We have never really been a family of gender stereotypes. We are married, but our kids have my surname – which continually baffles their primary school. I went back to work full time when our daughter was four months old, and my husband went part time. He hoovers and dusts. I clean bathrooms. We both cook. We’ve always had to pitch in as need and finances demand it. He writes about gender politics, went to baby ballet and I have been the cliché of the breadwinner.
I don’t know if it is the limited palate of lockdown life or if I’m just getting older. But all of a sudden, I have that yearning to become a more typical domestic goddess. To create a sense of calm and stability through the food on the table and punctuate the thankfully uneventful days of being at home with meals and mumming. I appreciate that perhaps there hasn’t been quite such the usual stuff to do, like dinner with friends, visits to the theatre, late night shopping, endless after school clubs to traffic children between. And that working from home has created for me a new sense of balance and freedom that didn’t exist in my previous working life.
But now I want to stay small. I want my days to remain at home with the freedom to eat a lunch made in the moment in my kitchen, to chuck on the washing, to be able to nip out to pick up the kids from school. I feel like it makes me better at my job and at my life. It has lifted the sense of mum guilt, of failing at all levels and of never quite being on top of anything for anyone.
I want to bake. I want to make real dinners rather than rushing through oven food or stressing about wasting another meal from a recipe box. I want to be here.
I want to not spend the money I used to spend on parking and lunches and petrol. We now only have one car. Our street is really only designed for each family to have one car. Our environment is definitely craving more of this.
My physical presence in the office hasn’t changed my ability to deliver my job. I work faster and more focused. I do miss the people, the casual interactions, the laughs over lunch and the real coffee. Perhaps it does change my visibility in the organisation, and I just hope they still see the value in me without my presence in the building. But the days spent on zoom have given me back the evenings spent on delayed trains in bad weather. Looking back I can’t believe I ever made a trip to Cornwall from Liverpool for one meeting.
It has also allowed me to help other people out. I can do drop offs and pick ups when other people are caught at work, rather than making frantic phone calls to other mums to hold onto my kids in the playground while I defy world speed records to get there before the gates are locked. I can be a fall back. It feels strangely more valid than my senior level role and responsibilities.
I feel free-er. I feel like a pressure has been lifted. In a way the idea of having it all – which if I’m totally honest was killing me both physically and mentally before – seems a bit closer. I want to embrace that feeling with warm cookies and meals we want to eat together, made the way they like them. If that makes me a 1950’s housewife, I’m all for it.