Grapevine Stories

A week in the life of this working mum (everyone’s different!)

One of our lovely members, Sally Anderson, gives a very amusing and honest insight into life as a busy mother, juggling work with her two very lively young boys!

I have two boys, 10 and 7. When the eldest was 4, with mass excitement I got him a Shetland pony, anticipating many happy years as a Pony Club Mum, but my dad, having suffered emotionally and fiscally as father of an ambitious but not massively successful event rider, foresaw this move and countered it with the purchase of a quad bike and a go-cart. He justified this by saying it was safer than horses. He bases this entirely on the one time we persuaded him to come eventing and use his new video camera, which he did and therefore was able to record my one and only fully rotational fall. Horse and rider were fine, my parents’ nerves less so. Anyway – I think he said cars were safer but it was difficult to hear over the roar of a petrol engine quad bike doing 35mph past me with my grinning child on it.

Football and rugby are the family pastimes now and have led to some dubious animal names .. we have a female lurcher who for a long time was called Dave (David Beckham) and have the prettiest and most female cat possible, called Kylian Mbappe. The life-size cut out of Christiano Ronaldo has survived two house moves in the last year and if I’m honest, is quite easy on the eye unless you walk into a dark room not knowing he’s been put in there, and then he’s a full on heart attack. And we seem to have every shirt Mike Tindall ever signed, pinned on their bedroom walls.

I worry about being a working mum and feel guilty about every afterschool club I book them into but then remember that my vain attempts to do wholesome and character building family activities deteriorate quickly and so we end up playing football with me standing in a goal while they kick living hell out of each other because they can’t remember whose go it was. Do they eat enough vegetables. Under pressure, yes.  Do they take enough exercise. Yes. Do they have too much screen time. Probably. Are they reading enough. Maybe. Are they nice people. I think so. Are they happy. Mostly, unless you ask on a Monday morning. Do we spend enough time together as a family. Absolutely yes, we spent ten days last summer trapped in a campervan in the rain in Scotland! Will they be England Captain. Probably not but I might not break that to them until their late teens.

But they don’t like horses and I do, so I have managed to make horses my job. Several years working for Olympia and Royal Windsor were followed by several years being a stay-at-home mum and then once my brain was properly scrambled by hours of In the Night Garden, I cautiously considered re-entering the workplace. I mean, Postman Pat is literally the worst postman ever and he’s held a job down for years so I figured I could. So via friends and a few false starts I’m currently the Competition Manager for the Festival of British Eventing in the summer and one of the Operations Team at Cheltenham Racecourse in the winter. I started at Cheltenham to run the campsite at Blenheim Palace Horse Trials a couple of years ago and luckily turned out to be a bit more efficient than Postman Pat so they’ve kept me. The week of the November Meeting at Cheltenham goes like this:

Monday: We are not great at leaving the house. Not in an agoraphobic sort of way, just in a terribly bad at remembering everything the first-time sort of way. School breakfast Club is used as a bribe to accelerate the process, because they have Nutella and we don’t, so at approximately 7am I am starting the build up by refusing to let them have Coco Pops and when all hell breaks loose, I say "well if you get a move on, there will still be Nutella at Breakfast Club" and am then flattened in the rush to get out the door. Then flattened in the returning rush when they realise they don’t have book bags, or indeed shoes …

If they are going to be sick, it’s on the days I go to Cheltenham. They could be ill on the days I drive nine minutes to Gatcombe and could pop back but they usually wait until I have made it to Cheltenham (1hr + in rush hour) unpacked my laptop, crawled under my desk to plug it in, banged my head getting out and made a cup of tea, before the school ring to say someone has tummy ache. Cheltenham Ops team are very understanding luckily. Once I’m home, the internet can’t cope with a not-quite-as-sick-as-they-thought small boy on the Xbox, and their mother trying to get onto teams meetings online and so we are plunged into communication darkness until I discover that Kylian MBappe has chewed through the Starlink cable and we get going again. 

Tuesday: Working from Home. No breakfast club so intense reluctance to depart without the promise of Nutella. Mad panic to do a week’s reading in fifteen minutes before leaving the house with two minutes to spare before the school shuts its door and you are officially LATE. This is what the boys are actually aiming for so I need to be on my A game. The rest of the day will be spent working at the kitchen table whilst two dogs sit three inches from me "waiting" to go for a walk, even though they went for a walk at about 8am. If I sit back and stretch, they go into a pre-walk frenzy of barking and spinning and god forbid I need the loo and have to pass the hooks where the leads are to get there. David Beckham is now known as Daisy but looks more like Usain Bolt as she vanishes at speed over the horizon after a small cute fluffy thing that she wants to kill.

