In the playground recently, whilst waiting for our children, a mummy (hereafter referred to as “Working Mummy”) asked me how my work was going. I explained that I don’t work and she said, “Oh, but you have a babysitter don’t you?”

There was something about her tone that made me respond with a “Since having my fourth baby and moving country, I haven’t gone back to work. My fourth child (did I mention I have four children) is still a baby. When I used to work part time, I was working a full time load in fewer (and longer days) for lesser pay. The family and I are just not ready for that yet.”

She responded with a “Yes, my job was like that but you quickly learn to…” At which point our children came running out and thankfully prevented her from presumably teaching me how to manage my work-life balance. Her son launched himself into her arms and would not stop hugging her. My son, Secundo, has been playing it cool lately and acknowledged me for long enough to hand me his bag – moving me down what felt like a Mummy Hierarchy from “Mummy Who Stays At Home and Still Needs Help” to “Mummy Whose Children Are Not Interested In Her” which I think is somewhere above “Deadbeat Mummy” and “Criminally Negligent Mummy” but apparently still way below “Working Mummy”.

I used to be Working Mummy and my life, like many parents who work part time (or any time) involved:  

  • carrying trainers in my handbag so I could run to meetings, often sprinting down the corridor past a friend who would hold out a coffee for me to grab as I would rush to the next meeting (this was my own version of the London Marathon);
  • drinking too much industrial strength coffee, not having time to wee and subsequently having to drink industrial strength cranberry juice;
  • reading and responding to my Blackberry on the toilet;
  • eating Mars Bars for lunch because I could chew them faster than Snickers (it’s the nuts that slow you down) between meetings;
  • starting work at 7am and leaving work at 5pm sharp (I would just pick up my stuff in the middle of a meeting, give a jaunty, highly caffeinated wave and walk out) so I could see my children, read with them, put them to bed and then log on to work from home; and
  • waking up at 5am with a rush of adrenaline remembering all the things I could not possibly do in a 3 – 4 day week.

It also involved picking up the “spillover” on my days “off”.

Last week Working Mummy needed help with a pick up so I offered to bring her son home. When she arrived after work we chatted and I said that I would be happy to help her if she was ever in a bind as we were often home. To which she said, “That’s right, you don’t work do you?”

What happened next wasn’t pretty. I basically name dropped my professional CV in 45 seconds. I used words like human rights, justice and systemic social change, prefacing everything with global and international. I don’t actually know what any of those words mean any more. I just felt – for the first time in 8 years of being a mummy and 13 years of being a lawyer – that I needed to justify my current (non) work choice (and privilege) by setting out the credentials of my past working achievements.

In retrospect, I am ashamed that I needed to boast about a vocation that I have only ever felt fortunate and humble to be a part of. And I wonder why I felt compelled to name drop my professional CV instead of my personal one. My personal CV would cite key competencies such as:

  • strong strategic thinker – capable of hiding grated zucchini in any curry (that’s so that Husband eats his vegetables);
  • preternatural endurance and stamina – able to withstand considerable whingeing and sleep deprivation before breaking down and crying like a baby;
  • physically agile – able to convert my body into a human vibrating baby chair by rhythmically pulsating my one remaining abdominal muscle (I have 4 speeds);
  • deeply intuitive (possibly psychic) – able to locate Tercero’s blue Bakugan at any time of the day or night; and
  • persuasive communicator – able to mediate irrational arguments, lie to loved ones on my feet and silence small children with a “If you don’t stop fighting I’m going to give that Wii to charity.”

It just didn’t feel like enough but it should be.

Prima recently asked me when I had to go back to work. Secundo, ever logical answered for me and said “When we run out of money.” Prima responded with a “Mummy, I wish you had ten children, so you could never go back to work. You could stay at home with us forever.” 

And suddenly, I felt like I’d been promoted.


About Shankari Chandran

Six years ago we returned home from London to Sydney with our four young children and life has been chaos and comfort chocolate ever since.
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18 Responses to My CV

  1. Tara says:

    You dont need to justify your choices to anyone! And had every right to name drop your CV to “Working Mum”. Loved this post Shank.

  2. Jade Warne says:

    Forget Mars Bars. Instant miso soup is my weapon of choice – no chewing at all! I’m ashamed to admit I love being in the office because it’s WAY EASIER THAN LOOKING AFTER WINNIE. There my secret is out. I didn’t know I could enjoy my morning latte AND be lording it over those much harder working, physically agile, preternaturally patient stay-at-home mums too. Don’t let the loaded comments get to ya Shanks. You’re a champ and she knows it.

    • Thanks Jade. xx You can buy instant Miso soup? That’s almost as good as the instant brownies (from Coles) that I have been passing off as home-baking. Oh to be able to finish my coffee in peace again. xx

  3. Reema says:

    Loved what your kids said and what you are doing for them is far more important than working…… I once heard somewhere that kids raised by their mums vs nannies grow up to be more secure…… You are doing a wonderful job……

  4. Tammy says:

    Hmmmm. What an obnoxious person. She apparently feels incredibly guilty about not staying home with her little wonderchild and decided to take it out on you. Boo. How special for YOUR kids that you have the ability to stay home with them. And by the by, if you go for the miniature Snickers bars, you can cram the whole thing at once and not worry about the nuts getting in the way. Still jogging the halls. 🙂 love you–and miss you tons.

