Wednesday turned out to be a brilliant short film of my life entitled “21st Century Woman Tries to Do It All: Managing the Interior Voices”. It began with a who-knows-what-time wake up with a newborn baby, feeding whilst making a to do list of all the things I needed to do in order to leave the house in more than just my underwear on an app on my smartphone (because it’s the 21st century and with two small children I don’t have enough hands free to use a pen or hold a piece of paper still or enough memory to be able to remember to pack the nappy bag or get dressed). This was quickly followed by an argument with my husband about domestic responsibilities:
Him: “Zis ‘ouse will never be clean” (ee eez French)
Me: (in hysterical out burst, waving a copy of The Feminine Mystique at him) “The whole point of moving here was so that we would have more space to allow for a bit more mess! All I do all day is clean and tidy and it’s not that bad and we need to relax a bit more and why do we have such high expectations of everything and I need to go and see the government now!”
Him: “Eet wasn’t a blame…”
Turns out the DfE are not “the government” and my husband is not a patriarchal oppressor trapping me in the home but I am very tired and we have a toddler so it’s true that our house is a mess all the time.
I spent the commute to “the government” catching up on January’s #MTPTchat about shared parental leave and ‘liking’ all the comments about mothers trying to do everything and not letting their partners be involved and having ingrained expectations of their roles as domestic caretakers. “This is so me” I thought as I ‘liked’ and then remembered that I had to talk to the government and should probably get off Twitter and make sure I knew what I was going to say (remember the Parent Memory Loss syndrome? Not a myth).
Somehow we (new baby Lucie and I) made it to St James on time and met MTPT team member, Lucy, which was very exciting as the current MTPT Project team are a bit like a six-way Superman: we have never actually been in the same room as each other at the same time*. Once we found the Sanctuary Buildings we were treated very well by the DfE staff who had organised the event who had gone out of their way to do so many things on this list of family-friendly tips for CPD providers.
The roundtable was chaired by Roger Pope of the NCTL and Minister Nick Gibb attended in the morning, mostly (I am sure) so that he could get a cuddle and photo opp with Lucie. A lot of what was presented by the DfE Analysts and Policy team is yet to be published but rest assured I made an appropriate number of (possibly) relevant MTPT Project-type comments and asked pertinent questions (I think) whilst Lucie had the most mammoth feed and then did my presentation once she had gorged herself into unconsciousness and I had probably flashed my tit to the immediate vicinity. Ah! The dignity of new motherhood.
Thankfully, I remembered to put my tit away before presenting so everyone was fascinated by our infographic, not my boob. Now, I’ve been talking about all of these statistics for a good six months but there’s something about little people icons that everyone finds compelling. Top advice: if you want people to pay attention to research, present them in gingerbread man format in bright colours with a fun font and round complicate figures up and down. You lose some of the subtlety and nuance of very large and complex issues but you can explain all of this to your audience once you’ve hypnotised them with a stick man running out of a door with a briefcase. I explained what The MTPT Project was doing to address the issues on the infographic, included some fun pictures of babies at CPD events from Twitter, some speech bubbles of nice things people have said about us and our supporters’ logos. You can view the slides on our Facebook page.
Everyone was very nice about the presentation but I am buzzing along at about 40% power at the moment, which is like when the battery icon on your phone goes yellow half way through the day so you close all your apps and spend the lunch break asking if anyone has a charger and hunting for a plug socket. All my apps, other than the Survival App, shut down once I’d done my presentation and as this is not my first baby rodeo, I made a beeline for the sandwiches before Lucie woke up and pinned me to a chair. Oh, how I envy those efficient women who have figured out sling feeding. I tried it once with Hugo and exposed myself to a full platform at Wimbledon station, much to my husband’s horror – or delight – difficult to tell with the French. But those sling-feeders! They must just get so much done!
Limited networking abilities is one of the down sides of bringing a baby to an event, but if they’re not crying/ pooping/ puking and the other attendees understand that boobs are objects of pleasure for babies in a different way to the opposite (or sometimes same) sex, then it’s surprising how many people are drawn towards you and even wait until you’ve opened up your Social Etiquette app and noticed them instead of staring blankly into the distance on survival mode. Thus, some wonderful lunch time chats were had with some very interesting people who had titles like ‘Chair of…’ and ‘Director of…’ I had no imposter syndrome though because amongst my titles are ‘Feeder of Baby’ and ‘Changer of Bums’ and ‘Director of Projectile Vomit’.
After lunch, we did more roundtable discussing about some of the issues and information that had been presented in the morning and finally sat back down again to summarise and commit to actions inspired by the day. By this point, I was comfortably slipping into the 20% remaining power and may have leaned back with a warm baby on my chest and put my feet up a little bit as I listened to people articulately and passionately consolidate the discussions before remembering that I was at the government and sitting up to try to look professional and serious again.
Then, at about 14:45, I grabbed Lucy (team member) by the arm.
Me: (in horrified stage whisper) “It has only just occurred to me that…”
Lucy: (with parent-telepathy) “… you have to pick up Hugo?”
Me: “At 4pm. Omg. I actually forgot I had another child.”
I sat for a few tense minutes wondering whether to text my husband in an urgent panic but felt GUILTY (see above paragraphs on the insanity of mothers). This ‘doing it all in the 21st century’ malarky requires a great deal more organisation and sleep than I may ever be capable. I tried to ignore the melodramatic, sobbing voice in my head demanding what type of mother would forget about the existence of her firstborn child because she was so busy taking a baby into this man’s world of government, and instead tried to figure out what the women in ‘Made in Dagenham’ would do. Thankfully, the meeting ended shortly afterwards, and we are also not living in the 1960s and I have become quite good at patting this internal voice on the back and saying ‘there, there’ patiently, whilst not really listening to what she is saying. On the way home, we even had time for Coffee After Midday, if memory serves me right, pulled me sufficiently out of the realms of yellow battery icon to engage in Playmobil animal games and read ‘Peace At Last’ at least, I don’t know, seventeen thousand times before bedtime.
For me, there were two key professional learning points to take from the day: the first was the issues of diversity that impact the students, teachers and leaders in our schools and what more I can do to address these issues and improve the pastoral and moral education of the students within my care. The second was how to chair a large meeting effectively. I was fortunate enough to be sitting very close to Roger Pope and so could see his notebook and so picked up on lots of little tips like how to ask people to move on politely, how to yield the power of lunch time to keep to agendas and writing down everyone’s name in a seating plan and putting dots next to them when they speak to ensure everyone gets a go.
*whilst all being bonafide, business-carded team members