Every so often, I ask Boogie what she would like to be when she grows up. It changes fairly frequently, so I like to keep up. So far we’ve had pilot, astronaut, paleontologist, firefighter and neurosurgeon. OK, so that last one was me; if I could start the whole thing again, it’s what I would like to be when I grow up. I can dream, right? In reality, when I actually described to Boogie what being a neurosurgeon involved (and I don’t tend to squelch on the gory bits), she screwed her face up like a toffee wrapper, so I may have to start projecting on L’il Boo instead. Which is a bit of a shame because considering the way his language development is going, we’re hoping he’ll be good at sport.
Given that Boogie’s choices so far have all been pretty cool, I asked the question casually, with nary a thought for the possible consequences. So when she replied, ‘Just a mum, I think’, I was a bit blind-sided. But I soon recovered and started crying in that keening, ululating way women do at African funerals.
Three little words. Just. A. Mum. It seems impossible that they could so completely crumble me to dust and feathers, but dust and feathers I am. Not only did they espouse a view of motherhood that the Tory party would endorse but they also confirmed that whilst I mother and work and make ferocious efforts to combine the two with a measure of success at both, Boogie only sees ‘a mum’. Because my work must be sneaked in during snatched hours, she doesn’t see it at all. I had suspected this was true. It’s not at all unusual for the snatched hours in the week to be insufficient, so I often have to snatch hours at weekends. Whenever I sit down at these times, as soon as I open my computer, Boogie appears as if by magic, demanding CBeebies. No, I explain, I have to work. What work, she asks? I explain. No, you don’t, she says dismissively, you can do it later. And I know what she’s thinking: work is what daddy does. You get dressed up and travel to a mysterious place called an office and you stay as long as you have to until your work is done and sometimes that means staying away all week. Daddy works. Mummy? Well, she’s probably just saying it to get out of doing the washing, which I seem to spend so much time doing even I think it’s my ‘job’ sometimes, so I can’t blame Boogie if she comes to the same conclusion.
Just. A. Mum. Just! Like it’s nothing! Like it’s something you do if you can’t think of anything cooler or you fail all your GCSEs. I’m having real difficulty with it – partly because I was so unprepared for it.
And if L’il Boo said he wanted to be ‘just a dad’? Wow, that’s a whole other set of issues. Don’t even go there.