This week, child­care is­sues turn Bry­ony and Jane’s lives up­side down

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - MUM AND ME -

Bry­ony Gor­don 36 Mar­ried to very pa­tient hus­band Harry, and mother to Edie, three

The nanny has been of­fered a new job. In New York. I can’t really say that I am sur­prised, given that it was al­ways a pos­si­bil­ity; So­phie be­ing the sis­ter of a friend and only ever plug­ging a gap while I tried to get a more per­ma­nent so­lu­tion fixed. But good­ness, she was good. Like, Mary Pop­pins good. So I had sort of con­vinced my­self that she would end up stay­ing with us un­til Edie turned 18 and, and, and…

A year ago, this would be enough to throw me into a panic. To­day, I am just adding it to an ever-grow­ing list of things that need to get done: go to work, train for marathon, keep Men­tal Health Mates go­ing, write syn­op­sis for next book, write next book, be Mum, find new nanny for when I can’t be Mum, sleep.

Don’t get me wrong – I am grate­ful for all of these things, even the need for child­care, be­cause I know I am lucky enough to be able to af­ford it. But please, just for a mo­ment, can I let out a mas­sive, col­umn-shaped SCREEEEEEAM? There you go. That’s much bet­ter. And… breathe. Mum of­fers to take Edie for a cou­ple of days af­ter So­phie leaves, giv­ing me a bit of space to do lux­u­ri­ous me-time things like… go for a 10-mile run.

But al­most as soon as we drop off Edie, I start to feel ill. My throat feels scratchy, and I keep feel­ing hot, then cold. I try to ig­nore it and set out for my run, rea­son­ing that the fresh air will get rid of it. This is why I am a jour­nal­ist, not a doc­tor. I man­age two miles be­fore I have to give up be­cause I am cough­ing too much. In­deed, within a day, I have lost my voice en­tirely; a hack­ing, phlegmy sound com­ing out in­stead. Then Harry is sent away for work.

Sud­denly I find my­self alone, forced to do noth­ing, feel­ing like I used to when I was sin­gle and ill and had no­body to cud­dle me or bring me cups of lemon and ginger tea. I re­solve to get bet­ter, and never moan about work­load again.

Jane Gor­don Age un­known Mother, grand­mother and 24/7 child­min­der

The news that So­phie the nanny has given no­tice may have thrown Bry­ony off bal­ance but, on the up­side (at least for me), I am al­lowed the priv­i­lege of hav­ing Edie to stay in my cot­tage for two whole days and nights. ‘We are go­ing to Granny Sarah and Grandpa John for the week­end and we’ll drop Edie off with you on the way back to London,’ Bry­ony tells me in a brief phone call. It is ages since I have been al­lowed sole cus­tody of my grand­daugh­ter and – de­spite a slight tinge of re­sent­ment that they are week­end­ing with the in-laws rather than me – I don’t say any­thing other than ‘That will be lovely, dar­ling.’ Edie is very much ‘dropped off ’ midafter­noon on the Sun­day – Harry sit­ting in the car with the en­gine run­ning while Bry­ony brings her to the front door be­fore wav­ing us a cheery good­bye. I know that one of the main rea­sons why my son-in-law is so re­luc­tant to en­ter my cot­tage is the pres­ence of Zorro (now nine months – the ca­nine equiv­a­lent of ado­les­cence) but thank­fully Edie has no such reser­va­tions. Now al­most four, the first thing my grand­daugh­ter wants to do is take the dog for a walk, de­light­ing in the chance of be­ing able to have con­trol of his lead and talk down to him in the way most peo­ple talk down to four-year-olds. For the whole of the next day, Edie in­sists on us play­ing a game in which she is Nanny, I am a lit­tle girl called Isobel and Zorro is on the naughty step hav­ing eaten sev­eral of the other chil­dren in Edie’s care (Lucy, a plas­tic baby doll, and Leo, a stuffed di­nosaur). I feel as if I am tak­ing part in a new Chan­nel 4 doc­u­men­tary that is a cross be­tween The Se­cret Life of Four-Year-Olds and The Se­cret Life of Pup­pies. By the time Edie is in bed and Zorro is doz­ing in his bas­ket, it’s turned into The Se­cret Life of Grans as I col­lapse on the sofa with a bot­tle of mal­bec, a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and Net­flix…

Please, just for a mo­ment, can I let out a mas­sive SCREEEAM?

I feel as if I am tak­ing part in a new doc­u­men­tary, The Se­cret Life of Grans

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