Don's Diary

June 23, 1995

Tuesday. Three days before I am officially back on the payroll after maternity leave. It takes an hour to come round from a night of sleep broken by my ten-week-old son. Spend this hour over breakfast with the nanny, the ten-week-old and my two-year-old.

Reflect that my leisurely routine will somehow have to be condensed on my return to work.

Resolve that before the afternoon I will sort out the unpaid bills and miscellaneous correspondence which the family allows to accumulate into piles around the house. I reduce three piles to one. It feels uncomfortably like work.

Spend the afternoon at my final postnatal-exercise-with-discussion-afterwards classes. I will miss the firm, parental tones in the voice of Linda, our fitness instructor, and the progressively harder aerobic routines. Afterwards, exhausted, we move on to discuss "The Future". I join a group intending to return to work full-time.

We focus on the logistics. Believing that self-help may be a way forward, I volunteer to coordinate a new working mothers group.

Go home, make dinner. Get the smallest members of the family into bed. My husband and I sometimes refer to this last part of our day as "the Hell Hour". Report my progress on the pile reduction to my husband.

Wednesday. Two days before I am officially back on the payroll. I have been persuaded to teach four hours.

Go to work. Everyone I meet tells me I look well. This must be the exercise class and the daily abdominal muscle workouts. I spend four hours teaching budgetary control. I try out a few of Linda's parental tones.

Throughout, from time to time, my thoughts stray to how I will spend the extra money I have negotiated for this performance. Something to wear to work seems like a good idea. Something to accommodate my new, post-natal, shape.

Go home, make dinner. Spend the rest of the evening with the ten-week-old at his first Labour Party branch meeting.

I vote against suspending standing orders to extend the meeting to 9.45. Two hours is enough.

Thursday. Interview a potential cleaner, feeling determined to get my domestic affairs in order before the big return to work. Visit the dentist, who is pleased with my post-natal teeth and gums. Have lunch and discuss the big return with my father. Go home, make beans on toast for dinner.

Take the ten-week-old leafleting for the Labour party branch jumble sale. Get home and remember we've organised a babysitter.

Go to the local and sink a few pints with my husband. Get home and remember why we'd arranged the babysitter. Reflect that we are exhausted.

Friday. The big day. Spend the whole day with the school of accounting and finance discussing our objectives and setting some goals for the next 12 months. These sort of days always seem too long: by 3pm I have run out of energy.

The facilitating professor assumes responsibility for, among other things, wheeling the tea trolley between the discussion groups.

I eat far too many chocolate biscuits in an effort to combat the exhaustion.

Go home, make dinner, eat in the garden. Spend the evening on the back step with my husband, drinking beer and pretending we have got a babysitter.

Saturday. Have a lie-in. The two-year-old goes to a show with a kind volunteer. Look after the ten-week-old while my husband organises a Labour Party branch jumble sale. It makes an all-time record surplus and all his flapjack goes.

Spend the evening at a barbeque in the garden with a three-year-old. The ten-week-old sleeps. It rains.

Sunday. I am 32 today. Spend a day with the family plus grandparents on an outing. We have a picnic. It is still raining. Get home. The two-year-old has his first full-blown tantrum. Remember that a friend has offered to babysit for the evening. Go for a beer and a curry feeling nostalgic for the times before I had children.

Monday. Go to work. Carry up the mail I have been sent since my maternity leave started. I examine a course timetable which implies that I'm teaching this afternoon. I feel a sense of frustration and resolve to write Don's Diary instead of over-preparing.

Amanda Stephens

Senior lecturer in accountancy and finance at Leeds Metropolitan University.

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