It's official Working Mums can have it all. As long as your willing to find embarassment and compromise around every corner....
Read Julie & Jill's 'It Should Never Happen to a Working Mum'
Jill MacMillan runs a consultancy specialising in leadership development & behavioural change.
Her juggle involves working with clients to improve their business through leadership. She's not sure this talent has the same effect at home where 3 kids, a head teacher husband, an au-pair and a cat can be found making their own rules & ignoring most of hers. She wonders whether any mother has become a 'poo professional?'
I have been doing the dutiful Mummy thing over the past week, checking out schools in the catchment area to see where to sign Connie up to next year. There is a very smart independent school 5 minutes from the new house, so in a fit of nosiness, and to gauge exactly what she’ll be missing out on by not bankrupting ourselves, I booked a tour. Of course I was running late. I haven’t been on time for anything since James and Duncan popped out, so slightly flustered I apologised my way into the headmistress’ office, three children draped round my neck, and a look of ‘just humour me’ on my face. No sooner had I sunk into the (definitely not IKEA) sofa, I caught the unmistakable whiff of ‘shitty nappy’. I tried for a couple of minutes to ignore it hoping that my highly developed sense of smell was akin to a dog’s ability to hear sounds that most humans don’t register. It became apparent however from the headmistress’ raised eyebrows and puckered lips that she wasn’t used to such unpleasantries in her lair. I grabbed the culprit (James) and made some more apologies, before ushering him and his bulging bottom from the premises in search of the change bag I’d left (doh) in the car.
Laying him on the passenger seat, I took a deep breath and braved the nuclear war zone that I was faced with on peeling back the corners. It was an ‘up the backer’ if ever I’d seen one, but with a well practiced hand I scraped and scooped the evidence until at last it was contained (precariously) in the nappy. Now, as anyone who has left a soiled nappy in a warm car for even 10 minutes will know, the fug on re-entering the vehicle is enough to make a grown man beg for mercy. This was not an option. Neither did I think it wise to ask Mrs. Watsherchops to pop it in her bin, so I decided to place the nappy out of sight under the car, making a mental note to scoop it up before leaving and lobbing it in the nearest bin outside the school gate. Triumphant, I skipped back into the lair, in manner of an early scene from ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ (like the film, it’s all down hill from here).
Apart from a minor meltdown when Duncan refused point blank to let go of a plastic pink teapot he’d found en route (eventually hiding it down his trousers) the tour went without incident. We said our goodbyes at the school ceramics studio, where French plaited five-year olds were glazing canapé bowls. Mrs. Watsherchops’ parting sales pitch was that Connie would clearly be on their gifted and talented register before too long – a comment which would have landed with greater gravitas had Connie not been picking her pants out of her bottom at the time.
After strapping the children into the car and placing the copious amounts of school literature on the passenger seat, I started to reverse out of the slightly awkward spot I’d parked in, surrounded by parking cones marking out where the school bus usually parks (doh).
Suddenly something on the ground in front of the car caught my eye. To my complete and utter horror I saw what can only be described as a massacre. There in the middle of the school esplanade was a run over nappy surrounded by a pool of human poo. The sheer circumference of the disaster zone was the incredible thing. It was cartoon-like. As if Roadrunner had jumped from a great height right into the middle of the bulge, sending the sludge sprawling in a perfect 3-dimensional parabola.
I leapt from the car in an attempt to remove the evidence before any disapproving staff members emerged from reception. Even as I relive the moment I cannot believe I didn’t take just 5 seconds to think through my strategy. Why oh why didn’t I have the presence of mind to grab the ice scraper? I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say I’ve had to throw out a shirt and a nail brush since getting home last night. I’ll never look at my engagement ring with the same fond memories again.
I darted back into the car and with bare hands dumped the loosely gathered up evidence upon the school prospectus on the passenger seat. Wanting to distance myself from the remaining poo slaked on the tarmac, I put the car in reverse. Just then I caught sight of the headmistress in the rear view mirror scurrying towards the car, one arm outstretched and an intent look in her eye. Oh, shit (well, quite). I knew I had to hide the evidence, but with what? A flash of inspiration struck. I reached behind and ripped James’ detachable hood from his jacket just managing to place it over the scene before Watsherchops tapped on the window. I opened the window a smidgeon and she attempted to poke her head through. “Just a gentle reminder that the school open day is this weekend Mrs. McMillan. Perhaps Mr. McMillan would like to…”. At that she tailed off and sharply removed her nose from the car. Both she and I knew we’d be leaving it there for the day.
At that, I decided the only thing for it was to get home, crawl into bed until George came home and together we could make a plan to kick the tenants out of our old house and move back in. Week two, and I’ve ruined our chances for any future social life in this town. I rammed my foot on the accelerator and reversed straight over a traffic cone, which then proceeded to get lodged underneath the car. Of course it did. One more traffic cone perished in the incident before eventually I reached freedom. I like to think the traffic cone thing wouldn’t have happened were it not for ‘poogate’, but I can’t say for certain.
As we screeched out of the car park, admittedly attracting more attention than someone trying to cover their tracks would be advised to do, Connie piped up from the back. ‘Mummy, it’s a bit smelly in here. Have you done a poo?”
You can check out more about Jill here...
News, ideas and general musings at Stars in the Making - Jill's official blog
Julie MacDonald is a Broadcaster & Coach.
She is the founder of The Daily Juggle.
Whilst her job involves looking serious on telly no one remotely takes her seriously at home. Since becoming pregnant with the first of her two daughters Julie's working life has not proved immune to being a Mum.
