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Lucy Mangan: ‘You Can’t Stop Time, So You May As Well Give Up Worrying’

Forget trying to do it all, says writer Lucy Mangan. You’d need eight days a week – and that’s official

Oh, Marks & Spencer, why are you always (well, except in the matter of in-store signage and the provision of wearable, non-confusingly arrayed wardrobe staples) so good to me?

Really, your Gastropub Steak, Potato and Onion Hash was enough to make me cleave loyally to your retail spaces forever – even before you introduced this year’s all-milk chocolate biscuit selection box – but now you have outdone yourself.

Not with a product this time, but with research. M&S has carried out a survey revealing that mothers need, on average, an extra 16 hours a day to fit in everything they need to do at work, at home, for themselves and for the family. 

'It’s proof that it’s not just me who can’t do it all'

Fathers say they need just under 13. I leave it to you and your own personal experiences to decide whether this is more likely to be due to their superior time-and-motion skills, or the fact they either don’t notice or don’t care about the tasks left undone that could easily take up an extra three hours if one were at all open-eyed or brain-engaged about the whole home-running, child-rearing thing. I couldn’t possibly comment…

Stop the world I want to get off

I can’t tell you the relief that washed over me when I read this. It’s the kind of statistic one clings to as a drowning woman might to driftwood (while the other hand shovels in the aforementioned biscuits). Because it’s proof positive that it’s not just me who can’t do it all. Not just me who can’t fit everything in.

Not just me who has to choose which fraction of the day’s tasks I attempt and still have to leave half-finished half the time. Not just me whose entire life has so little slack in the system that a single missed washload can plunge the entire week into chaos, or a friend dropping by for a chat can seriously derail a fortnight’s schedule until I somehow manage to pick up extra minutes here and there to get us all back on track.

I no longer hope for success, you notice. I long only for the knowledge that I am not alone. To know that the gap we are all trying to bridge is so huge – 16 hours! Another two-thirds of a day needed every day! Another whole day every day if we’re only counting in waking hours! – is balm to the very soul.

My extra time plan

But what I wouldn’t give for those extra hours. Even to think about them makes me dizzy. I could sleep. I could work without one eye on the clock and palpitations in my chest. I could cook. I could drink a coffee sitting down. I could read. Hang on, I could read sitting down drinking a coffee. I could have a child, a job and a life. Now, all I’ve got to do is get the world to stop orbiting the sun quite so fast…

For Lucy Mangan's monthly column, subscribe to Mother & Baby magazine here

Lucy’s new book Charlie's Chocolate Factory: the Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket and Roald Dahl's Greatest Creation is out on September 4th.

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