LORRAINE CANDY: I’ve been away from my children so long, I keep wanting to beg strangers to let me sniff their babies
As you know, I’ve been working away and Mr Candy has been holding the fort at home.
I’ve been revelling in the luxury of going to the loo on my own, and the extravagance of sleeping all night in the middle of a bed (instead of gripping the edge of the mattress, half-awake, as a child wriggles against the small of my back), while Mr C’s done four bath/lunch/dinner times alone.
He’s been honing his crowd-control skills considerably, as well as bracing himself for the ‘returning-matriarch-mood-cyle’.
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It’s always a tempestuous re-entry, which predictably goes something like this.
Stage One: Homing Mum’s flight is delayed for four hours.
This induces such desperation to see her children that tearful mother is left red-faced after being caught sniffing the head of a small baby in a fellow passenger’s buggy.
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On the inside she’s wailing, ‘I’m begging you just to let me kiss his perfect feet, squeeze his gorgeous chubby thighs. Have pity! I haven’t seen my miniatures for four days — surely you understand’
Stage Two: It’s too late to kiss her own offspring goodnight.
She stomps through the front door, hair like a character from Fraggle Rock by this point, and quickly scans the debris on the kitchen table in the manner of Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi critically surveying a poorly-dusted headboard.
She clocks the half-finished homework immediately and wonders where the baby’s right shoe is, since the left one’s in the sink. And what’s the dog chewing
She’s in an emotional spin-cycle that’s out of her control, on a roller-coaster of fury powered by the disappointment of missing her children’s bedtime deadline due to airline incompetence.
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She’s sped way past the stage where a cup of tea and a Hobnob will sort things out, straight to the One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest stage, where a tranquilliser administered with a dart gun is probably the best treatment.
At this point, Mr Candy asks something as downright subversive and reckless as ‘how was your flight’
Despite his usual quiet acceptance that he married an unpredictable and unreasonable woman, he remains curiously untroubled by the mental instability caused when his working wife is separated from the family.
As he waits for an answer, an outside observer would conclude from one look at his wife that his best option now is to spontaneously combust.
But then Stage Three creeps up on everyone unexpectedly, as the fury dissolves and sadness occupies the room. There are tears, of course.
Working mum: Elle magazine's editor-in-chief, Lorraine Candy
This always catches Mr Candy by surprise. If he goes away to work, the re-entry mood-cycle is simple: ‘I went away, now I am back. Bit of a delay but, hey, life continues. Simples.’
Why can’t I do that I want to see the children the minute I get back, and when my plans are thwarted by accidental delays and I realise it’ll be another ten hours before I can pull them so close they’re gasping for breath, the disappointment is over-whelming. Unbearable.
I can’t wake them up on a school night, so I am left at the centre of a quiet storm in an untidy kitchen, reflecting on another troubled return to base camp.
Perhaps it’s caused by the loss of control I feel when I go away. Perhaps it’s because I’m denied the immediate opportunity to physically prove they are still alive and unharmed when I come back.
Mothers who work outside the home spend, on average, just one hour 21 minutes a day looking after their families – including meal times
Maybe I feel a maternal failure for having to rely on my husband to play an equal part in a domestic routine which I usually oversee in the manner of a military dictator.
Is it possible some working mums have a strategy to deal with the instant switch from office mum to domestic mum, which I have yet to discover
Whatever the reason, I find it’s becoming more and more difficult to effect a reasonably calm and collected return home as the four children grow up.
This is a mystery, because my job as the editor of a glossy magazine means I’ve been travelling to ‘The Fashions’ (as one editor’s four-year-old calls the biannual catwalk shows) for ten years. I should be used to going away by now.
But as one friend pointed out: when you have children, you decide for ever that you are going to love someone else so much it hurts. And the bigger they get, the more you love them.
So this working mum thing isn’t getting easier as they get older, which I thought maybe it would. Truth is, it’s getting harder.
Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine.