In the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet in my home office, there is a manuscript - a large wad of A4 pages containing over 130,000 carefully constructed words,
You see, when I was 21, I wrote a book.
It was at a time when I was very into James Patterson and Stephen King and I decided I was going to be the next Patricia Cornwell.
This stack of papers has sat in the same bright red folder, filed away with my personal belongings, for the past ten years. If this were a movie, I would decide to submit it to a publisher on a whim one day - probably after being laid off from my 9-5 job and/or having to have my beloved dog put down. It would, of course, be snatched up in a frenzied bidding war that would make me an overnight JK Rowling success story. The book would make the New York Times bestseller list and Steven Spielberg would turn it into a blockbuster movie starring Scarlett Johannsen and Will Smith.
But my life isn’t a movie. It isn’t even a daytime television mini-series. The ‘book’ is a pile of rubbish. I took a sneak at it recently - laboured dialogue, weak characters and a predictable plot. Hey come, on, I was 21. But that’s not my point, The point is that I WROTE A BOOK. Over a decade ago, I actually found the time to sit down and craft out an entire novel.
Ten years on, I can’t even find five minutes to scribble out a simple shopping list.
I’ve always been utterly in awe of working mums and - after returning to the office last week, following a year’s maternity leave - I guess I can now count myself among them, though I’m very much a rookie. One thing I had no concept of was that, as a working mum, your day starts hours before it used to: pumping milk, ironing little outfits, cutting tiny triangular sandwiches and packing up milk bottles, toys, clothes and nappies - everything your children need for a long day away from you. Into the office for ten hours, calling at the supermarket on the way home, the gym if you have the energy, then picking up your children and taking them home, where - guilt ridden at being away from them all day - you will set about spending the most entertaining hour’s playtime you can with them, before beginning the evening ritual of dinner, bath, book and bed. By the time they’re finally asleep, there’s just time to make some dinner yourself, stack the dishwasher, put some washing through and make lists of shopping and chores you didn’t get round to today and really must find time for tomorrow. All of this is followed by a restless six hour doze, with one eye and one ear always on the precious sleeping figure pictured on the bedside monitor. Repeat.
Working mums - I salute you - you’re amazing.