This year I’ve been lucky enough to reduce my working week to four days. My ‘go out to work’ week that is. I’m still a fulltime wife and mum with two dogs, four bearded dragons and a house to run, but I get to have Mondays at home as my designated writing time. I know how lucky this makes me and I’m thrilled to be able to have this precious time.
Having a Monday off also means that I get to do one of those things that many working mums don’t; the school run. For seven years, since my return to fulltime employment, I have longed to do the school run. To be able to take my children to school in the mornings then collect them at the end of the day. It’s a simple pleasure but it’s an important one to me. I sadly missed the boat with my daughter, as she’s all grown up and at comprehensive school, but my son has two precious years left at primary school, so I am now able to walk him there on a Monday morning and to pick him up in the afternoon.
What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the fashion parade also known as the schoolyard. Unfortunately for me, on the first day back after the summer term, I walked my nine-year-old son to school looking less than my best. But, hey, it was eight-thirty in the morning; it was drizzling and windy. I put on my leggings, pulled my husband’s old hoody over my pyjama top, stuffed my feet into my trainers and was ready to go.
However, just as I was about to leave, one of our dogs made a strange noise in the kitchen. I rushed through to find a puddle of vomit in the middle of the floor. There was no way I could leave it there as they’d walk through it, so I quickly cleaned it up, trying to avoid noticing the chunk of fluffy toy that our bulldog had clearly swallowed and been unable to digest.
A quick swill of my hands and I hurried to find my darling son hopping from one foot to the other in the porch. “Come on Mum! We’ll be late!” he admonished me.
Before leaving the house, I realised that my hair was, in fact, a bit greasy, so I topped my outfit with an old beany hat I found on a hook in the porch. Who would care? Who would notice? I mistakenly thought.
We speed-walked to school and just outside the gates, my son dropped my hand. My heart fell. He was embarrassed to be seen with me! He was too old to hold my hand in front of his friends any longer! How had this happened and when? I’d left it too late and I was overwhelmed by a sudden sadness.
As we waited to go through the gates, a man with a child dangling from each hand, stepped back to allow some other mothers through. When I went to follow them, he stepped in front of me as if I was invisible. I shrugged, blaming the time of day and resulting chaos. Then my son and I piled through the gates with a crowd of parents, grandparents and noisy children, and my boy ran off to greet his friends without so much as a Bye, Mum!
I was bereft. Where was the little boy who used to stand with me until the last moment before entering nursery? Where was the child who used to cling to my leg until the nursery nurse prised him away, leaving me in floods of guilty tears, convinced that I should have home-schooled him?
But as I watched him race around the yard with his friends, my heart lifted. There he was, happy and independent. He’s grown up so much and I’m so proud of the lovely boy he’s become. He no longer wears Spiderman or Sportacus costumes, preferring a rugby shirt and trendy trainers, but he’s getting older and things change so quickly.
Yet suddenly, standing there alone, I became aware of something else. Dotted around the yard were bright, beautiful flowers that swayed in the breeze. Unlike me, covered up in a hoody and beany, they were clad in flimsy summer dresses or skinny jeans and stiletto heels. Their hair was perfect, their makeup flawless, in spite of the drizzle, and they chatted to one another in the tinkling, light-hearted tones of women confident in their appearance and presence.
As the wind swirled around them, their perfumes travelled through the air, sweet aromas that reminded me of summer days and exotic climes.
Then it hit me: these were the yummy mummies!
They did not smell of onions because they’d fried up ingredients to stick in the slow cooker at seven am. They did not look like they were trying to camouflage themselves with the grey-black tarmac of the yard. They did not have stray dog hairs and drool glued to yesterday’s leggings as they stood in their husband’s faded hoodie wearing a beanie that could’ve belonged to the people who owned the house before. Oh no! They were elegant, glamorous and effortlessly sociable. They knew one another and were proud to be known, to be seen. They were admired by the dads dropping their children off before their shifts and by the granddads helping out their working daughters by doing the school run. They were also a good ten years younger than me…
I shifted uncomfortably in my hoodie. I tucked my hands into my pockets and tried to reassure myself that they had no idea that I was an author, writing books that people bought and (hopefully) enjoyed. I might look a mess—after all, I hadn’t even drawn my eyebrows on—but I’d soon be home, typing away on my laptop, creating bright and beautiful worlds where not just the yummy mummies, not just the beautiful people, win.
But as the drizzle became rain and the wind increased in strength, the school bell rang and I was about to leave when I was suddenly enveloped in a huge hug. I glanced down to find my son with his arms wrapped around my waist and a big grin on his face. Then he said, “I love you Mum! Can’t wait to see you later!”
My heart lifted and I squeezed him back then watched full of pride as he ran into school. He would have a good day and I’d be there in the afternoon when it was time for him to come home.
I might not be a yummy mummy, but I’m his mummy, and that’s all that matters to me.