*Rant alert* – How is this still acceptable…!?

I have a confession to make.
I took a redundancy from work a while back and have had a sort of extra maternity leave. But without the baby. Or the toddler trying to kill the baby. Or the toddler trying to kill me because I had a baby and ruined her life. Or me crying because I hadn’t had any sleep and I had been at home all day with a murderous toddler, a crying baby and a pile of laundry the size of Ben Nevis. Or sometimes really quietly wishing I was back at work.

This extra maternity leave was all about taking kids to school and having a few hours to myself whilst the youngest was at nursery. It’s been about playing snakes and ladders, trips to the park (and the pub), hanging out in an empty Ikea on a Monday. The laundry pile has been just as big but the weeping at the sight of it has been occasional rather than constant pain every time I walk past.

One of the massive bonuses about being off work is that when the kids are ill it doesn’t really matter.
High fever? Hey come hang out with me on the sofa while we wait in for the Amazon man. (I’m on first name terms. Also with the man doing up my next door neighbour but one’s garden.)
Chicken pox? All I had planned was returning a tap to the hardware shop. I’ll cancel and we can sit on the sofa looking out of the window (at my phone) instead.

This week my four year old has been unwell. High temperature, not eating, so no chance really of dosing him up and sending him off to school only to sound surprised when the office ring to say he’s not very well.

And this week I had two job interviews. It’s been like a crash course in being a working Mum just in case I had forgotten what the last fifteen years have been like. Just in case I thought you just got up and went to work, here it was to remind me.
A pathetic little unwashed figure lying flushed on the sofa and instead of sitting down and giving him a cuddle I look at him and think:
“What the fuck am I going to do with him?”
My husband patted him on the head and said “poor little thing”, gave me a rueful smile and left to go to work. I tried to shout after him that even though an interview is not technically a piece of paid employment could he possibly cut me some slack because it could lead to actual paid employment; but I think he was already on the train by then.

And as ever it was sort of ok. I muddled through. Or rather the network of kind and brilliant women stepped in and over the next couple of afternoons he hung out with a few women who weren’t his mum but who were kind to him and more importantly kind to me as I donned my work clothes once again.

And there I would have liked to end this little example of what it’s like to be a working mum with the loveliness of other women. But it doesn’t end there because I have just had feedback from one of the interviews. The CEO I interviewed with fedback that she thought I lacked focus because I had kids.

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And I am seething.

I mentioned I had children in the small talk bit at the beginning of the interview but at no point did I say ‘Oh I won’t be able to do much marketing for the company because I have children’. At no point did I say ‘Oh I won’t be able to work very hard because I have children’. At no point did I say ‘Oh I won’t be able to manage people very well because I have children’. I didn’t even ask for flexible working.

Obviously I’m cross about this on so many levels. Would she have drawn the same conclusion after interviewing a working father? I doubt it.

But what really makes me cross is that I had made multiple phone calls, negotiated swaps of childcare, handed over keys, explained where medicine was, showed someone how to work the Sky remote, put one neighbour in contact with another friend and worked out their swap over of my child, called to make sure someone had given him water and asked if he’d eaten anything yet. I did all this and I still turned up at her office on time and prepared. And she thinks we mums lack focus.

And you know what? I’m going to call her tomorrow and I’m going to take her to task on it. Wish me luck!

Stella

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