Holidays are here: A woman’s  boat is never really balanced

Author: Angella Nampewo. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • ‘‘It is a nerve-wracking nightmarish balancing act that only your enemy would wish on you”

I doubt that there are many men this week worrying about whether the house help will return from the village after the December holidays. By the time the school term ends, the salaried family woman is running around trying to keep her home and the children in order while hanging onto her job by the skin of her teeth. Ladies and gentlemen, that is not an exaggeration. Compared to what the women I know actually go through, that is a conservative description. 

There is a well-worn cartoon Meritocracia by Carlin that depicts the plight of the working woman accurately: Three men and three women in the corporate space are lined up at the starting line. All are set to sprint except that the women’s lanes are rigged with hurdles of laundry, loads of ironing and cooking. Somehow the women must figure out how not to trip on the house chores as they chase after their male counterparts who are cruising down an obstacle-free course. 

As schools close this week and the holidays begin, the offices are still open and women are expected to show up, looking unruffled and completely focused on their employers’ assignments. This, while they are inwardly worrying about how to fill the gap left by the house help who is going to the village for Christmas and who is unlikely to return. It is a wonder that these women can function professionally at all in between school pickups and drops; the search for school concert costumes; parent-teacher conferences that they need to turn up to and be suitably attentive to the children’s academic progress. 
After this, they are supposed to dash back to the office and attend meetings, make presentations and beat deadlines. It is a wonder that we still have women left in paid employment. It is a nerve-wracking nightmarish balancing act that only your enemy would wish on you. Yet the alternative is unthinkable. Everyone needs the money to make ends meet. It is not cheap to raise children in Jajja’s Uganda. 

A few years ago as I was minding my business, cruising along on the coast of average parenthood, I got a call from the school that I had been registered as a participant in the annual parents’ dance. Although I would go to great lengths for the kids, this one was a tough ask at a difficult time. The phone call was just the beginning. When we got to the first rehearsal meeting, I knew my fate was sealed. I voted for a simple stage production that would not require complicated costumes and many hours of rehearsal. I was overruled by the majority of young, hip mums who probably had plenty of time on their schedules and had never heard of newspaper deadlines. 

From this point, my troubles truly began. I had to escape from the office, leaving behind pending work so that I could make it to the dance rehearsal. I won’t even start on the hustle of cramming dance steps with a brain still hang over from the piles of work on my office desk. But dance I would, and thereafter I was required to go and buy very colour-specific costumes downtown, which days earlier had not featured anywhere in my budget. 
Guess what! Although the whole exercise was as painful as pulling teeth, I came through it smiling. I may have mildly annoyed my boss but this mother survived to fight another day. This morning, like many other mornings, I woke up thinking, ‘do we even know the kind of hoops women have to jump through to keep it together daily?’ 

Ms Nampewo is a writer, editor and communications consultant     
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