What do you do when you have a horizontal husband, two small children and a demanding job?
You get a promotion.
My former boss, Adriaan, has left City Press to become the editor of Beeld. Lucky Beeld. And I have been promoted into his position.
Those who know Adriaan will also know that he has very big shoes – and they’ll take some filling. Most of my colleagues were very kind and congratulated me on my appointment, bless them. (One was less so, telling me: “Well, better the devil you know,” which was hilarious.)
My children, however, were not so congratulatory when I told them the news.
“NOOOOO! We don’t want you to become Uncle Adriaan! We’ll never see you!” wailed Dramatix (8) and Romantix (5).
Clearly, they want the devil they know to be around more often.
They know what it was like when, as the news editor of a daily newspaper, I used to come home long after they went to bed. I would drop Romantix, aged 3, off at nursery school in the mornings and he would kiss me and say, “Bye bye Mama. See you tomorrow.”
I still feel terribly guilty about that. It was one of the reasons I went back to a weekly newspaper. I won’t ever get that precious time back.
Last week, news editor Natasha had an illuminating conversation with Romantix.
“You know your mommy loves you more than she loves her job, right?” she told him. “She needs to work because she’s an adult, but she still loves you more.”
While she’s speaking to him on the phone, he mouths to me: “Is that true?”
His words are like knives. I have told him that a million times.
We often go through this – in the car on the way to school, on the couch at home, at dinner time:
“Why does mommy work?”
“Because we need food!” they chime.
“And clothes!” says Dramatix for whom fashion is a big priority.
“And we need a house and we have to go to school, and that costs money,” they say.
“And we need toys … and sweets!” says Romantix, who loves chocolate more than life.
It was clear that these words – and my ensuing assertions that if I won the Lotto I would stay at home with them – had not sunk in.
I don’t want my children growing up believing that they came last on their mother’s list of priorities, and am not too sure what to do to make them believe that they are truly number one.
I now understand why working parents buy hugely expensive toys for their children to try and prove their love to them. We want our children’s approval more than that of any boss, and it’s truly awful when we don’t get it.
Romantix was grumbling, by the way, in the car the other day:
“When I’m big I’m going to buy my kids everything they nag for in the shops.”
“Oh really? And where are these children going to come from? I thought you were never getting married,” I replied.
“I’m going to adopt.”
I will remind him of this one day when he has nagging children and a demanding job of his own, and I will cackle up a storm as I do.
However, I will not be buying any extravagant dolls’ houses for Dramatix or the Star Wars lego set Romantix has been nagging for, because I know that there is only one thing they want from me – my time.
So, work-life balance: where do I get more time?! I’m already considering supper menus which feature only speedy sandwiches or raw food.
My TV viewing is negligible (except when there’s a big news story going down like this weekend with the horrific attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall), and every one of my waking minutes is spent either at work or at home with the children.
I read them stories and put them to bed. There are no date nights, party nights, or romantic weekends away with Atilla the Horizontal. God, no.
So, apologies for this miserable blog, but I need your help. How do we working mothers convince the children for whom we work so hard that we love them the most?
Surviving on a single salary is only possible if you’re married to a high-flying CEO or one of the Oppenheimers.
My only comfort is knowing that, like many working mums, working for me is not a choice. It’s a necessity. Not just because my children may end up homeless and hungry if I don’t, but because if I stay at home and make them my career they’ll end up miserable and stressed out of their minds, and will probably hate me for the rest of their lives.
Well, that’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it.
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