hope of her. I complain to my friends about how little respect children seem to pay to adults and then feel outraged when someone sees fit to criticize my child. This is going to be a steep learning curve for both of us.

Monday, 8 September 2008


So I am a week in and things don't seem very different so far. We are still on mornings only so it's just like playgroup but with a uniform and a greater feeling of significance.
So whilst that ticks on I am yet again guilt riden. Guilt is the default setting of the modern woman. I don't know anyone who isn't feeling guilt about something most days. Did my grandmother's generation, who were brought up to give up their careers on marriage and then spent their lives making a home for their family, feel guilt like we do. I don't feel guilty about not working. I work hard enough making everything run smoothly. However,what they have eaten, whether they watched too much television today, whether I have done enough to encourage their friendships and other nightmares trouble me regularly. Perhaps I have too much time to think.

Anyway, todays' guilt was focused on my eldest who started at high school last week. She came home with a written comment in her planner. Two more and she gets a detention. And her offence? Not having white socks for netball. She didn't have white socks because I misread the uniform list. It was all my fault. Mea culpa and yet it was her planner that was blotted. I am not so naive to think that there won't be others and we may well end up with a detention before the end of term for a whole variety of misdeameanors. But this was not her fault.
Husband was outraged. How dare they punish her on the very first netball lesson? I understand the need to come down hard on failings . We all know about starting as we mean to go on. But this was all down to me.

But what to do? Do we ignore it and chalk it up to experience? Resign ourselves to the thought that our eldest is not perfect and is bound to get some written comments. No. My sense of justice was challenged. At the risk of looking like a pushy parent, a role I have not stepped in to before, I wrote a message in the parents' comment section taking the blame and asking for forgiveness. We shall have to see what happens next..

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


Off he went in his new shoes and his red sweatshirt. Suddenly he looked so small. Well he is small but he looked all clean and tidy and small. But what he lacked in stature he made up for in enthusiasm. School has been a long time coming. He has waited in the playground all his life. Most of the teachers and a wide selection of pupils know him by name as the fourth in the Clark dynasty. He knows the routines, can name a few dinner ladies and is on chatting terms with the Headmaster. It really was time that he actually had a place in his own right.
We took photos and skipped off down the hill to school with Daddy in tow because of the momentousness of the occasion. In he went, finding his peg adorned with a picture of a bat on the way. Just time to give mum a big hug and a huge smile and he was gone. And that was it. Almost an anticlimax. No tears from either of us - not that I expected any. I have spent so long thinking about this day that I knew pretty accurately how I would react.
So I went home. On my own. I hadn't made a plan. It was very quiet.I am used to him not being there but this was different - more significant somehow. And so I sat at the table and tried to plan. Planning is what I do but not today.A quick clear up after breakfast and then in sat in the last few sun rays of the summer and read my book.


Only four days to go. I can hardly believe it. After eight years and 4 months of life at home with pre schoolers I am about to be on my own. How does it feel? Odd certainly. I can’t really let myself get excited just yet. We have three weeks of half days to get through so that’s just like play group really except that I don’t have to go and help.

I remember this time last year. The youngest, the last at home, started nursery for one day a week. A whole day every week. When I say whole it was only a school day so not much more than six hours but nevertheless it was all mine. I stood in town on that first Tuesday and felt completely overwhelmed by the feeling of redundancy. No one there needed me at all. Still, I shook myself out of it and determined to make the most of my new found freedom. The first Tuesday was great. I went shopping on the train. The second one I met a friend for lunch. By the third one I had no particular plan and so came home. What to do? What to do? I had made it a rule that I would not do house work on my day off except in dire emergency but faced with a whole day to myself, I couldn’t think of a single thing to fill the time. Up until this point I had passed hours whilst appearing to be concentrating on a jigsaw or making buns out of play doh dreaming about what I would do when I had time. Play my clarinet, knit, reread my dusty cook books, go for bike rides, take up Italian, But as I stood there in my kitchen with no sound and no prospect of any, my mind went blank and I couldn’t think of a single thing to do. In a blind panic I mopped the kitchen floor.

This was a revelation to me. It frightened me. Had a really lost my capacity to entertain myself? Planning an activity for every Tuesday until Christmas was one thing but what about this time next year when school began. How would I fill five days a week?

This worried me for quite some time and I would get nervous about finding myself some kind of identity. In my head I drew up timetables of activities making sure that I would have plenty to occupy me. Now that the day approaches this all seems unnecessarily controlling. I clearly don’t have enough to occupy my mind but then will that change?

Monday, 1 September 2008


Ask almost any mother what she misses most from her life before children and she is likely to say time to herself – “me time “ as it has been rather unimaginatively dubbed. What did we do with all that time before we realised how precious it was. Saturday afternoons spent watching “Brookside” omnibus and “Blind Date” because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Whole afternoons pottering around markets. Hours spent on the phone, after 6 of course, to friends that I had only just seen.

However ,when it was just me and then just us I still thought I had no time to do anything and was always chasing my tail. Busyness is all relative to how much time you have.

Whilst the amount of time my children allow me to pursue my own thoughts grows with each passing year, the start of school for my youngest will be a turning point. I will have daily time to myself indefinitely.

“What will you do with yourself?” If I had a pound…”Will you go back to work?” How does anyone achieve that? Unless you are a GP or work for a local authority it is nigh on impossible. The school day itself is deceptively short – just half a day in working terms. Then there are the holidays – 13 weeks or so. Finally the endless time off for chicken pox, sickness bugs, Nativity plays etc. Multiply that by four and you start to see how incredibly difficult it would be. I am in the hugely fortunate position to have a choice and so for the time being I choose not to.

That leads me back to the first question. What will I do?