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Working 9-5… what a way to make a living

9 to 5 blog

The internet is a-Twitter with mums, calculator in one hand, baby in another, discussing the plans to introduce a £1,200 a year childcare tax break for working parents in tomorrow’s budget.

Leaving the maths and politics aside, it started me thinking about what work is all about. I’m lucky, I don’t have a proper job (ie like being an electrician or a nurse, where you actually have to show up) as I write from home, which means that I have been able to keep working ticking over while the children are little without forking out too much in childcare. But even then there have been months and months when we were in negative equity and our childminder was earning £36 a day and I was bringing in about a tenner.

I was discussing these lean years with a fellow ‘treadwatering’ working mum a couple of days ago, when we both should have been dashing off to do something more productive. We came to the conclusion that, however galling it was to be working for more or less nothing some of the time, in the long term it would pay off. In the same way that the first few years of a mortgage are totally dispiriting because all you are doing is paying off interest and your capital debt refuses to shrink, keeping ourselves ticking over workwise would mean we wouldn’t have the horror of going back to work from a standing start in five or ten years’ time.

Yesterday, I had a rare glimpse of 9-5 working life when I was offered two writing shifts back to back. I left the house in the middle of the rush hour, laptop and coffee flask in hand, travel pass at the bottom of my bag (how the bus driver laughed… I don’t think it’s ever happened to him before…) and ended up striding through the middle of town, swept along in the crowd. I was reminded of that scene from Rhoda, the old 80s sitcom starring Valerie Harper about an aspiring career girl in New York. At one point in the opening credits she turns and throws her beret in the air through the sheer joy of being part of the working world. I felt just like that! But I didn’t throw my hat in the air – I’d run out of hands and besides I’d moved into the ‘just acceptable’ zone of lateness, which meant if I kept moving I could still arrive bearing a coffee without being filed under ‘clearly taking the mick’.

It was fabulous to feel busy and useful without having to break off every half hour to see who needed picking up. But the gloss had worn off slightly by half five as I raced to collect Katy from after school club in driving rain. Rushing to get home, we had to dodge a waterfall of water gushing from the railway bridge while navigating a puddle that covered almost the entire road. As we did so, a car sped through the puddle drenching us from head to toe. Did I dodge it elegantly a la Carrie Bradshaw, dressed in a tutu, shaking off a bus’s wash in the opening credits for Sex and the City? No I did not. I stood there dripping and steaming and let the driver – and the two following him – know exactly what I thought of them in words of one blunt syllable.

“Mummy you swore!” said Katy, just in time for her teacher who was bringing up the rear, to have heard me loud and clear.

Dear oh dear, inside voices please. I must remember to leave my potty voice at work.

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