Losing my high-flying career job a couple of years ago threw up some problems for me; namely what the hell was I was going to with my life and how the hell was I going to pay an astronomical mortgage that had been bought on a whim 6 yeas previous. It was a struggle, plain and simple. I’ve had to learn about the simple things in life and forget all about the latest designer must-haves. And when I feel like I’ve been wandering slightly in an unknown fashion wilderness or that I need to remind of the shockingly hallow (I mean fabulous) existence I once had, why, all I need to do is open my revolving storage closet that is home to about €60k worth of designer clothes, bags and shoes.
Losing my job, my career, my identify and my lifestyle certainly threw up a couple of curve balls. I decided to change career completely – print is dead and I wanted to get out before I had to watch a ship I liked actually go down, and anyhow, I was finding myself slightly jaded from jigsawing magazines together. When you realise you can do it with your eyes closed and you catch yourself thinking could you cog your own work from a previous year, then you know it really is time to move on. But to what?
A friend suggested Montessori Teaching – I’m a small-child-magnet, no one understands or can explains why – and I found I liked the idea. The astronomical drop in salary didn’t bother me, I took to Montessori like a fish to water and soon realised I was born to impart as much knowledge as I could to my fantastically interested and clever bunch of 3-6 year olds. They rock, if the truth be known. But the Celtic Tiger mortgage is still hanging round my neck, just waiting for an opportunity to strangle me with the handle of one of my Gucci bags, like the most perfect example of living beyond your means. Part-time childminding seemed the obvious answer. I could work my own hours, I knew enough yummy-mummies looking to offload their babies so they could hit Brown Thomas on a regular basis to keep me going and in fact, the real-life, shocking experiences produced invaluable – and hysterical – material for my course work. If I combined college, kids and magazines – always making sure to keep three very separate to-do lists – it might work.
Minding someone else’s kids for a living is a real eye opener. Children are shockingly honest, if they like you they let you know; if they don’t, you get the 4-year-old version of being blackballed.
The obvious downsides are the regular – and painful – headbutts, never ever being able to go to the bathroom on your own, constantly smelling of banana, or yogurt or creamed cauliflower, having to strip off entirely when you go home because even your knickers have chocolate or paint prints on them, and trying to come up with different answers to ‘but why’ at least 200 times per day.
As well as entertain the headbutting, bullet-proof baby, I also have a 4-year-old who really believes she’s a princess, and talks to everyone according. She is also my Montessori muse so we might spend a quality 2 hours every day making an entire ‘forest glade’ scene, complete with the weather, baby birds, a magical lake with frogs and lily-pads, and a great big old tree, that grows all sorts of flowers and fruit. I’ve taught her how to read and write, how to count, how it interact with her peers and how to communicate.
A weird one for me to experience initially was the ‘school gate’ situation in that I’m not a mother, but I sure as hell ain’t an au pair either. I’m in the same age group as most of the mums and have met several of them on social ocassions. One of the children is my godchild, so I guess you could say I’ve been a fairy godmother presence for a few years now. The mothers I meet at the school I immediately place into one of 3 categories; the yummy-mummy who loves her kids but loves her lifestyle more; the working mum who’s trying to provide everything she never had; and the bored-obsessive mummy who doesn’t have a job, won’t introduce her kids to anything that resembles pop culture and is slowing going insane, trying to create the perfect-parent image. Which, incidentally, doesn’t exist. From a not-done-it-yet perspective, I’d imagine the key is marrying late, having one or (at the very most) two children only and always trying to remember why you’re together in the first place. Yeah, him! After all, there’s no point despising someone now that you’re going to have to hang out with in your sixties, when your baby rocks off to college. Which he will.
The upsides of part-time childminding have been the newly found love, I guess.
'We love you Ash'
Not just from the headbutting maniacs but the long term stuff too. Like when one of them was drawing me recently and put a lot of effort into getting my “big, happy smile” just perfect, or the artwork that litters my fridge; drawings of happy scenarios that include me – how on earth could I throw those out? Or being told by a 3-year-old that you’re their best friend in the whole world, and the only person they tell their secrets too.
There’s been additions to my long term adult friendships too; I have gate-mum friends that I go for walks and drink desinger coffee with too, and they allow me a riviting eye-opener into a lifestyle I’m not quite ready to sign on for. Gate-mums are the same everywhere I would imagine, unless you’re lucky enough to work the school gate with my new BFF, Ger.
A working scientist, a yummy-mummy, a fun-times enthusiast and someone who believes she married her soulmate, my BFF is interesting, intelligent, funny and beautiful. We have a shared love of red wine, chocolate, gossip, tall tales and laughing. It was a match made in heaven, if I’m honest. Everynow and then we get together for what I call some ‘Ger-Love’, we make each other feel super, get drunk and talk complete shite. If we’re out and about, we spend the night being hit on by guys that are attracted to smiling and laughing, and if we sit in, we talk at a million miles per minute, never finishing a story, always finishing the wine and realising yet again, that we will know each other for a lifetime. The Celtic Tiger may have come and gone, but downsizing can throw up some gems.