Last weekend we were at Embankment with some friends who were visiting from home. For the first time in ten years, I pointed to the magnificent building with the clock face overlooking the Thames and said ‘That’s where I used to work.’
What I didn’t say, was that for the last ten years, that building has been one of the most important places in my life. Inside that building are some of the most talented, funniest, kindest and warmest people I could ever have had the fortune to work with. Inside that building are some people whom I will be friends with for the rest of my life. ‘Colleagues’ doesn’t even come in to it. Inside that building are books, books everywhere, the corridors are an explosion of colour and imagination and stories. There are rows of black and white photos of some of the most iconic and beloved authors in the world. Inside that building, I spent hours reading brand new manuscripts and writing about them and thinking and talking about stories and reading and writing all day long. For someone who loves books, it was a magical place to be.
But all good things must come to an end. It’s important to try new things and I tried to be a full time working mum. I tried so hard. To sum it up quite simply; it’s not for me. In four months Zee will be two years old. I will never get this time back. It’s not that I don’t want to work; far from it. I am now freelance, he will still go to nursery; I will work. I will continue to do what I love and earn money and be independent and have a life for myself outside of being a mum. But I am lucky enough to do a job that allows me to work from anywhere, at any time. And now I am in charge of my time and I will decide how much time I spend with my son.
So even though I miss that place and those people, this change is good. It isn’t a sacrifice. I am currently reading the excellent How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, one of the funniest, bravest, most intelligent books I’ve ever read. Last night I read page 227 of the chapter ‘Why You Should Have Children’ over and over again and then I read it out loud to H and as I got to the end I had to stop for a deep breath. What I love about this piece of writing is how she concentrates on the positive side of being a mother. It’s so easy to talk about how tired you are ALL THE TIME, how you can’t go out at night without it being a military operation to plan and execute; how honestly – sometimes you just don’t even want to. The mess, the washing, the stuff, so much stuff, everywhere. The tiredness, the tiredness, the tiredness.
But here Caitlin Moran talks about being ‘high on ridiculous love’, about being ‘mugged by Cupid’ and how ‘You, in turn, observe yourself from a distance, simply astonished by the quantities of love you manufacture.’ Yes, yes and yes. She concludes by talking about how it all comes down to the simplest of things. ‘All you ever want to know – the only question that ever really matters – is: are the children all right? Are they happy? Are they safe? And so long as the answer is ‘Yes’, nothing, ultimately, matters.’ Thank you Caitlin Moran for articulating what I have been thinking for so long. I think I love you too.
So now we are alright. Looking back on the time when I was preparing to go back to work, I wasn’t alright. I wasn’t alright about it at all. It broke my heart. But it was a good experience, all in, and now I am proud to have made the changes I needed to and to have the freedom to be with my cheeky, mischievous, grinning, funny, noisy, sweet, kind little boy when I choose.
In that building I had a Word of the Day board. Today’s word? Lucky. In big, bold, thick green felt tip pen. LUCKY.