Wednesday: Cheltenham. But first, swimming and the discovery that Hector has now left his last 4 swim bags at school and will have to wear an Octonauts pair from when he was 5 and suffer the ridicule of the other year 3’s in their extra cool boardie shorts. To add to my feeling of parental failure, he asks where Daddy is and then mutters that Daddy is better. Daddy has actually been responsible for the previous 3 weeks’ worth of non-returned swimming kit so definitely isn’t better but will let him go swimming in his pants so is definitely more fun.

Thursday: Pre-Raceday set up: I feel very organised and look at my check list and it’s all ticked. Then mild panic because historically the feeling of calm and control the day before an event is usually followed quickly by a crisis – like the time I worked for a show in Las Vegas where 20 of Europe’s best show jumping horses sat on the tarmac with the plane refusing to take off because the dodgy backers of the show had failed to pay the bill. But Cheltenham is a slick team and I can get home before small child bed time. Which I quickly regret because the battlefield that is bedtime is in full swing and Finlay has wrapped Hector up in his actual swing and swung him head first into the wall and A&E is a very real possibility. We bought the swing (looks a bit like a hammock) last year as it was advertised as a "sanctuary" for your child where they can wrap themselves up away from the world and read a book or just sleep but actually they use it for extreme violence and adrenaline fueled activities like can it be used as a catapult to fire each other out of the window from.

Friday: I have a very understanding husband who takes over all childcare on race days and although I have to accept that no vegetables will be consumed in this time, I am very grateful for him as I set off at sparrows to get to the Racecourse. Today includes a Parade of Champions – William Fox-Pitt, Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin etc – and I have merrily offered to find them all suitable rides for the day. The main aim was to find horses that wouldn’t bury an Olympic Rider on their head in the Parade Ring or disappear off round the course with them. You may think that doesn’t happen to Olympic riders but at Olympia a few years back I organized the horses for the Celeb Show Jumping competition and the sanest horse I’ve ever met had a meltdown in the prize giving and broke his celebrity gardener jockey’s nose. So these horses are not easy to find and for extra bonus points, they have to be on a six monthly vaccination programme matching that of the British Horse Racing Authority, so immediately eliminating most of the lovely horses I had rounded up from my friends. Eventually seven suitable horses from suitable friends arrive at the Racecourse, one comes off the lorry and goes bonkers with excitement so immediately goes back on, and the rest take part in the Parade of Champions without mishap and are plastered all over Facebook by their owners and riders over the next few days. I love having a job where this sort of thing happens and this was very special. Especially when they all set off back to the lorries at great pace, right down the middle of the course. I’m not sure the Clerk of the Course had been made aware of that aspect of the parade. Oh well….. 

Saturday: Regular updates from the football tournament that the boys are at. Sort of like Match of the Day but with more sulking. I feel bad for not being a more enthusiastic supporter of ball sports but I get told off for being embarrassing because as I am repeatedly told by a seven year old, I don’t understand the off-side rule and therefore my existence is pointless. Daddy has won more top parenting points by falling for the "I can’t play any better because my boots are too small" ploy and buying another pair of boots that turn out to be exactly the same size but are more comfortable apparently,  "because they are red". Who knew. Racing is exciting and drama-free from an Ops point of view so I head home happy, to discover that in my absence both children have conned Daddy into a Macdonalds on the way to football, and another one on the way home. 

Sunday: Last day of the November Meeting and its Family Fun day so the boys come. My husband and I had our first date at Cheltenham on New Years Day 16 years ago and I love it here and feel unbelievably lucky although my feet are less sure, having done 17494 km over 3 days in what looked like suitable shoes but are actually instruments of torture. We have told the boys that they can chose the horses names for Daddy to bet on and keep any money he makes, safe in the knowledge that Hamish hasn’t won a penny since 2015 so the boys might learn that betting is a mugs game. Everyone has a lovely day and head home happy.

A few days later:

Finlay – Can I buy something for my Xbox?

Me – If you have enough money you can (They get money for jobs around the house)

Finlay, producing a fifty pound note - I’ve got this.

Me – where on earth did you get that?

Finlay – well remember when we came racing and you said to Daddy we could come pick the names of the horses for him to bet on and if we won we could keep the money and you said it would help teach us that gambling is a mugs game? Well, I won £265.00…

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