If you’ve just gone back to work and you’ve got kids at home, you’ve just joined the sister and brotherhood of the working parent. It’s not an elite group; we don’t go to fancy parties or hobnob with A-list people. In fact, being a working parent is decidedly un-fancy.
It’s about small wins, like wearing your shirt inside out all day and having no one notice, or not being the last parent to pick your kids up at daycare every day.
It’s also about experiencing a unique kind of ridiculousness; something that every single working parent has experienced.
Here are nine crazy things that happen on the regular to working parents:
1. When the baby secretly spews down the back of your jacket
Your hair is washed and neat, your shirt pressed, you even managed a bit of lipstick. You think you look like a million bucks, although there’s that sour smell you can’t quite put your finger on. Aaaaah … your son vomited down the back of your jacket when you gave him that last cuddle in the morning. And the worst part? It’s now lunch time and nobody has told you.
2. When your preschooler tries to sabotage your meeting
Kids are the most diabolical little saboteurs, but they do it under the guise of being helpful. Your daughter might think, “Who needs this silly laptop cable when Dad might have handfuls of colourful plastic dinosaurs hidden in the bottom of his bag? Dinosaurs are much more fun.” Next minute, the vital cable is tossed out of the bag. It goes without saying that discoveries like this are usually made two minutes before the meeting is due to begin, and you have two minutes of battery life left.
3. When lunch isn’t quite what you planned
Mornings are often so fraught, you can be forgiven for accidentally swapping your lunch for your kid’s school lunch. If you liked squeezy yogurt pouches with Peppa Pig on them, you are all set! But can you be taken seriously by your boss if you’re eating tiny triangular Vegemite sandwiches with the crusts cut off? What about grapes cut precisely in half, eaten out of a fluoro orange container?
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4. When pumping milk ends in disaster
Pumping milk at work is awful; whether you’ve got a nice designated spot to do it, or you’re perched on the edge of a toilet seat trying to balance the pumping motor in your lap, there’s not a lot to recommend the experience.
I have a friend who forgot to attach the bottle to the pump, and pumped an entire bottle of milk into her lap while working at her desk. She was busy, the milk was skin temperature, so she didn’t notice. When she did, she wasn’t upset because she was soaking wet, she was upset because she’d wasted a whole bottle of milk.
5. When you realise that no one will see you all day
Working from home brings you to yet another plane of insanity. Your personal care standards drop so low that the best you can do is put on clean pyjamas when you wake up in the morning.
6. When you can’t separate work from home
Some days you sit down at the dining table, ready for a productive day of work, and you sink your elbows into spilled strawberry jam from the morning’s breakfast.
7. When you astound yourself with creative solutions
Sometimes it’s unavoidable: your kids will be with you while you’re working. Maybe they’re home sick, maybe it’s school holidays, maybe (true story) they decided to go on a nap strike the very day you had an important investor call.
On those occasions, you do what you have to to get through – working in the bathroom while your kids happily paddle about in the bath at midday, hotspotting at the park while you watch them whiz down the slippery dip, doling out treats very quietly and slowly to the ‘little mice’ under your desk while you sit on a work call … it’s all the stuff of legends!
8. When you just don’t feel like cooking
This is not unique to working parents. For all parents, there are days so exhausting that all you want to do is pour yourself a glass of wine, throw a packet of crackers on the table and let the kids go for it. Of course the guilt gets the better of you and you order pizza instead. You still have the glass of wine though. You’ve earned it.
9. When you’re a total legend
Sometimes joining the brother and sisterhood has its perks. Sometimes it makes you the hero because of two little words: baby wipes. When your boss spills her coffee all over the boardroom table moments before a big client arrives, there you are to mop up the mess with the stash of baby wipes you keep permanently in your bag next to the plastic dinosaurs. We know who’s getting a big bonus this year.