Something annoying: my teenage daughter has developed anorexia. There is no time in my schedule for this. Every morning, Yoseph emails me my schedule and nowhere in there does it say ‘talk to your teenage daughter about her eating habits in a healthy and conducive way’. Yoseph is new; there is no way for him to know this. But Allie—she would have put it in there. She knew my daughter. She would, twice a week, come to my house and check on my family. She would, when I had an event, make my teenage daughter and my almost-teenage son dinner while I was at such an event. Their father is no help—if I had it my way I would have forgotten his name. I would only remember him as ‘the man who almost never washed his bed sheets’, or better, ‘the man who always finished first’. Some people are under the impression that because my children are three years apart and look very similar, and do in fact have the same father, I have an ex-husband or ex-partner of sorts. This is incorrect. I had a brief affair with an artist (he is attractive—better, he makes very attractive work) and fell pregnant. I was pregnant once before but chose to terminate it. This made sense: I was young and my career still depended on a few opportunities to become a stable reality. However, when I became pregnant with Madeline my life and career and finances were stable enough for me to have a child and still work. I was the editor of a high-end lifestyle magazine. I had private health care. I went to the dentist just because. The current editor of that magazine was my protégé. I am very proud of her. As for me, I have, as they say, moved up in the world, to an international magazine. I am editor-in-chief; I have a place on the board, I hold stocks. I have worked in the industry for over twenty-five years, at many magazines, journals and newspapers in a variety of roles. I have a very busy schedule. After Madeline was born I continued to have relationships with men who were not her father. However, when Madeline was two I met her father again; the arts section of the magazine did a profile on him. I informed him he was the father of my child; we had another affair and I became pregnant again. I realised that this was a unique way for Madeline to have a one-hundred-percent blood-related sibling. Having a second child worked well for a few years. As with Madeline, I took maternity leave until Louis was old enough to be looked after by a carer, Susan. God bless her soul. Susan is no longer with us, she was deported. When I returned to work I resumed my old position, and continued to work in an industry I love. The second time around I informed the artist that he was the father of my child. I told him he should in no way take this as an indication that I was ‘in love’ with him. At no point should he misconstrue the fact of my having two children with him as indicative of my being in some way infatuated with him, or with his work. His work was impressive, sure, but frankly not my thing. He took this well. I sometimes maintain a sexual relationship with him. He occasionally does not finish first. When he is in town he sees the children. The children are aware he is their biological father but they do not call him Dad, they call him Marian. He is more of a friendly donor or family friend than their father; they do not rely on him for typically ‘fatherly’ things. They do not need to. I can do it. That being said, my teenage child and my almost-teenage child more and more do not call me Mum. They call me Veronica, or sometimes—I suspect ironically—they call me Mother. My children are very well off. They live in a four-bedroom apartment on the seventeenth floor of a very nice building. The building is nicely furnished. The couches are antiques. The paintings could be in museums. At first the children were a lot to handle—I knew this would be the case. I was prepared to put in the extra effort, and step back from my career if necessary, in order to take care of them. Some people may not have noticed this; however, I know male peers who have not been prepared to do the same thing. For instance, my male colleagues can stay back until seven, eight or even nine at night to finish a project. They can ‘pull an all-nighter’ if they have to. I cannot do this. I have children who need to be fed. I am beginning to think Yoseph will not cut it. We will see. So far my schedule is not progressing the way I was hoping. The role of the PA is to adapt. To realise my own needs before I do. Thus far he has not accomplished this. They are good schedules—yes, sure. But they are not great. They are by no means ground-breaking. They do not at any point include ‘meditate for fifteen minutes’ or ‘remind your teenage daughter to pack herself lunch’, or even ‘help her pack lunch the night before school, and then remember to check if she ate that day’. Sure, they have plenty of ‘7 am meeting with J. Laron @ Cafe Prestige’, but no ‘sit down and check in with your daughter about her relationship with the other girls in her class’; ‘Ask her if she feels comfortable at school’; ‘Ask your daughter if she would prefer to go to a specialised high school or college of sorts’. There is none of this. As a result, I do not have the time to ask her such questions. Perhaps she wants to go to an arts school. I