Let me set the scene: It’s 7.40 am on a Friday morning. I need to leave for work in 20 minutes but instead of getting ready I am sitting on the bed, naked but for my son who has decided now is precisely the right time to guzzle down what seems like about three days worth of breastmilk. Yum.
Thanks to my awesome co-parent, hubby and all-round legend I have a bowl of cornflakes in one hand and I’m staring longingly at the cup of tea which he has placed next to the alarm clock. We have all had a rough night (think milk not tequila) and the bags under our eyes tell the tale. I snoozed my 6.30 alarm. Rookie mistake – 7.25 was a time of rude awakening.
7.45 comes and goes and I’m no closer to leaving. Hubby brings nappy and clothes for our boy. Tick tock. 7.50, de-latching and (can I get a hallelujah) a cup of tea amid throwing clothes on and catching sight of my greasy locks. Dry shampoo and classic Mum-bun combo and we’re ready to rock. 8am: high fives all round. Except. Shit – where are his shoes? I run downstairs. “He’s filled his nappy” husband shouts down. Classic toddler manoeuvre. 8.07 and we’re getting there – I have located shoes, coat and backpack. By 8.12 hubby has completed the nappy change and I am loaded up – handbag on my arm, toddler backpack on my back, ready to take our son to nursery which fortunately is behind our house.
Unfortunately my son has decided he would like to walk to nursery this morning and as we don’t have time to enjoy (waste) examining all cars, people, animals, flora and fauna in minute detail I scoop up my little bundle of joy into my arms and, predictably, he screams blue murder. “Sorry darling we don’t have time for you to walk this morning” I repeat softly in his ear all the way down the road. This is partly (mostly) for the benefit of neighbours at the end of the road who due to the increased squirming and screaming of my child are possibly concerned that I have kidnapped him. My speed walk turns to a light jog and back to a walk when I realise that I’m not fit enough to move that quickly when loaded up like a pack horse. The nursery drop off goes without incident and free of baby and his bag, I quickly stomp down to the train. 8.19 – I have seven minutes to train departure. I’ve done it in less. I forge on. I make it to the platform with 30 seconds to spare and board my commuter train feeling pretty epic. It’s only 8.26 and I’m nailing this day.
I take my seat, sitting down with a sigh of relief, open my bag and take out my make-up. I catch sight of the dark circles under my eyes in the small mirror on the inside of my make -up bag and begin the task of making my face work-ready. To my right are three men smartly dressed in suits “Look at her” says one, “I know, why would you bother, I am how I am” says another. These men are talking quietly to each other and, I suspect, are unaware that I can hear them (I have freakishly good hearing). This quiet 20 minutes is my downtime for the day and I have no desire for an altercation, I’m shattered already and I’ve barely begun, but I am irritated by their comment.
As I carefully apply my blusher, I consider the mocking judgement of “look at her”, such a small comment implying so much. That I am lazy perhaps? Or vain? Maybe I am uncouth – how dare a lady apply her make-up in the presence of others? In the presence of men. I run a pencil over my eyebrows and wonder how many other women right in this moment are doing as I am, making up for work, hiding the circles that night feeds have created, sponging snot off the knees and shoulders of clothes that were clean on that day, licking a finger to remove a scuff, smoothing back baby hairs that still haven’t grown out post-partum. A process to become acceptable in the work place. To measure up to the pristine attire of those without young children, or to those for whom the responsibilities of night feeds and nursery runs do not fall.
I didn’t wear make-up on my maternity leave – I didn’t feel I needed it – but within days of returning it was obvious I needed it in work. My child is not a good sleeper. He is wonderful at practically everything else but sleeping alludes him (and so me). After a couple of weeks back I invested in some amazing (read: expensive) under-eye concealer and people stopped telling me how tired I looked all the time in work.
I apply highlighter to my check bones , under my eyebrows, the bridge of my nose and my cupid’s bow – a trick I have learned which makes me feel luminescent – I feel pretty. I use my fingers to blend the shimmer into my skin and feel that in that moment that I am treating myself. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference to me. I take my time. It may be my only time today. I mentally brush away the comments of the men in suits; why they felt the need to mention it, why what I put on my skin matters to them, how easy it seems to me that they do not feel the pressure to be made-up. They do not seem rushed or tired or disorganised, as I must seem. For a moment I allow myself to imagine commuter trains up and down the country and wonder if this same scene is playing out in them – the presumption, the judgement, the privilege. I question really how far we have come when it comes to equality. My thoughts are interrupted by the tannoy crackling to life – a voice tells me that the train will no longer be stopping at my destination and I realise that despite my best efforts I will still be late for work. And just like that my ‘me-time’ is over.
I am a working Mum and I don’t have time for this shit.
I step off the platform.
33 year old first-time mum muddling her way through one nappy change at a time. Lover of yoga, music, walking, roast dinners, cosy nights in and chocolate