Slippery fish and astronauts
Working from home is great. I can arrive at my desk within minutes, breakfast still in hand. I can look like the ‘before’ shot, on a ‘fright of the week’ makeover. I can wear fluffy slippers, have a chronic hair day and still not worry about public humiliation. If I resist the overwhelming urge to climb back into bed, along with the contents of my fridge, then I can even pass for a pretty dedicated writer. I work, as and when it suits me and I only have to answer to my conscience.
Well, that was how it used to be anyway and then Ella was born.
Before I could say ‘sleep depravation’, I had two fulltime jobs, no pay rise and a CV that suddenly seemed painfully inadequate. I felt as though I was strapped on a treadmill, jogging uphill while juggling six slippery fish and getting nowhere fast. A 24 hour day was no longer enough anymore. It soon became as obvious as the stretch marks around my receding belly that writing and motherhood might just be as incompatible as oil and water.
Both cause sleepless nights, endless worry about development and the capacity to stretch the boundaries of the Patron Saint of Patience. Both demand undivided attention, one with a blank screen and the other with a high pitched squeal. Both throw tantrums, but only one can be shut down. Both give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, but only one can drag the duvet off and peel back your eyelids.
As the years tick by, the harder it becomes to hear myself think and sometimes to think at all. I work to a backdrop of endless questions and the deep and meaningful conversations of Nemo and Dory. I stop and start more times than a clapped out car; it’s a wonder I ever get to the end of anything.
What saves me? I think perhaps that wonderful female gift, the ability to multi-task with the expertise of a NASA astronaut. So just as I can drive (minus the map reading), carry on an intelligent conversation and apply liquid eyeliner, all with military precision – so I can perform a number of child-orientated tasks, while barely interrupting the flow at the keyboard.
Unfortunately this gift stops short of phone calls. It’s incredibly hard to sound professional and on top of things, when accompanied by the honeyed tones of Barney and his fabulous rendition of ‘Wheels on the Bus’. To make matters worse, never am I more at the mercy of my devilish child, than when she is just out of cable’s reach. I am forced to indicate silent warnings of untold punishment with my free hand, whilst keeping the telephone voice intact.
My turned back and pre-occupied mind offer an open invitation, to cause the maximum amount of trouble in the minimum amount of time. As I write this, I can sense trouble brewing and the lumpy curtain twitching. I learnt long ago, that danger is heralded not by noise, but by a deafening silence. It invariably means that something is being opened, emptied or eaten. The longer it takes to drag your eyes from the screen, and hunt down the culprit, the bigger will be the crayoned masterpiece across your shiny white wall.
So, throughout the chaos and tantrums, I try to work. Using a tried and tested combination of gentle persuasion, bribery and thinly veiled threats, all in the quest for enough peace and quiet to finish the sentence I started the day before.
Then, as I sit here, lost in verbs and typing at speed, my pint-sized editor climbs onto my lap. With crumbs flying and greasy little paws banging away at my keyboard, two big, brown angelic eyes blink up at me. “I want to hug you Mummy” she says.
With this, I remember why I love working from home. Although it may be testing at times, it allows me to be there every day, to watch her grow and learn and play. So when my brain is frazzled, my fingers are sore and I need a break, I can’t think of a nicer reason to stop, than to get a little TLC and alot of love from my little girl.