know she wants to be an actor. Although, I am unsure if this wanting to be an actor thing is a state that every vain teenager goes through (and they are all vain) or if she is genuinely entiché with dramaturgy. Does she have favourite actors? Does she know the amount of dedication and time that goes into the craft of being someone you’re not? Convincingly? Or does she just like the idea of having a harbour-side apartment with a pool? And if acting is just a whim, or vanity, is she interested in anything else? Does she have a hobby? Would she like to go to a different, non-all-girls school? I have always had doubts about all-girls private schools—my son goes to the ‘brother’ school of my daughter’s. I suspect these schools are not doing what they purport, which is ‘preparing students for an ambitious, passionate future in the profession they want to pursue’, but rather ‘turning them into entitled little brats who think everyone owes them everything and that they will just be given whatever job they want because they call the education minister Uncle Toddy and not A Wanker’. I myself went to a public school and did just fine. Boys were never a distraction—or not a big one. I knew better than that. However, I suspect my teenage daughter does not know better than that. I suspect this is because she is only exposed to boys other than her little brother through school dances and the internet. And more often than not she is grounded when these school dances are held. As a consequence, she has become far, far too aware of how she appears to them, these mythical ‘boys’. As a consequence, she does not seem to be putting effort into her mind. She is yet to be enlightened as to the depth of knowledge one is capable of holding in one’s brain. I thought about this when I enrolled her. I looked for elite co-ed private schools. There are none. Why is that? People who don’t hang around people of the gender they are attracted to can become strange. It would be handy if she was a lesbian. Or if she at least shared a schoolyard with boys—if she had some kind of exposure. Although even with her brother I am noticing there is not too much exposure. They do not really connect or bond in the way I imagined siblings would. I have no siblings, so I cannot tell. That being said, I have a friend who was my childhood neighbour. Her parents would often volunteer to look after us, and vice versa, when the need arose, and I think we would have spent 24/7/365 with each other if we’d had the chance, but we did, after all, live in different houses. Trina is like a sister to me. She was often the one who—when Allie was not available— would come over and look after my children, although she can’t do this all the time, she has children of her own. She lives just around the corner, actually. But her children go to the public school. I am thinking of sending Louis there. He does not get along with his sister and he does not get along with his classmates. He is very withdrawn. He has a very big heart, though—I love him very much. I know I’m not meant to play favourites. But I am struggling at present. For instance, while I was prepared to put in the extra effort as a mother when the children were younger, looking after, as you have to, their wellbeing and checking up on them and grooming them into respectable adults, I did not realise I would still have to be doing this when the children were older. When they are on the verge of becoming adults. I thought, for instance, that once Madeline was smack-bang in the middle of puberty I would not have to hire a babysitter. That she could—hypothetically—look after her younger brother. This is not the case. Instead, if I have to go away for the weekend, I send them over to Trina. But when something resembling an emergency comes up at work, I leave them alone. But only after talking to Louis. This is our deal: Madeline thinks she is in charge, and no doubt bosses him around the entire time, telling him to do the dishes and not telling me about the plethora of friends she has over, which she does all the time—although I don’t think she’s game enough to have a boy over. Yet. She wouldn’t know what to do with herself. Yes, she is ostensibly ‘in charge’ but Louis is the one who makes sure they have dinner on time, and enforces—or at least tries to enforce—my no-internet-after-nine-thirty pm rule. Personally, I don’t like this rule. I don’t like telling my teenage daughter that she should not be texting boys she hasn’t even met about stuff she doesn’t know anything (Heaven Please) about. God help her if I ever catch her sending nudes. No, I do not like this rule; I would personally prefer to be able to trust my teenage daughter with a little self-control. I would like to think that she could put her phone down and not send eggplant emojis well into the am. But as it is, I cannot trust her. Also: who decided eggplants resemble penises? Historically, they’ve always been closer anatomically to a zucchini. And the eggplant resembling an egg? Who made this emoji? Have they ever seen an eggplant? Or a penis? I would like to know.
A Tight Schedule is an extract from Katerina Gibson’s debut short story collection, Women I Know, out now with Simon & Schuster and your local booksellers.
Read our interview with Katerina here.