Thursday, 1 May 2008

A brief encounter

I had one of those encounters yesterday with another mum. We met in the pharmacist's where I was getting Tixylix Night Cough and she was collecting a prescription. Like me she has two children, one of whom is in the same class as Rosie. And she's a really, truly lovely person.

So we chatted, not having seen each other since I left mothers and toddlers two years ago. We did the usual: "Gosh she's grown" (me to her daughter) and "hello" (to her son, of whom, more later). And she, as everyone does, looked at my two and said: "Goodness, aren't they tall!" followed quickly by "gosh, they're really tall."

The school nurse did that recently too at Hannah's medical check up. The conversation went a little like this:

Nurse: "We're not worried about Hannah's height or weight."

Me: "No." (Thinks: "Who's 'we'?")

Nurse: "We're not worried about Hannah's height or weight."

Me: "No." ("Where is this conversation going?")

Nurse: "We're not worried about Hannah's height or weight."

Me: "No." Winning smile. ("Haven't we established this fact, like, twice already?" See, I get into a school, sit on a teeny chair and start thinking like a teenager.)

So she's tall. Whatever.

Anyway, back to the pharmacist's where I've abandoned the Tixy and Brian's paying for it while Hannah and Rosie try not to talk to the son, who as his mother admitted is "Very Busy".

Usually when a boy is described as "Busy" it means he's a complete and utter tearaway. This one was currently climbing the pharmacist's shelves, like Spiderman up a skyscraper, to retrieve a packet of children's vitamins.

"X. Stop it!" said his mother, then seeing what he'd climbed up to fetch, realised that, bright spark that he is, he'd got what she wanted anyway. X resumed his habitual expression of wide-eyed innocence.

"He's very intelligent," said I. (Thinking: "He's got the eyes of a psychopath.")

"Oh, yes, he's Very Busy," said his mum.

"So," she continued, "how are you finding it, with working and the children at school, all the juggling?"

"I don't work," I reminded her with a smile.

There was a pause, during which a blank look was directed my way. Her face composed itself into an interested expression while her brain went to work on the odd sequence of words. First it examined them carefully, then it translated them into Welsh to see if they looked any better that way, or perhaps made any more sense, then it rejected them as complete and utter nonsense.

After an infinitesimal pause she carried on chatting as if nothing untoward had been said and we parted on the usual friendly terms. As I said, she's an utterly lovely person, but one of those who cannot comprehend that there are people - other mums - 'out there' who don't work.

I went home feeling slightly jittery, as if I'd committed a terrible social faux pas.

Next time, perhaps, I'll just nod sagely and say: "Oh, you know..." and she'll roll her eyes and nod and sigh and say: "Oh, yes..." then we'll carry on to talk about tummy bugs exactly as we did yesterday.


  1. oh excellent PM, you describe it perfectly. Have been there most def (as mother with one particularly Busy Boy - and def the phrase I use to describe his entire class, of THIRTY FOUR!) Have the opposite with the height, though, a frown and a "he's very *small*"" - just what the puck am I meant to do - pop him on a rack?

  2. Yes yes that is exactly how it goes . . . been there too on all counts although in Robot Boy's case he was small and wouldn't eat . . .he is now a strapping lad over 6ft tall and taller than his sister who was always TALL . . . .

    Yup felt like the slime on someone's shoe - the conversation was usually 'what do you do? Or are you JUST a housewife?' When did the most important job on the planet get the word JUST prefixed to it.

  3. Strange thing - my comment seems to have been eaten...

    Was just saying, yes, completely relate to those strange non-sequeteur conversations with other mums at the chemists, and wonder whether there's a whole tribe of practice nurses who speak like that all the time. Even at breakfast...

  4. have just caught up with the last few of your blogs and loved the lambing one and we too loved Harry. There is a real gap between working and non-working mothers sadly. I had to work (single mum at that stage) when mine were at primary school and seemed to be the only one. I always felt a bit of a pariah amongst the other mothers, nothing was ever said but the assumption that my children were disadvantaged was palpable. Hi ho.

  5. Terrific stuff, beautifully put. I loved the exchange about the height, with the changes in emphasis.

  6. Mother of an unusually tall boy here too, everyone astonished as the sight of yet another pair of new school trousers at half-mast. Like Milla says, what are we meant to do? They're just like that. Everyone else needs to calm down and get over it!

  7. What's wrong with being tall and what are you supposed to do about it I mean if they would say ... is too heavy for his/her hight ok but what are you supposed to do about hight? are they jealous?
    And yes I am JUST a housewife too and know that abrupt change of topic when it comes to working or non working mums..

  8. Brilliant blog mags and you summed up the ma at home thing perfectly. I find I deliberately don't mention starting the business as I had years of this nonsense when I was 'merely' being a mother and am stubbornly proud of that job. Still the most important thing to me xx

  9. A full time mum is the most important job in the world. My lad was small and has stayed smaller than average but hey he is great and I never felt the need to stretch him. Taller/smaller!?

  10. Ooh, PM, (jumps up and down in excitement), I DON'T work AND don't have any kids as an excuse! But what am I saying - excuse? Don't work? Er...... mm, let me see....

    Making breakfast/hub's packed lunch/clearing up said breakfast/putting washing on/making bed (now it's only 8.30am), cleaning fires out and relaying/flick duster around and even quicker vacuum up of 3 white dogs worth of hairs/write shopping list/go shopping (oo, is that 10am yet - cuppa?). Then there's the ironing, gardening, cleaning bathroom, mopping floors, cooking blah blah. Don't work, my foot! Have you seen what live-in housekeepers get these days?........

    As you can tell (!), I get rattled when I feel the need to justify being at home, but apart from this blip I'm going through at the moment, which is confining me to the sofa with my leg up, I don't sit and watch daytime TV all day. I love being the chief homemaker and if I did have kids would love being a full-time mum. Society is going off the rails and I'm convinced its because we've lost perspective. There! Feel better now. Thank you!!xx


I am sorry to have to add word verification thing again but I keep getting spammed.