It seemed like a good idea at the time and I was stuck. My three-year-old son was sick enough that his daycare teacher turned him away at the door and I couldn’t find a sitter.
My plan involves sneaking him into the office, making a bed under my desk so he can watch movies on my iPad all day while I meet my deadline. So, a little before 8, when my colleagues arrive, I arrange his blankets and pillow, toys and iPad like a cute baby bear den and explain carefully and slowly so that he understands: he must be quiet and let mummy work. Which I do - typing away, feeling all balanced and successful. Look at me! With just a little initiative and planning, anyone can achieve work life balance. It is possible to have it all. You just need to have the will to make it happen.
Just like Icarus, it seems I flew too close to the sun.
As I finish sending an email, a distinct odour wafts up and makes my heart begin to race. Under the desk Felix is sitting on his blanket. His pants are off and he is examining his hands, which are clutching handfuls of poo. “Hi mommy,” he says sweetly smiling.
“No!” I stage whisper. “Don’t move. I mean it, Felix. I will kill you if you move.” He laughs because he suspects this is the beginning of a fun little game. I don’t have any wipes, because that requires a level of planning I haven’t mastered yet. So I grab the edge of his blanket and use it to scrape the poo off his hands. I’m consumed with fear that this smell will soon be detected by childless workmates who inhabit the cubicles around me. So I focus on containing the mess by stuffing his clothing, blanket and stuffed toys in my recycling bin and turning it upside down. In this moment, Felix manages to scoot past me, running bare-assed and laughing down the hallway.
I grab a handful of tissues and follow him trying to look casual while picking up small pieces of poo, before someone steps on them. I am forced to stop for a moment at the photocopy machine. “Yes, I did catch that webinar on new marketing ideas for attracting Millennials. Oh, I agree, it was very well done….” The whole time praying that no one else detects the little brown lumps I see on the carpet near Finance. I manage to break free, following the trail to his new hiding spot under an empty desk reserved for an absent co-op student and pull him out by a sticky bare leg. Carrying him like a slimy football, I race to the bathroom and plunk him into one of the shallow sinks.
I splash water on his butt a few times before I glance up to catch my image in the huge mirror above the sink. My hair's a mess, my eyes bloodshot and weary. There is a wide streak of poo running from my forehead to my chin. And as my shoulders sink in defeat, the CEO walks through the door, takes in the scene before her and shoots me a look that can only be interpreted as, “And this is why you’ll never advance in your career.” Before hurrying into the furthest stall.