Wednesday 20 July 2011

Beware: the Summer Holidays Cometh....

Any working mum will be feeling a mixed bag of emotions now that the summer holidays are just around the corner. Or is it just me that always ends up feeling like a pair of scales: the need to get on and do your job on one side - the guilt for not spending enough time with your child when they're on holiday, on the other? Surely it can't just be me - tell me I'm not alone!

It's around this time that I feel I should be spending the sunny summer days (yes, I know, but surely there should be a couple of those during the school holidays, right?) having picnics and planning get togethers with other parents and their children. Days out at the seaside, trips to the park, baking cakes in my sparkling kitchen with my child at my side sweetly icing lopsided cupcakes.... yeah, it's not really going to happen is it? The reality is that I'll probably be praying for decent weather so that she can play out with her friends while I sit hunched over my desk drilling my way through the day's work. Oh, I'm such a bad mother...

Or am I? I know that by working I can contribute to the family finances, my daughter is getting a little bit of independence and can amuse herself without me constantly hovering (or hoovering!), and I'm hopefully being a good role model for her too. So it's not all bad...

So why do I feel guilty much of the time too? I do think us women can be so hard on ourselves, perhaps as a backlash to the years of us being domestic housewives who raised children and "kept house". Along came liberated, emancipated, 20th Century Women and we wanted it all: children, lovely home, career. As a consequence, I do think that working mums still feel a dollop of guilt - let's face it, it was only a few years ago that women were forced to leave their jobs when they became engaged. The marriage bar was common place during the time our own mothers and grandmothers were working, especially in the civil service, the police force and banking industry. As late as 1972, women who worked in the Foreign Office had to leave when they got engaged! So, given that, it's not really surprising that we still have a little bit of ingrained guilt when we become working mothers ourselves is it, even a generation or two on?

So, don't beat yourself up if you're working during the summer holidays. And if you work at home, just bite your lip when you get this (because you probably will):
  • "I bet you're looking forward to the holidays aren't you - no more having to get up in the mornings, eh?"
  • "How are you going to be spending the school holidays then? Anything planned?"
  • "It's all right for some: being at home all day with the sun shining!"
  • "Summer holidays are so boring aren't they? Shall we come round and spend the day at yours, then the kids can play while we have a natter..."
Stay calm, smile sweetly, and just remind them "I'm working" - the penny will drop eventually!

Happy holidays all,

PS: The lady in the photo is wearing a ring on her left hand - so I guess a good caption would be "...and here's your P45 Muriel - now you can enjoy those long summer holidays, lucky girl!"

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