It Should Never Happen to a Mummy On-Air
When you read the news for a living people expect you to be a very serious individual at all times. Yes even when you are making dinner or shaving your legs people think you must wear a veneer of polished confidence like you're about to deliver the headlines. I have attempted this approach at home to see whether it will make anyone listen to me but when there's no movie style music or fancy camera moves it's just me ranting and nagging and no one tuning in at all. Still it's always been great to slip into that on-air persona where you get to be the most polished and powerful person and twice a year someone writes to you and asks for a signed photo.
But what happens when you get knocked up? Does it change how people perceive you? How when your home life is unravelling and you've had no sleep for weeks will you be able to pull off being a knowledgeable newsreader? You know one that can actually stay awake through the top of the show? As I found out you can't stop real life not even in a TV Studio. This is my top 4 It Should Never Happen to a Mummy On-Air
1. Pass me a Bucket
There are some people who bloom whilst pregnant - they look full and plump and beautiful and rosy cheeked. Not me. I threw up every day all day for 20 weeks. On the days when I wasn't on a drip in North London I tried to go to work. After all everyone said 'You just have to get on with it' and so I did and that's when my very closest ally became a bucket at the side of the studio desk. At first it was all terribly awkward because no one likes a person chundering on their studio floor. No director wants a newsreader who may or may not have finished being sick by the time we come back from the break. But one very overworked make-up artist and a crew full of brilliant and funny people got me through a seriously challenging time. They'd whisk the bucket away and replace my water glass as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Floor manager Phil added a ribbon to the handle.
It only got really tricky when the guests arrived. Adrenalin does a funny thing and keeps you super focused even when you feel horrendous but you can't time throwing up and on a couple of occasions there was a bit of splash back on the man from the Middle East Institute ( nothing Katie the make-up artist couldn't sort with a wipe) and the nice lady from Unicef. I got lucky with her - she had mints and a wicked sense of humour. She said ' At the moment you're throwing up on yourself, it's good prep for when your kids do the same'.
2. The Migrating Rice Cake
I don't know if it's a British thing but here when you have a baby you go through a phase of having rice cakes everywhere. You know those things the taste of nothing, that go soggy in your handbag and keep the kids quiet on the bus ( if you can fit in more than one so be it!). My problem was that the rice cakes started to multiply and threatened to take over my life. I found them in the car, under my pillow, in the bath and once in the CD player! That wasn't the worst offence of the travelling band of rice cakes. They had started to become very bold indeed.
I had to go to work early to interview Lakhdar Brahimi - he's the Middle East negotiator tasked with negotiating peace in Syria. A very important man who I doubt has ever come across or negotiated a rice cake in his life. UNTIL NOW…
The interview went well, except for the slightly awkward moment where I suggested it might be too darn late for him to make a difference. I may have said his post was an 'irrelevance' or something like that. He seemed distracted by something below my eye-line and I felt a little smug thinking my tough questioning was making him think. He continued to look distracted but then gave me a nice tit bit about being on the phone to Ban Ki Moon who told him 'Good Luck and You'll Need It' - so all in all I put his staring southwards down to my questions and his glasses being a bit big for his nose. We shook hands and it was a WRAP.
Then his assistant leaned forward and said 'Nice to Meet you Miss Julie, I have no idea how to tell you this and Mr Brahimi was not sure how to approach this - erm something odd seems to have adhered itself to your dress'.
I looked down and there was a half eaten rice cake clinging on to the side of my frock. It had hitched a ride from Surrey to Central London and then appeared on International Television to be the cause of distraction and dismay to a man tasked with making world peace.
3. Are you Sure you meant to wear that Dress Today?
Over the years I have been asked on several occasions about my chosen dress code for work. Okay short shorts in the BBC newsroom was probably not a good idea. Nowadays it's all about survival and finding something that isn't creased or in some way ruined by little hands. My youngest daughter was 12 weeks old and my eldest was just 2 and being a right little pain in the bum. No sleep was her mantra and honestly I was starting to wonder whether governments should consider replacing water-boarding with toddlers who won't go to sleep. Would our intelligence service perhaps get more secrets that way?
My boss asked 'Did you mean to wear that today?'- it was an orange frock. 'Well yes I guess so, UM why?' Well the Ukraine protesters are our big story and orange is an emotive colour there right now'. Oh OK….
WTF??? As far as I was concerned my dress was free of spit, sick and had been freshly pressed despite Bess swinging on the underneath of the ironing board, 'Shouting Hot Mummy - Bess touch it?!'
I defiantly stuck to my guns and wore the dress (only because I'd forgotten to take all the other ones in my work wardrobe to the cleaners).
It became known as the dress of democracy and one man tweeted me to say he was happy to have my support. I never let on it was just the result of one disorganised mummy!
4. Mummmmmmmy. Can I say Hello to Mummmmy?
I found myself reporting form outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London. A big trial, a great story. BUT I was about to drop and hanging about outside waiting to do Live interviews with the studio was hard work at 36 weeks pregnant. Johnny my camera man had one of those chairs that fold out from a stick. I sat perched on top of it like a giant weeble on a toothpick. Our last Live was at 5pm and I'd arranged to meet our childminder Agata next to the courts. About 20 seconds into my live and those of 5 other journalists (you line up and everyone talks at the same time to different cameras) a child started screeching Mummmmmmy Mummmmmmy. At first I thought how irritating, can't they just move away? Until it dawned on me that the little girl shouting was mine. Poor Agata was wrestling with her and trying to get her back in the pram as her shouts and wails were broadcast to the nation. Like mother like daughter.
You can find out more about Julie's TV work here