At a time of year when mums can start to feel seriously frazzled and nobody seems to listen, is there anything to be gained from staging a walkout, wonders Emma Bartley?
Do you ever think about going rogue? I’m not talking about shouting at your mother-in-law or locking yourself in the bathroom with the wine. I mean getting so fed up with fighting a losing battle over everything from what the kids eat for dinner to whether the floor is there to be used as a storage area that you start employing guerrilla tactics instead. Naturally, I’ve never considered anything of the kind because my home is nothing but order and harmony, but a good friend of mine recently revealed that she had become so frustrated by her partner getting home from work later and later that she decided to go AWOL one morning.
“I’d tried begging him to get home on time, asking if there was a problem and explaining how difficult it was for me to get the kids into bed by myself,” she says. “He’d listen and apologise, but he kept arriving five minutes later each day until he was regularly arriving after they were all asleep. What really made me angry was that he never said sorry for being late or gave a reason why, he’d just send a text announcing he was going to be late.” I know that my friend is exaggerating when I ask if she worried he was having an affair and she replied that she “couldn’t give a s*** as long as he does it on his own time", but there is a grain of truth in it. After a day at home with my own kids I am watching the clock fairly closely for my husband to get back and take over for a bit so I can get 20 minutes to myself. I don’t do anything exciting with it – tidy up, make the dinner, very occasionally exercise – but I’m not responsible for anyone.
So I understood why she staged a walkout one morning, getting everyone breakfast and leaving the house without a word. “It wasn’t even a hot-headed move,” she tells me. “I’d tried everything else and it hadn’t worked, so I gave him a taste of his own medicine.” In half an hour at her local coffee shop, she missed four calls from her partner, who was due to leave for work and had no clue if she was ever coming back. “I knew the kids were too little to freak out so I just let him stew. My morning latte has never tasted so good as it did with a side order of revenge!”
Because she’s a good mother (and partner) my friend went back before her family’s day was actually disrupted, but the scare she’d given her boyfriend obviously had some effect, because he came home an hour early that night and cleared the air with what we in the trade call a vigorous debate* about who did what at home. She was embarrassed when she first told me about it, feeling that it showed her marriage was dysfunctional. Yet I’m impressed by how much calmer she seems, and the penny seems finally to have dropped for her partner that she needs more support.
In fact, it got me thinking, should mums go rogue more often? With three out of four people in my house using the floor as storage, I sometimes recall when I was a kid and my mum would go around putting things in the bin if they weren’t in their correct home. It’s not my nicest memory but the house was neeeeeeat. What would happen if I went out drinking all night while my husband waited at home? Or sent the kids to bed hungry when they whined that “I don’t want thaaaaat” for dinner? Or answered elderly relatives’ requests for “Christmas wishes” with the truth: “I wish you hadn’t voted for Brexit”?
It is said that the supermodel Kate Moss’s motto is “Never explain, never apologise”. Given that she’s one of the most successful working mums in the world, I wonder if she is on to something there. Certainly it seems unlikely that she needs to cajole and plead with her family every time she wants to leave the house. I’m not seriously considering going on strike, as in Sue Townsend’s The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year. There’s just too much to do, and ultimately I love my family and I want to be with them (most of the time). But when the people around you can’t be reasoned with, maybe it isn’t the worst thing in the world to snatch what you need every now and then.