Posts Tagged ‘SAHM’
DH writes from a conference he’s at in the south of France (I know, seriously, the south of bloody France): “Hi darling, how are you?”
Me, from home: “Glad the week’s over. How about you?”
DH sends me a couple of photos of the view from his room: “I’ve just checked in. That’s my view.”
I’m looking at the photos – they’re all palm trees, Art Deco architecture and bright blue Mediterranean Sea. I can even see a cruise ship anchored offshore in one of them.
Me: “Looks gorgeous. It’s been a tough week; I’ve been working till 11 every night. Obviously up at 5.50am to do the school run. Can’t wait for you to get back.”
DH writes: “Oh, hold on. Got to go, they’ve just told me I’m moving to a suite…”
Messaging resumes the next day – Saturday.
DH: “Hello, conference is finished. Suite’s gorgeous! I’m sitting in Cannes old town, having a beer. So what are you up to?”
Me: “Oh you know. Usual Saturday. Screaming loud kids’ birthday party. Now I’ve just dragged two bickering children round the supermarket, fighting with them all the way. When are you back?”
DH: “After the weekend.”
DH and I are a cohesive unit. After spending over half our lives together, it’s inconceivable that we would ever face the world any other way than with each other. Everything we do is a joint decision (except when I’m buying handbags, about which he sometimes might not find out until the item’s old enough to be classed as “this old thing?” [Just kidding, DH]).
In short, I love being a “we” with him. I love it.
But lately we’ve started having a problem with the “we”. There are times that he uses that word and it brings out the worst in me; it makes my blood boil.
Some examples would be:
“Before we leave for school can we just make sure DD’s hair is brushed?”
“Next time the gardener comes, can we ask him to trim the bougainvillea?”
“Can we make sure that DD brushes her teeth every morning?”
“Can we ask Gerlie to sweep the yard more often?”
“Can we please hose the bird shit off the garage door?”
“Can we get DD to finish her homework before the weekend?”
All very polite, right?
But therein lies my problem: In trying to be polite and courteous to me, DH manages to irritate me beyond belief because there is no “we” involved in any of these tasks. To say that there is is to pretend that he’s here during the day to help with the things he thinks “we” should be doing.
What he actually means is: Can YOU please do that? Will YOU please check that? And when he says “we” instead of asking me outright, I always give him some snarky response, like, “Why don’t we ask Gerlie when we see her at the weekend?” or, “I don’t know – can we?”
After some time, I realised that this was what was happening, so I explained to DH why his good suggestions garner such snarky replies. “Please can you just say ‘you’ if that’s what you mean?” I said. “I find it far less offensive than the pretence that you’re involved in any of these arrangements. It drives me crazy!”
A slow “you shouldn’t have told me that” smile spread over DH’s face.
“Okay, sure,” he said. “Now… what have we cooked for dinner?”
Given that I live in a very small fish pond that is Dubai, swim in an even smaller one (my famous compound) and dance naked on tables in yet a smaller one (the Golf Club – just kidding), I’m usually very careful what I write on my blog.
It is not my goal to embarrass or upset people. I try to make sure that those I write about are unable to recognise themselves unless I want them to (muah-ha-ha-ha!) or I’m writing something really nice about them.
But, even with this ethos, I’ve been caught out once or twice. Once was a situation so sensitive I can’t even begin to talk about it here – let’s just say, those blogs were edited very quickly – and, another time, I knew that the person involved was annoyed with me, but she didn’t want to admit that it was her, so I didn’t admit it was me and the whole thing was a stalemate for three years (I believe she’s now left the country. Are you still reading it??).
Anyway, the gist of all this is that I’m usually very careful what I put on the blog. But the other day I got caught out. Massively.
You see, DH reads my blog. I know that. I know that he knows that I know that he knows. He often doesn’t need to ask about my day because, by the time he’s come home, he’s read about it.
But I don’t expect him to delve into the guts of the blog – to read the “About” page, for example. The one that I’d updated some time ago to reflect my new-found contentedness as a stay-at-home mum.
So here’s the story: To date, I still get a bit of leverage at home about being the one who sacrificed her stellar career on the altar of having children.
Every now and then, when I’ve had a really tough time with the children, I bring out the old “It’s alright for you, cocooned in your nice office drinking coffee with your colleagues and popping over to The Ivy for lunch… Oh, it’s so easy to have a job, so much easier than staying at home with these terrors.” (Actually, to be fair to DD, it’s usually just the one terror now).
“One minute I was building an empire, “ I rant, “and the next minute I’m puréeing carrots and singing “Baa baa black sheep” to a toddler while wiping vomit off my Roksanda Ilincic frock and wondering if I’ll ever wear heels again.”
