7 December 1999
I took the children into the office on Friday night to pick up the Lawyer before driving to my parent's house for a fun-filled weekend with the older generation. I found my husband moodily pecking at his keyboard, complaining that the computer would not let him log off until he had done seven hours' work. I said that even the most bloody-minded of software packages would allow him to put his three-hour lunch under "practice development", but apparently the designers are wise to that and ask you to put in the client's details, whereupon the machine promptly emails the client's secretary to check the Lawyer is there and, because the company opted for the deluxe version, asks what you ate and then emails the restaurant for a copy of the menu.
Subjudice, who attends primary school with an "artificial intelligence" hour built into the curriculum, brushed her father aside and managed not only to log him off and wipe out the month's collected time sheets for the whole department - shrieks could be heard coming from offices all the way down the corridor - but also to hack into personnel's salary file. Belligerent associates who had stormed in to get their workload re-entered on the system were soon crowding round to see what everyone else earns. The Lawyer, who as a partner is privy to this information, contented himself with beaming paternally and saying "That's my girl!" to every new visitor, until the inevitable happened and Subjudice uncovered a secret personnel file which revealed that the newly-appointed business development manager - a mere 24 years of age but bearing an Ivy League MBA and the holy grail of management consultancy experience - was earning as much as two partners put together.
While I drove to my parent's - the Lawyer showing a remarkable ability to sleep through the 18th rendition of the wheels on the bus go ROUND and round, ROUND and round, ROUND and round - I pondered how marvellous it must be to be able to log off at all.
My seven-hour day is usually half completed by the time everyone else gets up, as Liability and I have been awake since 3am discussing whether she really needs to sleep with Mummy and Daddy and why Naughty Teddy won't do as a long-term sleeping partner. If I had my own time-sheet, it would fall into five-minute divisions, as that's about as much time as motherhood allows before throwing another crisis your way: just enough time to make the sandwiches before the toast burns and the breakfast is ruined, and then it's time to hunt the clean socks. If we ever get to the stage where we bill our children for this work - and I believe it's coming - it would run something like this. In connection with raising client: one and a half years mopping up sick and other liquids; three years reading bedtime stories; (discount: six months "I love you mummy" consolation hugs); pro bono work: 865,000 "make it better" kisses.
It means having a service agreement worked out, I suppose (would I have to declare watching Lorraine Kelly when the older kids have gone to school and I'm supposed to be educating Liability in "constructive play"?) I'd have to bill the Lawyer, too: two months asking partner to wash up; one year repeating: "No, you fasten it like this" and 15 years saying: "Well, where did you last put it?"
If there was a firm called Calpol Cooker Drudge I'd be an equity partner already.