Saturday, February 10, 2007

sisterhood of motherhood

The keys are sticky with my daughter’s new-found ability to scale any item of furniture, including the bookcase. Wearing times, punctuated by long lines of meaningless letters kkkkkkkkkkklllllllll. Yet this third and last time round the transition from babyhood to childhood is just as fascinating, and because more familiar, I am observing it more dispassionately.

So, torn about my upcoming return to work. That will be no surprise to anyone with kids who works. I’m only impressed to find that I have subtly let the memory slip in these last few years. I thought at the time that I’d never forget the double-edged guilt of part-time work. And if it was part-time work, what is the rest of it? People would very nicely say, “enjoy your day off” as you finished at the hospital and I’d object to the gap between the concept of a day off the phrase implied, lying towel-headed at some spa sipping a freshly made smoothie, and the reality – battling a clingy baby and a stroppy toddler into a pushchair that falls over backwards when they struggle out it is so piled with shopping and bystanders are just standing at the bus stop pretending not to look. You flush with anger at being so thoroughly the public spectacle of despised over-wrought mother with toddler that allows everyone to comment, yet seemingly removes the ability to help. Not allowed onto buses, tutted at, not allowed into cafes. No pressure group for us – no time. We are all just waiting the day they grow up enough and you can chuck out the pushchair in triumph; or crowding together in poorly-maintained huts to avoid the scathing eye of the public, and chief among them, you, you young perfectly manicured no-kids-yet woman..

“What did you do before... [kids – this word often replaced by an ironic laugh]?” The question happens surprisingly late in an acquaintance between mothers, struck up over chippedmug tea in a council hut as the kids cover the walls and your legs in paint. I have known someone for 6 months before they admit to having been a doctor in the past. When we had an identity of our own, apart from “Josh’s mum”. I of course immediately admitted being a doctor too. Indeed for years I’ve lied. I’d pretend to be a writer or talk vaguely about “work”. The only other times I’ve pretended not to be a doctor are way back, on club dancefloors in the middle of the night when it was less a lie, more not wanting to remember. We keep it under wraps. I do not yet know why. Can it be a sense of having fallen from great heights – such dizzy-sounding pinnacles of success as surgeon, buyer for Harrods, head of an international charity – to the low-status yet commonbonding position of mother? We are all as one, united by toddler tantrums and food objections. There is something in that. I think also that there is a pleasantly social normality to these conversations – akin to dog owners talking on the heath while their dogs bound around their legs. Admitting to having been a doctor – marked as such forever – changes this interaction permanently. It changes differently with different people. Some, you see, immediately compute how useful you might be – for on-the-spot diagnoses, for stories: my friend is a doctor and she says.... For some, it puts you in a social category that especially for some mothers and I’m one, is not obvious from your attire. In fact for everyone, it nails you to a certain position in society, and a type. You are one of the white-coated gang - less heroic more distrusted and surely rich? No longer can be self-determined but in a pre-packaged slot.

Oh well, fewer of these encounters await. I am leaving the sisterhood of motherhood to cross back to that different beast, the Working Mum. I must return to a proper job, not just my lovely (days off) of colonoscopy but the full hurly-burly of patient care. Dread – there may be. I hope not – it is the death-knell of a job. When the dread of Monday creeps so far into your weekend that it infects Saturday morning, that is the time to consider your position. No, on the contrary I am quite excited to be going back. Privileged to be allowed back in and very aware of a responsibility to make it work this time. Hopeful and positive. Hmm. Watch this space.


aj said...

You've pushed my parental clock back a further ten years more than my niece already did...!

S said...

Best of luck at work - hope you don't miss the short people too much!


Giskin said...

Yes, good luck! I am SO grateful to be over the whole pushchair bit with my kids. It's worse than a ball and chain.