“That’s the nursery on the phone for you…”
Those dreaded words that no Working Mum wants to hear. Kiddie illnesses and working parents do not mix well. It’s oft been said that Mummies are not allow to be ill. Well, the Working Mummy’s kid isnae allowed to be sick either.
Of course it’s inevitable, kids pick up all sorts of germs- that’s evolution, ain’t it. Like the “War of Worlds” epilogue tells us, there is a right of passage via a jungle of snot, eye gunk, rashes and dodgy tummies through which a human must pass to be allowed to graduate to adulthood. This is the norm form for most blessed childhoods. Even the cleanest and lovliest of nurseries and playgroups are thriving petri dishes of viruses and bugs because you can’t sterilise your child’s playmate. Unfortunately.
The early years seem to be dominated by a relentless waterfall cascading from the nostrils like a slimy Niagara Falls. What I never clicked onto pre-kids, is that there are actually different types of nose discharge.
There is the clear watery snot, which is really just present for no reason other than to require a fully attentive carer to wipe every 5 seconds or so. This will also ensure that every heart melting photo of your beloved wee one with big, beautiful, shining eyes (clear snot is nearly always conveniently accompanied by watery eyes resulting in hypnotising “dive into me” ocular pools) will be completely ruined by light bouncing off the mucus moustache. This signals a low level cold, which, however disgusting and soggy, cannot be deemed dangerous enough to warrant refusal of entry to the club of “Working Mum’s Facilitator”.
Then there is the pale green slime. This is more the consistency of a posh face mask but should never be mistaken for one, no matter how sleep deprived. This can be accompanied by general grouchiness, emotional rawness and expectations of dramatic flip outs over any veering from the toddler’s pre-determined, and crucially secret, timetable for the day. Treatment for this is administration of the parent’s fav staple cure-all… “Tesco Calpol” & a cuddly toy to nursery along with the pathetic uttering, in a slightly too squeaky voice, of “She’s just not herself, but she’s fine. She’s much better than yesterday….? “ whilst pulling a face like a deranged pirate sucking a lemon and desperately crossing your fingers behind back as you dump and run for the triple locked door, not forgetting to make your mark on the friggin “Sign In” sheet. Heaven Bless the ladies at my nursery- they really do try to pretend to believe me. It’s a sort of awkward British tango in which both partners know the betrayal that one is trying to hide from the other, but neither wants the distressing confrontation. The soft toy elephant in the room continues to be ignored.
The Working Mummy will probably skim through this illness ravine by the skin of her full white practi-pants, providing “Tesco Calpol” has been given just before leaving the house to maximise drugged time in the Nursery. Of course, I would never have a bottle stashed in the car for a quick slosh before drop off. That would be terrible parenting.
Ramping it up in the snot stakes, here comes the actually lumpy, scary, medieval pus type snot, which comes with enough of a flushed cheek to suspect an elevated temperature. The mummy hand-on-forehead tester will cast enough doubt to avoid use of an actual thermometer for fear that it will confirm a raised temperature above the Nursery’s “Hot Head Policy”. We are venturing into “I’m definitely getting a phone call” territory. But the Working Mum will still attempt the impossible task of not feeling like the shittiest mother ever, by popping their now grey-area ill child into the nursery. With increasing mumguilt, she will do a last minute vigorous nose wipe, maybe with a couple of digs up the nostril with the pinkie nail, to buy a few extra seconds as she heavy heartedly walks away. And yet, despite calling upon the back up “Tesco Neurophen” ammunition, she knows, and almost hopes, the phonecall will come.
Then there are the tummy bugs with their 48hour exclusions. A test as to whether you have got so artful at lying to yourself that you’re now convinced, despite only driving 5 minutes to Tesco to top up the Calpol supplies, the puke fountain yesterday was entirely car sickness. As for the rashes; are visible parts of the body affected: can they be written off as a sensitivity to the own brand washing powder you are trying out; can they be put down to food allergies? Yup, bad, bad, mummy.
Chicken Pox can go do one…Weeks can be lost to that crusty bastard!
Of course, a higher elevated “perfect” judgy parent may tut and question “What’s the point in going through this horrid morning charade if it’s a hiding to nothing?” But Working Mum knows only too well of the eye rolls and sighs when someone phones in with the “My kid’s sick” line, especially if it’s actually as frequent as Stage 2 snotfest, which could pretty much cover everyday of Year 1-2. The Working Mum puts herself though this act of self-flagellation so when the inevitable phone call comes…
“That’s the Nursery on the phone…”
…she can finally enjoy a huge sigh of relief. The working slice of her world will know she has tried her best; she really did try to do it all. She tried to carry on working as if her full attention was on the job as it was pre-kids, even though this is a laughable falsehood and everyone, including herself, knows it. It lets the team know, that despite her best efforts to stretch and cover all the corners of life and channel that mamma swan with her graceful gliding and power paddling, sometimes there is no balance and motherhood wins on the company time.
And although you know you are letting the side down and the team will all have to work harder without you, it’s not your fault. You are not pulling a fast one. If they are understanding, they’ll know you will try to pick up the slack on your return and regain some brownie points by bringing in biscuits and doing the bittie jobs no one else wants to. You have done everything you can, but now a higher power calls and you must do a swift staff toilet Clark Kent and emerge as SuperMum, Defeater of all Ailments with Super Power Kisses.
And, of course, that’s the best job of all.
The Mother of all jobs.
It’s just a crying shame, it don’t pay the rent.