The call every working parent dreads

Is this what every working parent thinks when they get ‘the call’ from nursery? Or is it just me?

I realise that this post might be a little controversial and I may well come across as the mother with a heart of stone. But after three incidents in little over two months I’m at my wit’s end.

There are really only three things that scare me:

  1. the increasing volume of lines and wrinkles appearing on my face
  2. the Hulk (as in the 1970’s version, not the cartoon one)
  3. receiving the ‘three poos’ call

Yes, in my house we call it the ‘three-poos notification’, which sounds a bit like an MI6 code for an imminent spy threat. But if you’re a parent who has ever had children in a childcare setting I’m guessing you’ll know exactly what this is. Just the mention of “loose nappies” (er…yuk) and “24 hour policies” make my blood run cold.

Last week as I was heading to a meeting I got The Notification, although this time it wasn’t a nappy alert – it was a high temperature. The nursery staff told me that they would administer emergency Calpol (I imagined said pink liquid locked behind a ‘break glass in emergency’, high security case) and that they would call me after his lunchtime sleep with a status alert.

And do you know what? I felt relieved. Relieved that I wouldn’t have to duck out of yet another meeting to rescue my littlest one, who seems, at the moment, to pick up any variant of germ. And I skipped merrily to that meeting thinking I’d managed to survive another day at work without somebody branding me as ‘the flaky mother’. The one you can’t count on.

*Just to set the record straight*  I know why nurseries are so cautious. I get it. Of course I need to know if my child is ill, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be responsible for any breakouts of any nursery-wide diseases. But when you’re a full-time working parent with no family around to help out if there’s an emergency, and if you and your partner have used all of your annual leave on school holidays – it all gets a bit tense.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I reacted to this particular notification. Those phone calls from nursery bring out the worst in me. So here are:

The Five Stages of Emotion of the working mother when she receives ‘The call’:

Stage 1) Anger: that my day had been interrupted.

Stage 2) Concern: about how my colleagues would react.

Stage 3) Denial: I was adamant that this whole sorry mess would be cleared up with 7.5ml of Calpol and a good nap.

Stage 4) Envy: that the nursery staff always call me and not my partner. Since when was I bestowed the title of primary parent?!

Stage 5) Stroppiness: And an hour later, on receiving the ‘you must collect your child immediately’ call, I threw a mini mental temper tantrum in my head as I collected my things and stropped silently out of the office, stopping along the way to grovel to my manager for having to leave early.

I’ve said it before but just to make it clear. I’m very lucky that I work for a good employer in a largely very family-friendly environment. They are flexible and trusting enough to appreciate that if I have to leave a little earlier one day, it’s fine. There is never any question that I shouldn’t go and collect my child. My manager was very understanding. But still I felt like I was leaving with a big fat storm cloud over my head.

So then I collected him.

The Collection

As I entered the nursery I could see him a few metres away. His little cheeks were blazing red.  When he saw me he yelped a croaky little ‘mummy!’ and rushed towards me with a relieved smile on his face.

And then I gave myself a good old pep talk, which went something like this:

OK Little Miss Martyr, you’re proud of your job and you don’t want to jeopardise that. But look at this lovely little boy, who just needs a cuddle from his mum and knows that she will find his favourite elephant and maybe crack open an emergency bag of chocolate buttons, because she can always make things better. Nobody thinks any worse of you. You work in an office. You were not saving lives on an operating table today. Most of your colleagues have been through this and they are all lovely people. Get a grip, please, and for the last few hours of today focus on your family.

The pep talk worked and we spent the afternoon cuddled up, watching something cartoony and before long he was smiling again. I don’t really know if there’s a moral to this story and I feel very uncomfortable writing it all down. But I’ve done it to remind myself that acting like a victim is no way to behave.

To all the working mothers out there: I know you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’re juggling lots of tasks, lots of emotions, lots of new experiences.

Be kind to yourself. And remember, all things considered, you’re doing great.

Plus if it all feels overwhelming… there will always be gin.

Please follow and like me: