BY LUCY KIPPIST.
I’m midway through telling a friend about this amazing Harper’s Bazaar profile on Claire Danes. Actually, I’m gushing – swooning even – profiles NEVER go this way. Not profiles about working mums.
It starts off kind of normal. Claire Danes and Ajesh Patalay (the journalist) rendezvous at a swish New York restaurant, but there’s no sophisticated entrance. Danes arrives late, flushed and described by turns as ‘distressed’ and ‘confused’ – madly punching stuff into her iPhone – her face animated with contortion. They sit down. But instead of ordering a martini, Danes ‘dashes apologetically’ to the bathroom, only to return – even LESS composed – before launching into this ‘life update’:
“But yeah, we are off in two days,’ she says, meaning her actor husband Hugh Dancy and their 17-month-old son Cyrus, both of whom are leaving with her for Cape Town, where the new series of Homeland is being shot. ‘So it’s just kind of manically trying to – interesting choice of words – but no, [we’re] desperately trying to get all of our gear together and it seems a lot right now. Hugh is actually taking a job, a mini-series about Gallipoli five days into our [stay], so he will fly with us and then five days later go to Adelaide for a month and then come back for two weeks and then [off] for another month, so… We have a brand new nanny too, who we will basically meet at the airport, so it’s all just, you know…’
Yeah Claire, I basically want to yell. I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. I really do.
Because what you’re really saying – behind all that glamorous/Hollywood/nanny/jet-setting lifestyle stuff – is the truest thing there is for me right now. And here it is: This working motherhood thing – it’s a killer. Really, really tough. More physically demanding, more mentally exhausting and more undeniably challenging than clearly, many of us – even Hollywood types like you – ever, ever expected.
But my friend stops me mid-sentence.
“Hang on a sec, Lucy? What do you mean you didn’t know being a mum would be hard work? Didn’t you expect to be carting a baby around all day, that they’d need you 24/7. That there’d be days you’ll be working on zero hours sleep without a shower. How could you not have known that?”
I feel taken aback and start hunting around for a ‘good’ answer.
The real answer is a big fat ‘no’.
I had no idea whatsoever what being a working mum was like. Everything I thought I knew came from books that I’d read or advice I’d been given. The rest of it, I just imagined.
Books depict working motherhood in deceptively manageable terms. After all, routines, sleep schedules and long paragraphs about the impact of hormones and sleep deprivation – they’re easy to ‘write’ about. Living those things, well that’s a completely different story altogether.