'Managing the merge' is a more proactive phrase for us working mothers, it's like being Miss Rabbit on Peppa Pig
22:06 GMT, 10 October 2012
Listen up working mothers, the thorny subject of ‘having it all’ has finally been given a new name. From now on comrades you may refer to our ‘struggle to juggle’ as ‘managing the merge’.
The working mum crisis has been rebadged for the Facebook generation by Silicon Valley executive and mother Emily White.
She coined this phrase in an interview for a new book called The End Of Men (don’t ask, I’m too exhausted to tackle that proposition here. ‘That ain’t never going to happen,’ as my ten-year-old is so fond of saying).
Miss Rabbit to the rescue: The Peppa Pig character knows how to 'manage the merge' from flying helicopters to working as a dentist
Anyway, let’s be clear, this snappy new phrase does not refer to what happens in your washing machine when some idiot leaves a blue school sock in the white wash and everything merges into a grey bundle of unloved undies (although in my darker moments I do sometimes feel like a pair of unloved grey undies).
The phrase refers to the way women who choose to work and raise families fit everything they do into a 24-hour period, creating a jumble of work and home life, which is actually rather like a pile of tangled washing.
So ‘managing the merge’ goes something like this: when the little fellas have gone to bed (after you have diligently read them stories and made them brush their teeth) you crack on with finishing a work project in the evening.
Or once they start sleeping through to a reasonable hour in the morning, you start getting up an hour earlier to fit in all the work you didn’t get done the night before due to the ever-elongated story reading and patience-testing debate about teeth cleaning.
And then in your lunch hour at work you don’t have time to actually eat lunch because you need to fill in those endless school forms for clubs, activities, trips and reply to all the PTA emails explaining you can’t come to coffee mornings/open days during the week because you’ve got to go to work.
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Everything in your day merges into everything else as you try to fulfil two roles: employee (or employer in a few rare cases) and mother.
It’s not about balance any more, trying to equalise the work-life versus domestic-life diaries, because everything is blurred into one. Today, you’re doing both at the same time.
I much prefer ‘managing the merge’ to ‘having it all’, because ‘having it all’ implied women were being greedy to assume they could be mothers and have careers. And that is not the case. No one refers to men as ‘having it all’, do they
‘Managing the merge’ is more positive, more proactive. It’s like being Miss Rabbit on Peppa Pig.
What, you haven’t heard of Miss Rabbit How the hell have you been educating/entertaining/inspiring your children then Rastamouse and Postman Pat are Lady Gaga to Peppa Pig’s Madonna quite frankly.
Anyway, I digress. Miss Rabbit is Peppa Pig’s TV co-star: she flies the rescue helicopter, works on the supermarket checkout and is also occasionally the town’s dental nurse.
Her merge-managing skills are unparalleled and that’s how it feels as I rattle through the day ricocheting like a pinball from meeting to harvest festival to open day and back to meeting again.
At the weekend, my five-year-old contracted chicken pox. On Monday, he insisted on being taken to school despite me pointing out that, unless his teacher was wearing a balaclava backwards, she’d notice the 23 spots on his face.
He is the only child in London I know who demands to go to school despite being sick (peculiar, and evidence he was clearly accidentally swapped at birth with the child of a more academic mother).
We’d been up all night, me gradually applying almost a whole tube of ViraSoothe at 1am, 3am and 5am.
Of course, that Monday I had probably the most important meeting of my 30-year career in media.
My husband and I operated a tag-team of sickbed duties as I ran between the office, the chemist and the lounge.
There was a moment when I feared I might apply the anti-itch cream to a senior executive from the American arm of our company or shout ‘stop scratching them’ at anyone who moved during my presentation, but I didn’t.
I managed the merge. The pox is under control and I haven’t been fired. And so it continues.
Lorraine Candy is editor in chief of Elle magazine.