Work stress is nothing compared to being on nursery pick up! by Sue

Do you remember what working days were like before you became a working woman with children? The time the alarm went off was determined by when your first appointment was scheduled or how long it took you to get ready. Not any more!

[advert:mpu] Now my day starts at 5.30am with laundry, dryer, packed lunches, nursery day bag, shopping list… and about 15 minutes to shower and put on lipstick. The morning routine is timed to the minute – major drama when Charlotte needs the loo on the way out the door.

The working day used to allow me a visit to Starbucks, paying some bills, popping out to lunch. It didn’t matter, as I could work late until the project was done – and I was probably meeting friends or hubby after work anyway. Now it’s head down and don’t leave your desk – unless you are racing out to Tesco to get essentials… not too many, though, as you need to be able to carry them while running as you always seem to leave the office too late to be on time for nursery pick-up.

I also feel guilty that when I’m at work I’m resentful that I need to leave before I’m ready to, and then when I work late and get home after Charlotte is in bed I feel resentful that I have not seen her, or heard her chatter about her day, or put her to bed, and I will never have that day back.

My stress levels start when meetings are scheduled for 4pm. I have to run out the door at 5pm to be at the nursery by 6. Until you’ve been on child pick up duty you’ll probably think you know all about stress – think again! Being late for pick up is stress-max for three reasons: firstly, the guilt at being the last parent to arrive; secondly, your child is sitting in the Head’s office and the staff look at you as if you’re the most uncaring parent in the world (though Charlotte seems happy enough); and thirdly, the late fine is £1 a minute!

All afternoon the pressure levels start to rise. The clock is racing and the work load isn’t diminishing. Then you go into the Client meeting and it’s racing towards 5pm and it’s obvious that you can’t possibly finish in time. So at 5pm you stand up, shut your note pad and run out the door. No-one understands that “just 10 minutes more and we’re finished” can’t happen when you’re on pick-up duty.

So I run like a lunatic to the Tube, just make it, bound up the escalator in time to catch the train… and the doors are closed! I find the Guard and breathlessly ask him to open them and he says “Sorry Luv, have to get the next one in six minutes”. At this point I turn into a completely irrational middle-aged hormonal woman and start shouting that he’s a bloody jobs-worth and that thanks to him I’m late for pick-up and my child once again thinks she’s been abandoned. By the time I get to my station, my stomach is so tense I want to kill anyone who gets between me and the station exit. I have half a mile to cover in four minutes wearing heels, carrying my Tesco’s shopping and with a full bladder.

So I run as fast as possible, shouting at people to get out the way, bright-red in the face and sweating. I arrive three minutes late, and once again I am the last parent and I can’t even apologise as I am so out of breath. I just want to cry.

I’ve recently managed to slightly reduce the stress levels by cycling to work. The Guard at the Tube station must be delighted.

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