And DH, although preferring me to be at home, is pretty sympathetic. “If you really want to go back to work,” he says, “we could hire a nanny and a driver and a cook and, well… it would take so many people to replace you, darling…”
Even having that conversation – just the acceptance of the concept that I could possibly go back to work – makes me feel like it could potentially happen should I wish it to, so we have it every couple of months.
But then – lying in bed last weekend – DH read something out loud as I pottered about the bedroom getting dressed.
“Now acclimatised to life at home (especially as the children are now seven and three and, let’s be honest, are that little bit easier),” he quoted, one eyebrow raised, “she’s secretly glad she doesn’t have to deal with numpties in the office… Glad she doesn’t have to deal with numpties in the office?” Another eyebrow rose.
That sounds familiar, I thought, with a sense of foreboding.
“And, let’s be honest, the children are that little bit easier,” DH repeated, his eyebrows now so high he looked like a bad Botox job. “And she’s secretly glad she doesn’t have to deal with numpties in the office?” he spluttered. “I rest my case, darling.”
Talk about rumbled.
Some mornings, it’s like Groundhog Day in our house: Me, standing naked in front of the wardrobe, showered, makeup on, wardrobe doors open to reveal 780 outfits bursting out, whining to DH: “I’ve got nothing to wear.”
DH, of course, has a variety of replies that range from “Darling, you look good in everything” to “Oh for god’s sake, stop buying so much crap”, depending on his mood.
Sometimes he even takes a photo of me standing there naked to make me hurry up – trust me, there’s nothing like seeing your backside in the full light of day to make you get dressed quickly (I hope he never loses his phone!).
But what I’d like to share with you on this topic is this: At the ripe old age of 41, I’ve suddenly realised why I never have anything to wear, despite having two full closets.
It’s because I still buy clothes – beautiful clothes – for a lifestyle that I no longer lead.
My wardrobe is chock-a-block full of divine office clothes and glamorous evening-out clothes. I collect dresses, for example, like other people collect speeding tickets. I love them. I love the cuts, the fabrics, the colours. I buy them in colour blocks and in stripes; I buy shifts, gowns and sheaths; in linens, silks and shimmering satins.
And I buy high heels to go with them. Vertiginously high, strappy sandals by Vince Camuto, from Tod’s, and from Russell & Bromley. They’re beautiful shoes, delicately scented of leather. I know, because I get them out every now and then and I stroke them.
But do I wear them? The high heels and the dresses?
Hell no. I don’t wear them because my life – which consists largely of walking through deep sand in 45˚C to pick up two or three children, then slow-walking back through the sand lugging a couple of backpacks while holding on to a few sticky children – is not compatible with silk shift dresses and Vince Camuto heels.
What I need is a wardrobe of shorts, of vests and of flip-flops. But where’s the fun in buying those? That, friendos, I now understand, is why I have nothing to wear.
DH was like a little kid when he came home from the office last Thursday night.
“Long weekend!” he sighed as he sank into the sofa. “No work till Monday!”
“Yay! No school on Sunday!” yelled the kids, jumping about with glee. “What can we do, mummy? Cinema? Play area? Play dates? Swimming!”
And you know what? If anyone deserves a long weekend, it’s my DH. He routinely puts in an 11-hour day – often a 13-hour day – and didn’t get a day off at all last weekend. While I know he enjoys his job, I’m still grateful to him for being the main wage-earner.
“But,” a small, unentitled voice within me whispered, “what about me? I am quite royally knackered, too, and I would give my back teeth for a long lie-in and a little time ‘off’.”
As the housewife of the family, I’m the one who holds everything together; the one who keeps the cogs turning; the family well-fed; the bills paid; the a/c working; the pool clean; and the house ticking over. I’m the one who gets the flights booked; the suitcases packed; the homework done; the cars serviced; and the social life organised – the one who maintains the rhythm of our happy house – but when do I ever get a three-day weekend?
Actually, come to think about it, when do I get a “weekend” at all?
My working days are 13 hours long, seven days a week, and they’re not spent in an air-conditioned office. They’re spent running from pillar to post in 40+ degrees of heat, soaked in sweat and usually dragging various children with me, wrestling them into car seats, listening to their screams, wiping their tears, adjudicating their fights, toiling over a hot stove to make dinners that are thrown back at me – and trying to be “fun” as well.
And a three-day weekend for me means nothing more than an extra day of the above when, really, the kids should be at school – and I have to get my “other job” done on top of doing all the above.
No wonder I’m so blinkin’ knackered.
Sometimes I find myself envying mums of older children.
Stuck as I am in the physical drudgery of motherhood, it seems to me that mums with kids who are, say, 10+ are on a winning streak: They can take their kids on adventurous and exotic holidays; their kids can do homework without constant supervision; the mums have time and energy to have hobbies; and, most importantly, they get good sleep because they’re not being woken up in the night by dreams about witches or urgent toilet crises, neither are they being woken up by small people at 5.45am saying, “My clock’s still blue! Come and look!”
