Anyone reading this blog who doesn’t know me may have a very different impression of me than the truth. It may seem to some that I am an apron-clad, jam-making, cake-baking, goat-herding kind of a gal, who spends all day wandering through sun drenched meadows picking wildflowers, or sewing matching playclothes for children out of old curtains.
In actual fact, in addition to my duties at the Little House on the Prairie, I also have a fancy-pants job for which I put on make up each day (aka “war paint”) and high heels (sometimes) and visit Very Tall Buildings to use Very Large Words in meetings with Very Important Clients.
Juggling two worlds has been a hallmark of most of my adult life, even well before I had kids. I can remember a time in my twenties when I went to a friend’s house after work to raid his fig tree. I’d been watching the ripening process closely for weeks. (Granted, in those days I was watching it from over the top of a Cosmopolitan a la Carrie Bradshaw), and I knew that one day’s delay would cost me dearly. Not from the birds, but from the old Greek lady who lived next door who had warned my friend that she had been picking the figs from that tree for more than thirty years and didn’t intend stopping just because there was a new resident.
Alone in the backyard, I kicked off my black pumps and climbed the ladder, picking figs while dressed in the fruit picker’s traditional garb of a David Lawrence pencil skirt and matching tailored jacket.
That’s when the phone in my pocket rang and I found myself perched in the branches in my grown-up clothes, balancing a bucket of figs in one hand and my phone in the other discussing the next steps in my client’s digital roadmap.
The trick for me has always been how to keep these lives separate, and working out whether all the effort involved in keeping them so distinct is even necessary. Recently while on the phone to a partner at my firm, he graciously mentioned that I could tend to the baby crying in the background if I needed to. It was a little weird when I had to explain that it was actually one of my goats trying to get my attention – I’d abandoned my own children to fend for themselves in the house and taken the call out near the paddocks, not realising that another species of kid would also want to pester me.
Many working mums know what it’s like to keep their home world and work world completely separate, pretending that one doesn’t exist while you’re at the other. Many mums talk about the guilt associated with using precious time with the kids to answer work emails, or worry about the impact at work from leaving early to take the little one to the doctor.
And the anxiety of keeping all these balls in the air can be overwhelming. I can often be found in our driveway in the morning, all suited and booted while clutching a laptop bag, a school project made of paddle pop sticks, and a spiderman doll and barking rapid-fire orders like a drill sergeant. It usually all ends with me counting to three at the top of my lungs until the kids pile themselves into the car before I realise that no one has let the chickens out and one of the bloody goats has got its horns stuck in the f%$@ing fence again.
Life can be absolutely ridiculous sometimes.
I don’t have the answers either, unfortunately. I think most working mums are stuck between a rock and another really, really hard rock with lots of spiky bits, and sometimes it feels like we’d have to be Aron Ralston to get out of it.
The first rock I am stuck behind is that I love being a mum, and I love life on our farm, and I miss everyone and everything terribly when I am not there. And the second really hard rock is that I also love being part of shaping an amazing era in corporate history and I don’t want to miss out on such an exciting time.
So I don’t really have a resolution to the incompatibility of my life, except by trying to be mindful and enjoy the farm while I’m at home, enjoying the kids while they’re young, trying not to shout at anyone too much, and occasionally reminding myself that all jobs have some shit bits sometimes, but mine is mostly pretty exciting.
And the long train ride into the city each day helps too. There’s nothing quite like sitting in silence for the best part of an hour twice a day without anyone to bug you.
The French have a saying that every woman is a garden of secrets, that no one person can fully know all facets of another. What are the different facets in your life? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear.