Saturday, December 06, 2014

real job versus mummy job

Amongst a din of other things going on, my maternity leave has suddenly come to an abrupt end.

I am officially 'back at work,' but have taken my accumulated holiday for the rest of the year. After South Africa, I am back.

Sebastian has been to his first settling in session at the nursery (which was fine, although I still feel like I'm fumbling in a sad darkness, not knowing if I'm doing the right thing and just hoping it is...)

I am starting to pack, do multiple loads of washing in preparation for home, wrapping and giving out Christmas prezzies, trying not to stuff my mouth full of mince pies knowing I'll be putting my pasty white thighs on display, and in almost unyielded reaction, packing extra maxi dresses in my suitcase. (Free-flowing, floaty and bums and legs hidey hidey, in veiled disguise, even though everyone knows why you're wearing one.)

Looking back on maternity leave though; it really has been the most epic, challenging adventure of my life. Everything else I have done that has been remotely challenging, comes with some sort of steadfast manual or predictability. Backpacking alone through a third world country on a shoestring? There are books, countless tips and tricks, maps, beer, couchsurfers, other backpackers, and only yourself to fend for. Starting a new challenging job? There's a job description, mentors, managers, manuals and experience to count on.
Running a marathon? You can train, eat the right food, stop for water along the way.

Motherhood is a baptism of fire into the complete unknown and unpredictable, and it is completely different to anything  I have ever embarked on before. As every single baby is different, there isn't a surefire way to get your baby to eat/sleep/stop crying/latch on/the list goes on. It's a journey of complete trial and error; and you may be blessed with a textbook child that does everything like it's meant to, or not, like mine, who had colic, lost his twin so needed extra comfort and couldn't be put down for the first 2 months of his life without screaming.

It's been incredible, and the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. Juggling time, routine, and basically living for something else. No time for anything but for baby, you don't do anything for you anymore and you don't mind it one bit. Breastfeeding and pumping my boobs sometimes four times a day sometimes meant I couldn't pluck my eyebrows for weeks, and I'd only get to brush my teeth by the afternoon when he slept.
Watching my little boy grow, his little milestones, his giggles and smiles. And his vomit. Pooh. And like recently with a monstrous cold, snot.
Meeting other mums going through the same thing is solace in the storm, and it's been wonderful to have so many nearby that I could grab a coffee with, both of us grappling with buggies and babies while we try to get a sip in while the cup is still hot.

What an adventure. I cannot believe it's just about over. And I become a working mum.

If I could compare my day job to being a full-time mummy for almost 9 months, this is what it looks like in a corporate strategy type of way:

Longterm goals.

Mummy: Getting child to start eating finger foods before December.
PR Woman: Getting a promotion before December.

Short term goals.

Mummy: Getting child to finish at least 500ml of milk by the end of the day.
PR Woman: Talk to five journalists, send them details of, plus give them, new product in lieu of launch tomorrow.

Daily task.

Mummy: Remember to add flaxseed omega oil to his cereal so that he grows up to be extremely clever, plays the violin and gets a music scholarship to the Wetherby School.
PR Woman: Take editor out for a boozy steak-laden lunch at the Hawksmoor and sweet talk him through a piece he is writing about something bad, so that by the end of of lunch, his story is at worst, neutral and at best, nice [about the company I work for.]

First thing on my To Do list each day.

Mummy: Arise at 4am (early days) or 7am (from 6 months onwards) in order to offer breast to baby. Later on, this was a bottle; so get up, make up milk and give bottle. Bribe, distract, do anything to get him to take most of it.
PR Woman: Read a copy of the Metro on the tube so that I know the top stories circulating before I get into the office.

Typical outline of a strategy.

Mummy: If he sleeps until 3pm, that means I can give him his milk by 3:30pm, which means by 5pm he will be hungry for dinner and therefore tired, and ready to go to bed. The bath will put him in a nice, relaxed mood before, so that he winds down just enough to go to sleep. If this strategy is largely ignored (it mostly was), abort the above and feed child CoLief so that he when he starts to cry for no reason at 4pm until 9pm, you can anticipate it before it happens, and then get ready to rock, sing to, bounce around, lay on chest, knees, in pram, anything to make it stop.
PR Woman: Meet with Marketing, to ensure we are aiming for the same audience, and prepare a campaign that targets consumer magazines in the 20-30 range, by giving one of them an exclusive on a vital bit of information that we hope will be picked up by another five papers after it has landed. Prepare folder of high resolution pictures and brief spokesperson on the FAQs, briefly retraining them on difficult corporate questions that will be asked by the Daily Mail. Line up a set of radio and television interviews for the spokesperson, while selling in the story elsewhere and briefing those about something that isn't of massive importance, but because you've come up with a killer angle, everyone thinks it's a brilliant story.