But if I talk to mums of teens, they say it’s just as bad, but in a different way. The worries change, of course – to things like walking home alone after school; crossing roads; being passengers in other teens’ cars; drinking and drugs; driving; staying out all night; and exam pressure.
In fact one friend I know whose kids are now in their 20s looks back fondly to the stage I’m now at. “They were the best years of my life,” she tells me misty-eyed, before zipping off to Istanbul, Goa or Singapore for the weekend, footloose and fancy-free.
And sometimes I wonder if she’s right. At the moment I’m excused from working full-time because I’m being a stay-at-home mum, which is something DH appreciates massively (in fact, every time I consider a return to work, he asks what’s the pay, then says he’ll pay me double to stay at home).
So, instead of sitting in an air-conditioned office, my days are spent dealing with tradesmen, running errands and dripping about in the heat. Yes, there’s a lot of drudgery, cooking and school runs, but there’s also something quite lovely about listening to the little ones chattering about their day in the back of the car.
And, when the tantrums and the sleep deprivation get out of hand (and that’s just me), I try to see the advantages of staying at home with small children:
- · Spending the afternoon sunbathing in the pool while the kids swim.
- · Having “playdates” with my friends on the pretext that our kids like each other.
- · Doing fun, “kid” activities, like ice-skating, all over again.
- · Taking the kids for dinner at cocktail hour and enjoying a nice glass of wine while they eat.
- · The feel of a squishy little hand in mine.
- · Lovely little full-body cuddles.
- · Being on the receiving end of all the love of a small child has to give.
- · The sweet, biscuity smell of children pre-puberty (I’m dreading the acne and BO).
- · Those throaty chuckles that I really should be taping.
Some days, as I wipe small bottoms, whip up cheese omelettes and clock up the miles on the school run, I get frustrated that my “career” (it’s in inverted commas for a reason) takes such a back seat to my job as housewife and mother.
We’re not just talking back seat of a black Range Rover here; we’re talking back seat of a 148-seater, double-decker bendy bus. With a trailer.
Yet, nearly four years after I quit office life, I’ve kind of made peace with the fact that I’m a stay-at-home mum. But, like any woman who’s been to university and enjoyed a career, I still need somethingfor myself.
And, for me right now, that something is a little part-time job that I can do from home in just two mornings a week. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can get it done in just two hours of the morning. Equally, if I don’t have a fair wind, a clear head and motivation by the bucket-load, it can take four or six hours. Usually I get the bulk of it done while the children are at school, and finish off after they’ve gone to bed.
And it may be a little job, but I take it very seriously. I like to be professional, and it’s this sense of professional worth that enables me to continue wiping bums, making omelettes and clocking up the miles on the school run without running screaming into the desert dribbling like a lunatic.
But days like today – days which DH and the children have as holidays, but which was a working day for me – are days that drive me absolutely nuts.
In true Mrs Dubai fashion, I got the bulk of today’s work done yesterday, but I still needed about 20 minutes alone at the computer to finish off in a professional manner. And shall I tell you how I completed the last 20 minutes of the work that’s so important to me?
I completed it with DS unplugging the computer; with him reaching up and pressing random keys on the computer. I completed it with my arms extended as he dragged my office chair around the floor; shouting as he pulled papers off the desk and tried to grab my water glass. I completed it with DS and DD fighting on the floor next to me. With DS trying to tear pages out of my precious books, with him trying to pull me out of the study and with DD whining that she wanted to do something “fun” today.
I love them to bits – sometimes I think I love them more than any other mother can possibly love their children (obviously not true) – but it makes my blood boil to think that I can’t get a tiny 20 minutes to myself to finish a little job that keeps me sane, keeps me alive and keeps me loving my family. Really, my fellow mums, I am asking too much?
So my mum arrived here at the weekend and promptly fell sick with a stomach bug (or food poisoning, if you take her word for it) right after I took her out for a special Mother’s Day dinner. The children are off school and I’m still trying to hold down my small, but satisfying, little job, which involves working from home between nipping out to the chemist’s for Immodium, entertaining my mum with new and exciting Dubai adventures, preparing for DD’s birthday party, putting DS down for naps, running the house, making DD feel valued while fighting her off my computer and cooking lunch for four and dinner for five every day.
Last night, as I chopped broccoli, mushrooms and onions for a scrummy baked tuna pasta dish that DH is particularly fond of, I mentioned in passing to my mum how difficult all the juggling was.
“It’s your choice to work, darling,” she said huffily, implying I was trying to squeeze in 12 hours a day plus a commute from Paris, and eyeing up the gin bottle in a way I thought unsuitable for a lady with the D-word. “No-one, not a soul, makes you do it.”
And there was I hoping for sympathy.