Gillian Bates takes a look at the lighter side of life and work as a freelance in the arts
I’ve just been to a women of influence lunch – yes, moi! We had a superb lunch, speakers and a goody bag. (The goody bag held a copy of Hello magazine, some tights, a packet of mints, and, inexplicably, a spectacles wiping cloth. I initially mistook this final item for a condom and thought how liberated the organisers were). I was at a table with other arts colleagues, the only tricky moment coming as the raffle was drawn and we sat silently praying we wouldn’t win the free tickets for the venues we were all working for.
One of the speakers was Stella Rimmington, the former head of MI5. She ironically called her speech Housewife Superspy. Once, as a working mother, she was sent to meet a Russian to persuade him to defect. On her way to the London hotel where he was waiting she got a call from her nanny saying her young daughter had suffered convulsions …
The pure gasp of horror that went round the room reminded me of how many working parents face such similar dilemmas. Years ago, when I was a fresh-faced Press and Publicity Officer, older women used to bang on about workplace crèches and nursery fees and low cost child care. When I reached that stage myself, I kept thinking – whatever happened to that?
Since even getting a decent wage in our sector comes as an unexpected surprise, we don’t seem to fight for/expect/demand any workplace childcare provision or even special treatment as working parents. (Although we are always really pleased to see other people’s babies when they are brought to the office). However, I’ll bet my bottom dollar (and I’m pretty much down to that, thanks to my tax liability) that all parents reading this column have experienced less dramatic versions of Stella’s dilemma…and like her, chose the baby not the job. (And that Russian never did defect, apparently.)
Gillian Bates is a freelance arts marketing consultant.