Lily, one of my most experienced mum friends, once told me that when you're a working mum, even if you can't be at the school gate every day, the most important thing is to make sure you're there for the big events. 'Christmas plays, Sports Days, anything like that,' she said. 'Because those are the important ones, the ones they'll remember.'
It's good advice and something I've tried to follow – but of course it's often easier said than done, as my friend Fi has found out. This friday is Sports Day at her daughter's primary school. 'Mummy can't come to my sports day because she has to work,' her little girl told me at the weekend, as her mum visibly winced. 'I feel so guilty, but what can I do?' Fi confided in me later. 'There's an important meeting at work and I can't expect everyone to reschedule because of me.'
Her partner also has a crucial meeting he can't get out of, her mother has recently broken her back and needs constant care from her dad, and with no other relatives in close proximity, this means their five-year-old will be entering the bean bag and skipping challenges without any family members present.
'Why can't they have sports days at weekends?' I asked my sister, who works in a school. 'Because they take so much organisation, and it would be unfair to make the teachers give up their time off,' she pointed out.
True. And I'm sure my friend's daughter won't be the only one without a mum or dad or grandparent or uncle or aunt to support her. I'm not sure what the solution is. But guilt is a constant factor of being a working mum. It's really time things changed.
written by Liz Jarvis