We were talking about Mother’s Day recently (I suspect I was reminding my kids how much I like lie-ins, breakfast in bed, and lunch in nice restaurants, or just anywhere that doesn’t involve cooking it myself) and one of the kids asked when Children’s Day is. “Every day is Children’s Day!” I said.
How so, they wondered. And I launched into how lovely their everyday lives are – the warm clothes, the food on the table, the good friends at school, the lovely holidays. (Yes, we turn into our parents.)
“And you get a hug from me every day after school – doesn’t that make every day Children’s Day?” I said.
“Well, when you’re not too distracted by your phone and your laptop,” said one, out of the side of her mouth.
Ordinarily this kind of blog post, this would be the epiphany. The moment I’d say, “And you know, they’re right. I do spend too much time on my phone and my laptop.” Except, they’re not and I don’t.
At the risk of sounding defensive, let me explain. When I first switched from office work to self-employment, the lines were very blurred. There were times when I was supervising homework while chasing experts for articles. Times when I was very distracted by deadlines. Times when I did phone interviews with my back to the bedroom door – trying desperately to hide the sound of the knocking child, as he or she tried desperately to gain entry.
And last year, I decided it was enough. I couldn’t keep writing articles, writing books, and minding my children. One of those things had to go, and (kids, if you’re reading this when you’re pretending to do *project research*, you’ll be glad to hear this) it wasn’t likely to be the offspring. Writing books is new and fabulous and exhausting and exhilarating and what I want to do for the foreseeable future, so I decided to scale back on writing freelance articles. Slowly over the year I cut down, and now I write very few, and none with quick turnarounds. And it feels good. I can write books when the kids are at school, and be there for them in the afternoons.
The trouble is, the memory of the distracted mother with her head in the laptop is strong. It doesn’t matter that she’s been effectively gone for at least a year now, her spectre is ever-present. And humans have a tendency to remember the first thing they believed even if they discover afterwards it is no longer true. Or the thing that stands out most. It reminds me of what my kids say each year in the run-up to Halloween: “I love the way Dad always dresses up at Halloween, it’s so much fun.” This happened precisely once. Most years, their dad, like most working parents, is stuck at work during the getting-dressed-up to go out stage. But the memory sticks – and in this case, my own well-bitten lip notwithstanding, it’s a good memory.
So what to do about the perception that this new, more chilled-out me is still chained to her laptop every afternoon? Other than ploughing on, and throwing in a few pointed comments every now and then (“Kids, pay attention to me paying you attention”) there’s not a whole lot I can do. So I write this post for two reasons. Firstly, to anyone who is working full-time and worrying about not being there for homework, don’t. Apparently kids don’t notice our presence, you are off the hook. Secondly, to my child who is pretending to google Polar Bears/ Vikings/ Mexico for a project, but is actually reading this – now who’s the one with the head in the laptop?
Sidenote: if you’d like to be in with a chance to win one of two signed copies of One Click, click here to comment on Facebook, and I’ll include you in the draw on Mother’s Day