LIFE IN THE BUS LANE

CASEY MCPIKE swaps Mar­mite sand­wiches for meet­ings and heads back to the work­force, where she finds a new and sur­pris­ing work/life bal­ance

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Colum­nist Casey Mcpike makes her move back to the of­fice

THIS YEAR I de­cided it was time to don high heels and un-stained clothes to sashay back into the work­force. Since hav­ing the girls I’ve been in part-time work, but it has all been from the com­fort of my kitchen ta­ble, in­volv­ing lim­ited con­tact with other ac­tual adults other than on the phone or via email. I should clar­ify: part-time paid work – be­cause the full-time mum gig is ob­vi­ously a ma­jor job in it­self. With in­ter­views done and an of­fer made, I got to revel in the the giddy ex­cite­ment that comes with re­al­is­ing some­one wants to pay for the stuff your brain does. This was fol­lowed swiftly by panic that my brain might not re­mem­ber how to do the stuff it used to. I gave my­self a quick pep talk about how I’d grown ac­tual hu­mans, dammit, and have been jug­gling things like some kind of mashup be­tween a cir­cus ninja and a UN Hostage Ne­go­tia­tor ever since, so I’d be just fine. Last time I’d been in an of­fice en­vi­ron­ment I was gi­gan­ti­cally preg­nant, so ob­vi­ously none of those clothes would do. In the years lead­ing up to hav­ing ba­bies I hadn’t ac­cu­mu­lated a lot of ‘keeper’ clothes as I’d been busily spend­ing all our money on folic acid sup­ple­ments and acupunc­ture in a bid to get preg­nant. So there was noth­ing else for it: I had to go shop­ping. I felt like Ju­lia Roberts in Pretty Woman in that scene where she drops thou­sands of dol­lars on de­signer clothes in Bev­erly Hills, ex­cept I was drop­ping tens of dol­lars in a sub­ur­ban mall, and I’m also not a pros­ti­tute. So, noth­ing like Pretty Woman re­ally, but what I’m try­ing to say is I went shop­ping for some­thing other than jeans and it was fun. My girls were ex­cited for me about go­ing to work, mainly be­cause I’d get to catch a bus ev­ery day, which seems to be akin to a trip to Dis­ney­land for small chil­dren. One of them even pluck­ily shouted, “Go earn that money, Mummy!” as they waved me off, which I sus­pect may have been my hus­band’s coach­ing. They’ve been re­ally, ah, help­ful with craft­ing ac­ces­sories for my of­fice out­fits, be­cause “that’s a lot of black”, is a com­mon cri­tique. “Wear this Mummy, and if you get in­vited to a party after work you can wear it there too!” #Work­toparty #So­fash­ion Hand­ing over the pri­mary-care­giver reins has been an ex­pe­ri­ence. We’ve done a role swap and my hus­band was su­per ex­cited about the idea of be­ing the one to drop off and pick up our big girl, hang with our lit­tle girl, and keep the home fires burn­ing. I was su­per ex­cited to spend my morn­ing and evening com­mute catch­ing up on cur­rent af­fairs and stalk­ing celebri­ties on In­sta­gram. I’d gen­tly sug­gested life-hacks to my hus­band like get­ting up half an hour be­fore the kids to shower in peace and gen­er­ally steel the nerves for a day of be­ing at the mercy of two lit­tle dic­ta­tors. That ad­vice fell on deaf ears, un­til mid­way through the first week when I asked how his day had been and he mum­bled, “I haven’t show­ered in three days and ap­par­ently I cut sand­wiches wrong”. I came a bit un­stuck after a week or so, sud­denly miss­ing ev­ery­thing about front-line­par­ent­ing, even the morn­ing hus­tle and the rages over want­ing to wear fairy dresses to the park on cold days. I’m re­ally lucky that I work with ex­cep­tion­ally awe­some peo­ple who have made it pos­si­ble for me to struc­ture my days so that I’m home in time for the nightly bath and sto­ries rou­tine, and I still have the week­ends to en­joy rages over wear­ing fairy dresses on cold days, so re­ally I’m get­ting the best of both worlds. I never doubted my hus­band’s abil­ity to cope on the daddy day­care front…but now he’s not just cop­ing, he’s slay­ing it. The kids are happy, none of us have scurvy, and he’s even done things like or­gan­ise the pantry and the drawer that was over­flow­ing with plas­tic con­tain­ers. Be­ing back in an of­fice en­vi­ron­ment def­i­nitely has has its perks. I love the work I’m do­ing. I love the peo­ple I’m work­ing with, and I think they like me too – es­pe­cially now that I’ve stopped say­ing things out of habit like “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the toi­let be­fore we head into that meet­ing?” and “Oooh! Do you hear the fire engine?” Sure, it’s lonely go­ing to the loo all by my­self with­out any­one bust­ing in to sit on my lap and ask for snacks, but I’ve man­aged to drink ac­tual hot cups of tea and no one has wiped their grubby hands on my trouser legs. Not. Even. Once.

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