Even in the week of International Women’s Day, 6.30-7.30pm is still f%$#! o’clock for every mother.
6.31 pm. Second child is wailing because her one designated packet of skittles from the school chocolate drive has run out. You will have to grieve until you are over it, I dispassionately explain while cursing chocolate drives. First born has stormed off into bedroom and is trashing something for effect, because she has been banned from her computer time by provoking second child to crescendo wail to ear-shattering screech.
6.33 pm. I am seeking the emotional distance of desktop parenting to balance out the physical distance of their other parent being at a late-night meeting. But let’s call him “Dad”, because “parent” is a utopian fantasy of mothers and fathers equally contributing such that they become non-gender specific.
6.37 pm. Small ones have sought the emotional distance of the second series of I Dream of Jeannie. Therein they can fully indulge the fantasy of being all powerful by making things like oh I don’t know, people, while remaining sweet tempered, retaining spectacular midriffs, and being endowed with eye-lashes of such battering power they can sweep away household detritus in a blink and call upon the armies of ancient civilizations.
6.41 pm. Dad’s ailing mother has rung to update on the bile-duct infection operation of Dad’s hospitalised father. The cat has p-ssed in the rice cooker, the unread readers are strewn on the floor, there are unsold malteser boxes, lost pyjama bottoms, not enough skittles in the world, and Major Nelson still won’t marry Jeannie.
6.41 and a half pm. My, time flies when you’re having fun. Now for the burning question you may well be asking because I sure as hell am: where is the man in question?
Depending on the number of domestic calamities accrued by Beep O’Clock, this very question might variously be muttered under my breath into the bubbling Bolognese, cast over my shoulder in the vague hope that it might smite someone who deserves it, or shrieked down the hallway at children making enough demands to overwhelm an entire village, let alone two “parents”. Two!
Whose idea was that? Another brilliant though self-destructing social formation coming to us from killing-us-softly, carbonaceous, industrialised capitalism.
I’ve come to suspect there is a veritable chorus of WHERE IS HE? — between 6.30pm and 7.30pm — hissed into switched off mobile phones. Not finding its mark this chorus instead makes its way like a toxic vapour through the gas outlets of every kitchen stove to relentlessly seep towards one bottomless and unchartered cavern of geosequestrated mothers’ rage. I muse if only we could harness that power for good like work-life balance, instead of evil like marriage breakdown.
6.47 pm. Hold that thought — the Bolognese is all boil and trouble.
6.58 pm. Waterlogged pasta and another burnt saucepan bottom to deal with. And all while I was about to raise a mothers’ army to seize control of the state and legislate first off for all “parents” to arrive home at a reasonable hour.
7.06 pm. Short of a mother’s revolution, while casting aspersions into my stove I have devised a truly revolutionary strategy. Perhaps we “parents” — I would say “mothers” but it would be unwarranted to be gender specific, wouldn’t it? Perhaps we “parents” of the scrubber-variety should go to these meetings too, with small wailing children in tow, their feet half into their pyjamas and their mouths whirring with dragon toothpaste. Perhaps right on the witching hour we should decamp to the serene and self-congratulatory ambience of late-night meetings, where those other “parents” of the suited variety action plan farewells and other weird rituals worthy of anthropological study.
Wouldn’t you scrubber-parents out there like to march right in vested in the truer authority of parents who manage chocolate drives (and thereby the basis of the public education system), and stand on the table (just to be contrary, fully-clothed), and give these suit-parents a shrewish earful why aren’t you at home with your families?
I mean, what is this business of holding meetings on weeknights? Someone out whoever started this trend, because I want to see him up against the wall clutching at the impotent armour of his dark grey suit. Then I want a reality TV show where mothers and children unceremoniously evict these late-night meeting moles from their cheese platter world of adult-child apartheid and return home to the women they elected to spend their lives with and the children they fathered, we thought, in more than one sense.
From this International Women’s Day on the domesticated demand that work-related activities take place in work hours should be fought and won.
Strictly Work Hours we could redub our kitchen-table revolution, the one dismantled in the 1980s by the false hopes of shattered glass ceilings and now awaiting a resurgence of mother alienation.
7.30 pm. We’re seeking the emotional proximity of cuddling up over stories.
The readers are still languishing on the floor and there’s nobody home but us mothers.