October 23 will go down in history as Mish-Mash Day. It was, for my children’s school, the last day before half term, which meant that, as it was the closest school day to October 31, the younger half of the school usually celebrates Spooky Day – Hallowe’en to the rest of us.
This year, however, the school also wanted to fit in a Breast Cancer Awareness Day before October was out, so October 23 was also designated Pink Day.
And then someone else remembered it was Diwali. Oh, and that it was Egyptian Day for Year 4.
So what we actually had yesterday was a mish-mash of all four. The youngest two years dressed up for Spooky Day (we note that this seemed to include quite a few Disney princesses – spooky? Maybe). The senior school wore pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. The infants wore normal uniform but brought donation money and decorated pink cupcakes before they made lanterns for Diwali… and Year 4? Well, they came to school as spooky pink Egyptians. As I said: Happy Mish-Mash Day.
Last night, I fell asleep at 6pm, lying flat on the living room floor. Not even on the carpet: on the hard floor. I was in such deep sleep I didn’t know where I was when, 15 minutes later, DD said ‘Mummy! I’m hungry!’
‘You do too much,’ my mum tells me when I mention how tired I am come sunset. Well, getting up before dawn doesn’t help, but I don’t think I do too much: I don’t even work full-time. I do what most other mums do these days – less than what many other mums do – and certainly never a bean of housework.
When my mum was a stay-at-home mum, her main concerns were feeding the family and cleaning the house. She relaxed by listening to Woman’s Hour on the radio while she did the ironing. She was busy and she was fit but I doubt she ever felt stressed (well, not unless the pressure-cooker exploded, which did once happen. I still remember licking dinner off the walls while Mum hit the Christmas sherry).
So what is it that we 21st century mums do that our mums never had to do?
- Make an effort to do some sort of exercise every day (because we’re not doing so much manual housework).
- Try to keep up with some sort of career action.
- Update and maintain a presence on social media.
- Write a blog.
- Produce packed lunches that contain protein, fruit, vegetables and healthy carbs but are free from pork, nuts, chocolate and anything nice.
- Understand how to cater for play dates involving children who are vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant, gluten-intolerant, pork-free, allergic to nuts, allergic to eggs and not allowed vodka.
- Keep up with the news – not just in the one newspaper but via several different news sources.
- Read and reply to emails. Can you imagine your parents getting 60+ letters through the letterbox every morning?
Does anyone else yearn for zero emails and long afternoons spent ironing with Woman’s Hour on the radio? Or is it just me?
I realised, when the man came to measure for new wardrobes, that I have a lot of shoes.
‘How many?’ he asked, looking at what appears to the outsider to be a breeding ground for gold sandals at the bottom of my existing wardrobe.
‘Twenty?’ I suggested. I thought that was generous, given I only ever wear the same four pairs.
He looked at the shoe cupboard hidden around the corner, pointed to the boxes stacked high up in the wardrobe and stroked his chin.
‘Thirty?’ I suggested. His eyebrows rose.
‘Let’s say forty,’ I said. ‘Forty-five?’
But, if the wardrobe designer draws in space for 45 pairs of shoes, it leaves little space in the wardrobe for clothes. So, short of persuading DH to buy a bigger house so I can have an whole extra room solely for my shoes, I decided I’d have to be honest with myself about my footwear, and ditch those I don’t wear.
For there are plenty I keep but never wear:
Shoes you can only stand still in: Usually very high and quite possibly with a bit of platform, these make your legs look like Gisele’s, your ankles look delicate, and take at least 5kgs off your hips. But you can’t walk in them. At all. Occasionally there are events when you just need to stand up and not actually walk anywhere, but events like these are few and far between: usually one does at least need to exit the house and climb into a taxi, lurch to the bar and stagger back to the taxi. Which means this category is out of the question. (For a great example, see this Michael Macintyre sketch – watch from 1 min 27.)
Old designer shoes: You wore these when they were fashionable. In 1999. You got good use from them but, because of how much they cost, you can’t bear to throw them out. You hope they’ll come back into fashion one day and you can pass them on to your daughter, who’ll think you’re über-cool. But let’s face it: it isn’t going to happen.
Beautiful shoes: These are the shoes that you buy when you forget what your life is really like. You see yourself tripping into school to pick up the children in them; you resolve to be a better dressed person; to wear dresses that will complement the beautiful shoes – and then you get the beautiful shoes home and realise that they suit neither your feet nor your lifestyle.
Old favourites: I seem to remember writing about these shoes before. They’re the two per cent of your shoe wardrobe that you’ve actually worn so much they’ve fallen apart. They need to go, too. They do!
Party shoes: Silver flats, silver heels and silver super-high heels (cross-reference with ‘shoes you can only stand still in’). The same set of shoes in gold. And in sparkly black. And red shoes – just the two red pairs, though: high and super-high (cross-reference with ‘old designer shoes’). But how many parties do you attend each year? Really?
Crazy shoes: These are the whacky styles in fun colours that made you smile in the shop. You imagined yourself dressed head to toe in Audrey Hepburn-esque black with a fun pop of colour in the shoe, and you handed over your credit card with a merry toss of your hair. Now the shoes just make you laugh. In a bad way.
Trainers: You know how it goes: you wake up feeling fat; you happen across some trendy running shoes in the shop and you come over all ‘I’m going to start running. I’ll get fit and skinny and have amazing muscles…’ so you buy the trainers. As I said: shoes you keep but never wear.
So I was flicking through my Twitter feed at breakfast this morning when DD loomed behind me (see what I did there?). Someone had re-Tweeted a pic of some Autumn-Winter ‘14 looks from a shop I never set foot in: H&M. (The fact that I don’t ever set foot in H&M is probably the reason why I spend way too long each morning wondering if I’ve started to look too ‘mumsy’ instead of, well, how are you supposed to look when you’re a 40-something work-from-home mum, anyway?).
“Nice,” I said, quite liking one of the looks in particular, and definitely liking the new season’s colour palette.
DD peered at the pictures on my phone. ‘Which one?’ she asked, in the type of voice she might use if I said she was getting boiled duck poo on toast for supper.
“That one.” I pointed to my favourite look: a sleeveless top with ballooning silk pants tucked into knee-high boots. Although undeniably fashion-victimy, there was something elegant about it; a hint of the equestrian and it was – to be honest – the closest I’m likely to get to a horse these days.
“Mummeee!” said DD, sounding as if she’d actually tasted the boiled duck poo. “Promise me one thing: If you buy it, just please don’t pick me up from school wearing it. There’s nothing worse than Fashion Mum!”