Potential obstacles.
Mummy: As about to exit the door, child does a massive poonami, soiling five layers of clothes, my shirt and pram lining. You're already late, and now have to peel these off, soak them (because they're from Petit Bateau and are therefore 1) nice and 2) expensive), and redress.
PR Woman: Your story has been shifted off the page because something more current/exciting/diabolical has happened and even if your story was amazing, this news is much more important.

Mummy: You can't find a changing table/high chair/you left the wipes at home - basically rookie errors - when trying to dine/go out/do something outside of the home with a baby.
PR Woman: A newspaper seems excited about your story, invites you in, only to start talking about the thing you most want them not to write at all, and ends up as a page four in the Sun, which means every builder/plumber/Sun reader in the country will see it because the opposite page always has a scantily dressed woman on it showing off her boobs. The only solace is the Sun is behind a paywall, so the Big Boss in America won't see it, but all the directors who have a copy of the paper in London will.

Potential Solutions.

Mummy: You have a bottle of Vanish Oxy Chrystals on the sink at the ready, as you've discovered it removes every stain known to man, save beetroot. When he does eat beetroot you make sure you only dress him in dark navy blue, so that any seepage and stain, never gets noticed.
PR Woman: You call a competitor newspaper, hoping that they don't know that there's a massive scoop about to explode across the original newspaper you called, and sell them the exclusive.

Mummy: You can't find a changing table, so you find a bench in the middle of a park and change his nappy in full view of ogling strangers, and just repeat to yourself that you are a good mother and you'll probably never see these passersby again.
PR Woman: A story has landed that you never managed to grapple off the journalist/your talking to him has somehow exacerbated it, and you try to find all the positives before you hide every copy of the Sun in the building. It's only on page 4, it's below the fold, the journalist is a known hater, he got the story slightly wrong so we can 'leverage' an apology, no one else picked it up.

Ultimate achievements.

Mummy: He ate all of his food, took all of his milk and is sleeping soundly like an angel. Mother of the Year potential, right here.
PR Woman: A six page spread, you have been working on with a magazine, has finally been published, and it has a captive market (it's an airline magazine), and mentions all your products, praises them, and on top of it, he wants to do a follow up in a few months time.

Mummy: He put a piece of broccoli in his mouth! All by himself!
PR Woman: My work nemesis looked visibly jealous when I casually laid the six page spread over the bosses desk with a casual, "I'm really pleased how this turned out; I really had to hold his hand on this one."

Mummy: Vom-splatted boyfriend jeans, a top with buttons/flaps/easy access to boobs, a cardigan (also for easy access to boobs.)
PR Woman: Depending on who you're visiting, today it's Vogue, so everything that is completely stylish, and fashionable, but not too fashionable because you're not a try hard. You need to show that you have effortless style, so you settle for a button up silk shirt, black skinny jeans and a massive necklace.

Mummy: Cold coffee, water out of a Camelbak to keep your milk flow up.
PR Woman: White Americano, mineral water, herbal tea.

The Boss.
Mummy: Not the boss, but feels like the boss because it tells you you're doing it wrong/what to do/gives excessive and conflicting information: The Health Visitor. "He should weigh this," or "Don't feed him Weetabix, it's full of sodium."
PR Woman: Your manager. "You need to lead these two big projects from start to finish, so that you have enough visibility with the director for promotion in the next cycle."

Mummy: Mummy friends. The ones at the same play group, visit the same Rhyme Time at the library, or belong to the local community meet-up. Some you talk to, some you don't, but you're all doing the same thing, and your project is to keep the child alive, happy and flourishing. You talk about bodily fluids, food, milk, sleep tactics, recipes, more sleep, schools, childcare.
PR Woman: Your workmates. Some are brilliant at their jobs, others are not so good, some are in positions of leadership and should be, others shouldn't be at all. You're all going for the same thing: visibility, recognition, Story of the Week, and ultimately, more money. You banter about things - office gossip, hilarious stories (in and out of press), which pub to go to after work, and work itself.

Key takeaways.
Mummy: Hard work. 24 hour job. No holidays, no lull periods. No pay. No help (unless loaded/live in third world country), satisfaction quotient is extremely high. When your baby is predictable/happy/does something cool, all the sleep deprivation is forgotten.
PR Woman: Competitive, cut throat, 12 hour days. Perks. Holidays are sporadic, but taken in exotic place. Pay is good, but not as good as a job in finance or marketing. Satisfaction quotient oscillates between extreme high and extreme disappointment, depending on what you land and what you don't.  You're only as good as your last story.

Action items.
Mummy: Make bottles, put a load of washing on, make his next meal, get dressed (both of you), go to a class.
PR Woman: Write the press release, call the Telegraph, come up with five interesting campaign ideas, listen to pitches from other agencies to help with said campaign.

And now? I need to do both. With a little less intensity on the Mummy part, as I will only be playing this role in the mornings and nights.

I'm trying not to feel completely overwhelmed....

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