  5. Hey y’all (that greeting is for my lovely lady in DC), thank you so much for your responses. What I really wanted to say to this lady is:

    “Whether I am working or not working or doing a combination of both, my head is always just above the water so cut me some slack girlfriend.

    I don’t judge women who make different choices, I just envy them nicely because the grass often seems easier on the other side, even though I’ve been there and my rational brain, when not so profoundly sleep deprived, reminds me that it is not.

    I think ultimately it’s not whether you are working or not working (for money) or doing a bit or a lot of both that matters to our kids. It’s the love and effort we put into them and the example we set for them as they go from being children to adults in a difficult world.

    I recognise the enormous privilege of not having to work at the moment, and I know that in the future I will be returning to it. I want to (although not just yet – that being a whole other interior monologue or perhaps blog post).

    So for now I am keeping my head above choppy waters and Husband, my family, friends and a mega-sized block of dark chocolate are my life jacket. So again, in case you didn’t hear me the first time, cut me some goddamn slack.”

    Of course I didn’t think of that at the time….xx

  6. Clare says:

    Women like this should be kicked – v bad behaviour on her part – clearly super insecure. Wonderful post and namedropping cv not nearly as mean as I might have been!

    • duckformationfamily says:

      That’s because your CV is so awesome girlfriend (sorry, I’m still channelling Oprah this morning). Couldn’t I just name drop yours vicariously? xx

  7. PK says:

    I know I sound like a broken record, but I just LOVE your blog – oh how I can relate…
    Those who make us feel like we have to recite our professional CVs (and then feel guilty for having recited out professional CVs) to defend against the “just a stay at home mum” tag have a lot to answer for. Thank you for listing your personal CV – I have a similar one, and have not given myself much credit for it lately…
    BTW – her son may have launched himself into her arms, but I betcha he wasn’t wearing a kindergarten chess champion medal! (way to go Secundo!!)

    • He was so proud it was hard to take it off him (three days later…). How many speeds does your tummy have? I suspect you have more speeds than my 4, as you definitely have more stomach muscles (than my 1)! x

  8. Jodhpurs says:

    Shanks, your CV should read ‘remarkable woman’.

  9. MotherR says:

    “moving me down what felt like a Mummy Hierarchy”
    You have this topsy-turvy. Your child is secure enought to play cool and her child is a clingy one because he feels insecure. That wasn’t undying love; that was a manifestation of a stage of bonding that was missed and can never be made up for. And this is not about whether you work or do not work. It is because of your attitude to being a mother (or just the way you ARE a mother) compared with hers. The working or not working is more likely to be a consequence of the style of mother in the first place, not the other way around. And I don’t mean that everyone has a choice about whether they need to work for money or any other reason – I’m talking about a different level entirely.

    Is it time to move to a different spot in the playground?

    • duckformationfamily says:

      Thank you very much MotherR, both for your comment and for reading my blog. I hadn’t thought of it as a sign of Secundo’s security and I think I shall enjoy my (new) spot in the playground a lot more with that in mind. x

  10. Cutepiggy says:

    Your “physically agile” comment had me laughing hysterically, thank you :o) I’ve just discovered your blog and like it already

    • duckformationfamily says:

      Hey there, thank you very much for reading my blog! It’s been a long and tiring day and you’ve made my night. x

  11. bec says:

    i have giggled my way thru this post! thanks so much for the laugh, i love your style (newly discovered your blog!)…….

    i totally sympathise though, it is tough in “adult social situations” when you are asked the question ‘so, what do you do?’….i inwardly cringe before answering…..stay at home mum, sounds so unglamorous….(and it is so alien to anyone who has no kids!!!) but, after going back to work after child 1,2, and 3! (it’s tough) i am NOT going back now (after no.4) no way! i am loving not having to juggle… life, babysitters, work commitments, switching hats! and in a way that has surprised me, i am loving life! i always thought i’d work… due to an “i can do it all” attitude, but admitting to myself that i can’t and don’t have to is wonderful!!! motherhood is so much more rewarding than any career! and more important!!

    look forward to reading more posts in the future!!

    • duckformationfamily says:

      Thank you so much bec! I especially love hearing from other mums of four and it sounds like we have both made the same transition. I returned to work after the first three and this is the first time (after no. 4) that I have chosen to stay home. I know I’m luck to have the opportunity to choose, and given the pace of life when I returned to work after the other three, this feels right for me right now. What is it about us and that “I can do it all” attitude? there is another blogpost in that one i feel! xxx

  12. Hi again

    I was thinking about this post, particularly when watching I don’t know how she does it. As a single childless woman, i applaud the mothers out there – in paid employment or employed solely by their children. It must be a huge juggling act.

    But I also think that so many of us – with kids and without – have our own juggling acts to manage. Some by choice and others by genetics.

    I juggle a chronic illness – a severe skin condition – with full time work, freelance writing, masters degree, tv presenting, house chores and a social life. (And yes some of those things I do are by choice.) I’ve got friends who spend hours at the hospital receiving treatment for their illnesses, and also balance work and home commitments.

    I think everyone has a Non professional CV. The amount of times I’ve addressed the ‘negotiating with difficult people’ selection criteria with my examples of fending off stares and comments about my appearance from strangers is too many to count.

    I hope that without sounding preachy, I have portrayed my thoughts about us all having to juggle.

    I think mothers – and fathers – get judgement no matter what option they choose, and only they will know what’s best. It sounds like you’re doing a great job with your kids, and having fun too!

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