Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Imperial Digger Museum

You know when people tell you not to worry about something until it happens? Well, sometimes they're right. (Only sometimes, mind.) Last week's destination was a trip to the Imperial War Museum (triggered by collective parental guilt about our lack of knowledge about the Battle of Britain after a visit to Louis' great-grandpa). I figured we'd able to do a quick crash course, while Louis amused himself looking at an aeroplane or two and wandering through the trenches. What I hadn't figured was what I'd tell him the museum was all about. After all, war is a tough concept for anyone to grasp, let alone a two year old.

But as it turned out, I needn't have fretted. Louis took one look at the giant caterpillar tracks on the tanks dotted throughout the ground floor and said: "Diggers!" After that, it was just a question of dragging him away from them long enough to find the Second World War exhibit. Which we did, but only after walking through the replica trenches at least six times. (Again, concerns that he might be scared by the dark, like a fellow toddler who was inconsolable after her parents tried to take her in, were pointless; he adored them, mainly because we had to walk on the "train track" because of all the mud....) Only Louis would watch a black-and-white film of the Blitzkrieg through France twice over because he was waiting for the German Panzer digger brigade to reappear.

The only disappointment was that you can't actually climb into any of the diggers, sorry, tanks, although you can walk through the nose of one of the bomber planes and explore a submarine. And that he didn't give us quite long enough to atone for years of ignorance about the finer points of the Battle of Britain. So instead, I wrote a comment piece about it for the Indy on Sunday, which you can read here if you'd like. And no doubt we'll back at the Imperial War Museum soon enough, if only on another "digger" hunt.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Having it all

So, it's official. As a working mum I can give myself a pat on the back for making the right decision and not staying with Louis 24/7 because he'll turn out the same either way. Or I could if I had a hand free. Because as a working mum, as everyone knows, "hands" and "free" aren't exactly sentiments that go together. Which is why any sane person grabs every bit of help that they can, whether it's the odd extra hour of childcare courtesy of some very kind grandparents or the ultimate luxury of a fortnightly cleaner (doesn't ask what the house looks like on day 13).

Or at least they do, if they're anyone but Emma Thompson. The actor and mother-of-two decreed this week (ironically via a publicity interview for her latest Nanny McPhee film) that working and mummying don't mix - unless you have a household full of staff to do the dirty work for you. Which was a timely dig at all those supermum celebrities who neglect to mention their back up when they preach about the effortless joys of being a mother (naming no names, Gisele-breastfeeding-should-be-law-for-six-months-Bundchen or Angelina Jolie). Weighing into the debate about how people's working lives just aren't working for a lot of women, Thompson claimed she never wanted to "delegate the running" of her house to others so that she could forge ahead with her career.

I applaud her sentiment but I'm heartily sick of the likes of her trying to pretend that their lives remotely resemble the wider populace. And I don't believe for a minute that she cleans her own toilet. Or mops her kitchen floor. And I resent her implication that she does. (I also resent the fact that I, like millions of other people, try somehow and see parallels between my own life and the rich and famous, but that's hardly her fault.)

It would have been more useful if Thompson had made more of the fact that she hadn't had her biological child until she was 41 to point out the ludicrousness of the situation that means any ambitious women out there feel they have to prove themselves in the workplace before allowing themselves the chance to have a family. Now that we'll all be working well past our dotage, isn't it time that someone pointed out it makes vastly more sense for women to have children in their 20s and then hit the world of work in their mid-30s, when, let's face it, they'll still have a good 40 years toil minimum ahead of them.

Perhaps that way we could move on from the debate about whether working mums are or aren't the devil's spawn. And women really could have it all.