A few weeks ago I was in an important meeting at work. It had lasted longer than I thought so I had to excuse myself. I gave my apologies and left. This week I turned down extra hours- citing that it wouldn’t be financially worth it for me. Next week I have been asked to work at a time I wouldn’t normally be in. I have agreed to it but I have asked to be paid to be there.
And the reason each time? Childcare. That’s the reason I can’t stay at meetings, work longer hours, afford to pick up more work or just ‘pop in’ for an hour or two. Because every time I’m away from my children, it costs me money. That’s the bones of it.
So when Kelly Brook said that working mums are less professional it stung because I live in endless fear that she’s right.
Am I ‘using my kids as an excuse not to do my job properly’ as KB suggests women do? (She described ‘women’ doing this by the way, not parents).
I am not someone who likes bringing kids in to the work place. It doesn’t sit right with me because I compartmentalise. I also don’t really like talking about my children at work. Mostly because I am aware that hearing about other people’s kids is like hearing about other people’s dreams- at best, dull, at worst deeply revealing about a person’s psyche.
Whenever I have to say ‘I can’t because of the children’ a little bit of me cringes. So I try and say ‘I can’t’ instead. And I’ll be that’s what Brook’s co-workers who ‘have kids and you never hear about the kids’ are doing too. We leave it unsaid. We know that our male partners aren’t saying ‘ohbutIneedtogetbacktothekidsbecauseitsswimminglessonstonightsorrysorrysorry’ and ducking out of meetings in a fluster. And it’s no one’s fault. Other than a society that makes women feel like they need to apologise and excuse and validate decisions.
I don’t think ‘sorry’ should be another thing that women are told ‘not to do’. I don’t think citing childcare as a reason they can’t do something should be another thing ‘not to do’ but I would say, just saying ‘no’ is really empowering. Just saying ‘I have to be somewhere else’ is fine. And, if someone’s invited you to join an intellectual book club or a PTA meeting or a fancy dress night then sometimes it is marvellously handy to be able to say ‘Ooh I’d love to but I’m delousing the kids’. #sorrynotsorry, Kelly.