Friday 15 December 2017

Dr Ciara Kelly: 'Working in summer makes me feel like I've failed as a mother'

Summertime, and the livin' isn't easy...

General practitioner Dr Ciara Kelly
General practitioner Dr Ciara Kelly
Dressing for the summer can lead to an identity crisis

I'm not sure I'm a summer person. Spring with its sense of burgeoning potential and its grand stretch in the evenings is far preferable. Or even winter. At least you know where you stand with winter. You know what to wear and what realistically you can or can't do. (Mostly stay home in front of fire and eat - I'm sure that's something to do with evolution or hibernation, so probably best not to fight it.)

But summer is mostly just one long drawn out disappointment with people peering out through their windows at the drizzle and talking wistfully about when the good weather might be due back. 2019 is my guess.

But summer? I don't even know how to dress in summer. In winter you totally get away with an over fondness for black clothes and boots.

In summer, clothes take on a kind of bizarre themed notion. So every year there's the safari or ethnicky stuff or some new incarnation of denim. And what do you do with your legs? Cover them up? Expose them to some extent? That is not something you have to worry about in winter.

Today, for example, I wore a black knee skirt - suitable for the office. A pair of espadrilles - suitable for the back garden. And an off-the-shoulder top - suitable for a 17-year-old. I call it anti-chic, though auntie-chic might be closer to the truth. Either way it was designed to confuse anyone who met me about what I might be doing with my day. Too haphazard and casual to be working. Too formal yet dowdy to be enjoying my free time. This is my summer wardrobe. I DON'T KNOW WHO I AM IN SUMMER.

But that is not my only issue with summer. I think I'm really only working up to saying this. Summer is hard because of the guilt. Oh, I have come to expect some guilt as a working mother.

Dressing for the summer can lead to an identity crisis
Dressing for the summer can lead to an identity crisis

I, like all mums who work outside the home, get asked from time to time by my kids why I can't collect them from school every day. (I do of course make it to the school for the biggies like concerts and presentations - although I'm occasionally late or in the wrong classroom.) Or why I'm not there in the afternoon to do 'stuff'?

But working during the school year is one thing when we are all heading out to our various schools and jobs. Working during the summer - when the kids are on a different clock and want to be able to do all the idle messing about that we once did but instead are being strong-armed into a summer camp they've no interest in five mornings in a row - is entirely another and just feels wrong and somehow like I'm a failure as a mother.

I know there are evenings and weekends, and they are a little easier to be productive with than in the winter months. But them being off for weeks while you continue to have to go to work every day - feels crap and like a dereliction of duty.

Oh, I will take some time off to be with them - a week here, a few days there. But I have the kind of job where you often get called in to do stuff even when you weren't expecting it - so there will be many days I go home after work and get the distinct feeling I'm doing a rubbish job at this parenting lark - which, of course, wipes out any good you might do in any other area of your life.

It does get a bit easier when they are teens of course - they won't care or indeed notice most of the time whether you're home or not - but the younger ones who actually still take an interest in your comings and goings, they're the ones you feel you are letting down.

I know some parents do manage to work term times only or perhaps get a better work-life balance than me but that simply isn't possible for everyone. And the summer seems to exaggerate the sense that somehow you've gotten stuff wrong.

Anyway, luckily, autumn will be around before we know it and I can then happily once again revert to ignoring my personal failures and shortcomings as a parent.

But in the meantime where's that jungle print denim cold-shoulder dress and my high-heeled runners? I've an important meeting to go to.


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