Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: December 2018

Monday, 17 December 2018

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas: The Christmas Advert Debate

I know that I am super late to the party (but you know, life) but I want to talk to you about Christmas adverts. This year there seems to be a lot more debate on whether they have hit the (festive) mark.

I don't really remember the year that the yuletide advertisements became a phenomenon but my head wants to say that it was when John Lewis introduced us to the discontented little boy whom we observed crossing the days off the calendar with a frustrated strike of the pen while his parents shared rueful looks over the breakfast table only to discover that his vexation was rooted in his desperation to give rather than to receive. I am not sure we ever did find out exactly what he gifted his folks that Christmas morning (there were rumours of a severed head) but he definitely gave me the long sought warm fuzzy glow that I have been trying to recapture since childhood and the demise of that magical jolly fella in red.

The wait... 

Now though it seems that every one has jumped on the festive bandwagon from Aldi to Sainsburys and Visa to, rather incredulously, Heathrow airport. Correct me if I am wrong, but surely the choice of airport is less based on their ability to stir an ember of festive joy and more based on their accessibility, flight destinations, timing and price. Is there really any one in the UK seeing this on their TV for the first time and shouting "Mavis! Have you seen this? There is an airport in London. Seems to be overrun by bloody bears! Best stick to Southampton eh? Pass me another mince pie." I fear the promotional team may have merely been looking for some light relief having sold their souls as collateral for the fifth runway project.

Bloody bears... 

The big guns have spared no expense this year having enlisted the help of none other than Elton John; a move that appears to have divided the nation. The dreamers watch as Elton takes us back in time through a (fortuitously) glittering career to the Christmas morning when he was gifted a piano by his beloved mother who, no doubt, had to scrimp and save to afford it. They wipe their eyes as they imagine a series of potential virtuosos hurdling down the stairs bleary eyed on Christmas morning to be presented with the gift that will mould their futures. On the other hand, the more cynical members of the viewing population focus on the possible ulterior motives of Mr. John in light of his impending biopic due out next year. They might even comment on the John Lewis Partnership having only recently started selling musical instruments and question the likelihood of this extending beyond the festive period. They appear to be becoming increasingly enraged by the realisation that the multimillionaire might have actually been paid for his appearance.

Oh Elton... 

I find myself between the two camps. I have no issue with Elton John and yet less than no interest in watching his biopic. He is clearly a savvy businessman who is benefitting on all fronts and if I could do the same, I probably would. My issue is that it stirs nothing in me. I can glean no festive spirit from an ageing rockstar sitting on what is clearly a film set dressed to look like a working class house in the 50s pretending that he playing his childhood piano whilst warbling along to one of his (non festive) hits. Where are the bells? Where is the joy? Where is the tinsel damn it!


I myself am taking comfort in the Sainsbury's advert this year. After all, what is more festive than a children's nativity and what bigger role is there than that of the plug? 


Sunday, 9 December 2018

Where Do You Go To My Lovely: The Absent Mother


I am as stressed as an anxiety riddled dog on a battlefield on bonfire night. Despite consistently being reminded on all fronts that this is, in fact, the season to be jolly I am merely heaving myself from one day to the next whilst spinning more plates than a state banquet at Buckingham Palace. I am a mess.

Stressed

You see it all started with a rare work trip abroad requiring me to leave my children for 5 days. This would be my inaugural work trip as management and whilst there was no pressure being put upon me by anyone other than myself, I was keen to appear effective and knowledgeable with an air of capability. Following several IT disasters, a plethora of mosquito bites and a sheer inability to master the buttons on the elevator in our shared hotel, my appearance was less die hard professional and more bumbling baffoon. Adding on to that a myriad of failed meetings and a thick layer of maternal guilt meant that by the time I returned home I felt that I had short changed everyone involved and all that my trip had served to do was allow me to selfishly spend time not having to be responsible for the offspring.

I did enjoy that.

I mean when you are dining out in places like this... 

Then I found myself liking it and was consumed by self loathing.

It was a complex battle of emotions.

My initial approach was to avoid contact with their little faces and the news of cherished mundane goings on at home. My 5 hour time difference and a hectic schedule of meet and greets meant my plan was fool proof. While my boss was constantly stepping out to call and check on how things were going at the homestead, I was sending a daily text as proof of life. You may think me callous but at no time was I concerned as to the welfare of my children, they were with two of the best and caring human beings in existence. I knew that when they asked about me (which they would), their queries would be met with a such a strong, and resilient reassurance of my love that they would feel infinitely more comforted than they would having heard my tear strained voice through a long distance phonecall. I found the easiest way to avoid the ache was to avoid thinking of them in their entirety and before I knew it I was enjoying my new sense of freedom. There were no lunches to be packed, no squabbles to referee and no wriggly, resistant toes to be dried after bathtime.

Not everyone is as anti-bathtime as me... 

I couldn't physically be with them and there was no early return available so I had to cope. We had decided as a family that saying yes to this trip was the best decision in the long run but being the "primary caregiver" acknowledged that it was going to be a wrench for everyone involved. I was prepared for the angst and the guilt (suffered from the comfort of business class) but what I hadn't expected was to feel a world away from the person I am on a daily basis. All of a sudden I wasn't rushing away to do the school run or collect the poorly child from their alloted care provider; for the four days I was only responsible for myself. I was effectively 24 years old again.


When I eventually did return I was met with a hero's welcome. There was a banner telling me how much I had been missed and long, heartfelt cuddles where I felt like I might never be released. Then after I got past the husband the children were pretty pleased too. I felt awful. I felt that I had not achieved enough on my work trip to justify either their distress at not having me or the expense to the company for taking me.

My welcome home... 

This sense of having disappointed on all fronts has resulted in my working during my unscheduled hours upon my return but being wholly distracted by an all-consuming guilt for doing so being that I am not devoting my time to the children whom I have abandoned so recently. I am pleasing no one.


Factor into this the upcoming nativity, Christmas shopping, hospital appointments for just about every member of the family, work deadlines and a stack of unwritten Christmas cards which are due to friends I have not had the chance to WhatsApp (never mind chat to) in the past few months means that I am an utter wreck.

Is there ever the right balance? Can it "all" really ever be had? What colour of tights do angels really wear? 

Answers on a postcard... 

Everything Changes: Working Out the "Working Mother" Bit

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