Mother’s Work

October 26, 2023
4 min

I realised how much my life had changed since having children, when I needed Toy Story 2 to remind me of the name of a work colleague I needed to contact.

Asim (4) and Amaani (2) were attempting to have an in-depth discussion regarding Jessie the Cow-girl, which turned out to be inspirational to me given that my colleague is called Jessamy. The children, particularly Asim, try hard to pile on the guilt for the full-time work I am currently doing: ‘But we want you to take us to Tumble Tots, Mummy’ etc. I argued that I took him when he was 1, 2, and 3 so he should be happy, but of course he wants me to take him now he is 4.

The days start with the routine but rather hurried discussions with the little ones over what colour jumpers and socks to wear (why do 2 year olds have any opinion on this? And does it really matter if the socks don’t have Tweenies on them?). I manage to get everyone to where they need to be and eventually arrive at the secondary school where I work. The children at the school, although noticeably larger, are not particularly any more co-operative. A few of them wonder if I am a nun, which I find amusing, and some ask me what country I am from. At least they say what is on their mind - although sometimes I wish they didn’t! Last week an 11 year old tried to electrocute himself by putting his fingers in a socket conveniently located by his chair and turning the switch on; when I asked him why he did this, he replied, ‘I just did it to see if I could wind you up, Miss’. So that’s all right then. Some of the 14-year olds showed a glimmer of interest to hear that ‘algebra’ was an Arabic word – most of them had voted for it being Chinese – and were even more interested that it meant ‘putting together broken bones’: but once the lesson started involving equations, the diminishing of enthusiasm was noticeable.

And when ‘work’ ends, then the fun starts! Asim and Amaani seem to have picked up on the mathematical atmosphere currently in the house, asking searching questions like ‘what does 1 and 1 make?’ (the answer Asim is looking for is 11), and even more philosophically from Amaani: ‘what does two make?’ I attempt to answer these questions while carrying out various essential activities such as ensuring we have enough bread and milk and petrol and photocopying (for our muslim after-school club, fitra). Unfortunately now I cannot always get to the photocopying shop in time, but the children seem to have made an impression on the salespeople there (I am not sure if it is positive, but it is certainly an impression!) and they have been very kind in letting us all in after closing time. Asim and Amaani both think this makes a great outing, and enjoy exploring the machines and the beeping doors and the water fountain, so I can feel like I have at least taken them to a fun educational activity that day!

Safiyya tells me that she doesn’t want to be a mummy, it’s too much work. But she is adamant on the other hand that she wants to be a twitlet. A twitlet? Safiyya explains: ‘Well that’s where there are three of you and you all stay together (i.e. a triplet). She rarely gets her words wrong these days but I quite like the idea of her being a twitlet so am in no hurry to correct her.

Conversely, Asim wants to be big and work like daddy. He used to scour the skies looking for daddy (who spends a fair bit of his life in an aeroplane) and thinks that working, particularly up in the sky, must be quite fun. This was confirmed by a recent visit to daddy’s workplace, involving not only the excitement of getting there (via both trains and Underground) but the office itself, where the children enjoyed colouring on all that office paper, running up and down the corridors, and playing with the assorted ‘executive’ toys.

At last it is Easter. Asim is highly confused by this since he has found a firm friend in a little boy called Esa (Arabic for Jesus), whom he thinks is called Easter and runs around calling for Easter to join him. Easter for me is a mixed blessing: the downside is I have to get some inspiration for making an Easter bonnet for Friday (needless to say, not for me); but on a positive note, the holidays are certainly a great break from what is bizarrely known as ‘having it all’.