This week, Jane and Bryony both welcome an important man back into their lives
Jane Gordon Age unknown Mother, grandmother and 24/7 childminder
No sooner have I recovered from a few days in the role of overindulgent grandmother (Edie is back home now Mummy has rehired the perfect Manny) than I find myself switching into full-on devoted mother mode when my son decides to abandon his flatshare in Hackney for a week and commute to work from my cottage.
This is a rare visit, prompted, I think, partly by a need to spend some time with the dog, and partly out of pity for poor old lonely ‘Ma’. We are both thrilled to see him – Zorro showing Rufus the kind of physical affection I haven’t been allowed to give him since he was seven (he’s 24 now), while I concentrate on his physical wellbeing – cooking him breakfast, sending him off to work with a home-made packed lunch, doing his washing and even ironing his shirts (something I have never done for another man unless you count Harry).
By day two I realise that, actually, there is little difference between my approach to caring for Edie than there is in the way I treat my grown-up son. The only reason I don’t warm his PJs on the radiator each night – as I do with my granddaughter’s – is that (apparently) he doesn’t wear them.
I know this is wrong because I would never treat his two sisters in quite such a Stepford-Mother fashion.
On one of our dog talks, I tell Belle about the way in which I am fawning over my son, and she confesses she is exactly the same with her male rather than her female children. Her theory is, we do this because we know that women are stronger than men and, as a result, we infantilise our grown-up sons but treat our grown-up daughters as our equals.
I am not sure she is right, but by the last day of his stay, I am fussing over my son so much, I am beginning to irritate myself, never mind him. In fact, I think, as I pack him back off to Hackney with a bag filled with crisp clean clothes, perhaps my slavish behaviour during his visits is actually the reason that they are so rare.
Bryony Gordon 36 Married to very patient husband Harry, and mother to Edie, three
The Perfect Manny, as he shall henceforth be known, has agreed to become our perfect manny. I feel just like I did back in 2011 when I met Harry and it became clear that he actually wanted to be with me over all the other girls. I’ve never told you this story before, because it embarrasses Harry, but when we first started going out, there was… now, how can I put this delicately? An issue. Harry was single but dating, so to speak, and one evening, while we were drinking and snogging in his garden, the phone rang. It was about 11.30pm, and Harry looked rather flustered. The phone kept ringing. Eventually, he picked it up. At which point his face turned white. He went inside and mumbled into his BlackBerry. Three minutes later, he returned. ‘I’m really sorry,’ he said, ‘ but you’re going to have to leave.’ I tried to process what he had just said. ‘I beg your pardon?’ ‘ You’re going to have to leave. There’s this girl, this woman, really, and we had a thing a month or so ago, before I met you, just a few dates and stuff, but she’s just called up in tears and told me she is on her way round and, and, and…’ ‘ Wow,’ I said, picking up my things and making for the door. ‘It’s not how it sounds,’ he said. ‘ Whatever it sounds like, I don’t want to hear it.’ I slammed the front door and went to a girlfriend’s flat round the corner. In the morning, I woke to a stream of apologetic texts from Harry, and a desperate invitation to go to dinner with him that night. I said yes, if only to give him both barrels. At dinner, he asked if I’d give him a second chance. Him and the other girl weren’t a thing any more, she was drunk, had lost her wallet… I didn’t care, as long as he’d picked me. A grown-up approach? Maybe not. But sometimes, when it comes to men – and mannies – being a grown-up is the last thing you need to be.
We infantilise our grown-up sons, but treat our grown-up daughters as our equals Sometimes, when it comes to men – and mannies – being a grown-up is the last thing you need to be