Friday, 20 August 2010

Mamma Mia...

No I am not referring to the hit West End musical, nor the song by Abba! I am merely refraining from swearing!


Positive reinforcement for a bad day!

Nobody said it was going to be easy and I am not the first woman and mother to be faced with this challenge, but juggling the demands of a home life and children, especially as a single parent, with graduate study is the most challenging thing I have ever done.

I have negotiated the summer holidays by basically ignoring my work. The futility of sitting down whilst you have two adolescents lounging around the place, bickering, playing loud music, watching TV in a room adjacent to my study, was simply too much. So I threw up my hands and said 'fuck it! (yes academics do swear, often repeatedly and loudly!) They go back mid August so I shall merely knuckle down then and I can get what needs doing by the new semester done ready to move on to the next phase in October.

A good plan you may think? When the tide is pulling you in one direction why fight it - go with it and once it has calmed begin your journey once more.

So they went back Wednesday - I've had a full two days to sort out my office, my paper work, finish my reading and finally, today, to sit down and begin thinking again!

TWO HOURS! TWO MEASLY STINKING HOURS! Was all I was allowed before the shriek of the telephone interrupted my quite productive morning to inform me that my daughter needed collecting from school.

"The reason?" you ask. Broken limb? Vomiting? Diarrhoea? Fighting? Fits? Death? ... something serious surely, I mean the school doesn't phone you for without a good reason do they? I mean that is why they ask for 'emergency contact details' isn't it? Because they will only contact you in case of an emergency.

You would think so wouldn't you.

But no - apparently a 'sore tummy' is now sufficient reason to phone a parent, disrupt their working day, and demand, not ask, that you come IMMEDIATELY to collect your child, who is showing no symptoms other than she says SHE HAS A SORE TUMMY!!

I despair! When I was in school (cue music for a Monty Python sketch) your head had to be hanging off before they would send for a parent to collect you. I can only recall one time my mother came to fetch me and that was the day I ended up in hospital having my appendix removed! Now THAT was a sore tummy!!!

So of course as a dutiful parent I go and I collect said daughter from school and as I thought there is pretty much nothing wrong with her. A dose of aspirin and a bacon sandwich and she is back where she belongs - IN SCHOOL!!!

There will be some who read this and judge me, think I am harsh, unfeeling ... and yes sometimes I am all of these things, especially when a child who merely has had enough of school for the day decides to pull a sicky!

(Please be assured I checked her out, asked all the relevant questions about how her day had been, had anyone upset her, where was the pain etc etc etc)

But the consequence of all this is that now I am utterly discombobulated! My ideas which felt so solid and assured this morning in the tranquility of my empty home, seem wishywashy and unsubstantial now they have faced the challenge of being interruption!

I am not alone though! I googled 'motherhood and academia' and found that Berkley have a Parenting Network which has a lot of practical questions and experiences - though it is typically American and in someway this isn't really applicable to the British system.

I also discovered mamaphd, which made me feel nauseous as soon as the page loaded because it has kids' building bricks as its logo - please! I ask you! But I try to never allow my own 'issues' with the over-sentimentalisation of parenthood stand in the way of good advice, and it does look like a good enough resource to bookmark! There is also a facebook page, which may be useful although in the instances of most parenting forums and advice columns designed for women the advice tends to fluctuate between the saccharine and the downright condescending! I have also through the power that is the all knowing GoogleGod - found a blog called Dr. Write ( which initially made me smile for its punning with the sanitary towel brand Dr. White - whether it be intentional or not it was funny), which I am now following - not only as a reader but as an example!

What had started as a productive and writerly day has turned into well - a blip! I will forge ahead and try and regain some of the composure that I started out with and even if it turns out two hours is all I manage - then that is two more hours than yesterday!

Perhaps tomorrow I shall push the boat out and go for three!  Ah SHIT! It's the weekend!

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