There you’d be, innocently savouring your summer freedom, when It would happen. Shopping with mother, you’d suddenly notice that first, dreaded Back to School advertisement. Your heart would sink, your happiness blighted.
That moment would trigger re-entry from the dizzy heights of holidaying. One minute you’d be carefree; the next, nose-diving on a collision course for school, where you’d land up with a bump, a shoe-bag and a crumpled envelope of dinner-money somewhere in the first week of September.
And as you set off on the first day back in your half-a-size-too-big uniform, valiantly waving, probably the last thing on your mind was the colossal effort it had taken Someone to get you ready. That Someone generally being … your Mum.
Women make excellent managers. They’re used to doing several things at once (like answering the phone and door simultaneously while feeding the baby, drinking a coffee and scraping porridge off the laminate flooring).
Men and children, you will have observed, cannot do this. Indeed, gazing at your partner and offspring, you may sometimes wonder whether doing even one thing at a time is beyond them.
Yes, move over Diary Apps – when it comes to efficiency, Mums Rule, OK? Shirley-Conran-style, we file, streamline and make lists, juggling our responsibilities, jobs, chores, family and – if we’re lucky – spare time. Only for everything to come to naught, faced with the implacable truth that it would be easier to train the cat than to organise the humans with whom you share your home.
“Mummy …” says a plaintive voice as you drop Junior off at the school gate. “Where’s my Wheel?”
“What Wheel?” you ask, your heart sinking.
“The Wheel I was supposed to bring today for the Wheel Table.”
“What Wheel Table?”
“You know – the Wheel Table.”
Junior has, of course, totally forgotten to tell you until now, relying instead on your finely-honed telepathic skills.
“Kids!” you mutter, making an unscheduled trip to his classroom later that morning with something that fell off the vacuum cleaner last Tuesday.
“Remember you promised to sew my jacket button back on …” says your better half over breakfast.
“No. I don’t think I did!” you reply indignantly, feverishly calculating whether there’s time to shoe-horn this into the two-and-a-half-minutes (approx) remaining before you have to leave for work yourself.
Does the woman exist who hasn’t wondered what would become of the family if she were suddenly to take off (oh, what bliss!) for a well-earned week at a Spa? Do they realise how much unseen female toil goes into upholding hearth and home, even in these supposedly egalitarian days? It would do you lot good to find out, you think gleefully, visualising the possibilities.
It can be messy, though. Last time I left them to it, my husband attempted to hard-boil an egg in its shell by microwaving it for three minutes. When I got home, the kids were ecstatic with delight over the mess and general confusion the resulting explosion had caused. In fact, they haven’t stopped laughing about it. The whole episode seems to have been a highlight of their childhood.
And so, as September looms, life turns full circle and we find ourselves organising our own kids for the new term, thereby qualifying for a variety of traditional sports such as sewing-in-the-name-tape marathons and ten-mile relays around shoe shops.
And in the midst of a lively debate over the respective merits of Sensible Clodhoppers over Awesomely Cool Trainers, you’ll probably be overcome with compassion and decide to ring your mother when you get home. Because, after all, she’s been through all of this for you.
© Sue Williams