There’s a great interview in this week’s Grazia with Yvette Cooper, who as well as being the shadow home secretary is married to shadow chancellor Ed Balls and has three children between the ages of eight and thirteen.
The best thing of all about the piece (written by Gaby Hinsliff) is that it gives a vivid glimpse of life in a hectic household, where two high-flying politicians are juggling about a million things at once. On the morning of the interview the roof was leaking, a builder had arrived to fix it, they were busy getting the children off to school and Cooper was trying to agree a quote about the police reforms.
And, I must say I couldn’t quite get my head round this bit, in the midst of the chaos Balls was trying to do his piano practice. Piano Practice? At eight-thirty in the morning?
Cooper admits that domestic life “may be a bit of a muddle” sometimes but they muddle through it together. She says that while Balls does “more tidying up and cleaning than I do” she tends to panic about things like “how come they need a Spanish costume for school tomorrow?”
Now that, I reckon that will strike a chord with parents everywhere. I’m a mega-admirer of teachers but the one thing I couldn’t cope with when my children were at primary school was the vogue for themed days. Over the years my two had to dress up as Victorian children, characters from their favourite books, characters from Roald Dahl stories, French children, animals, birds – you name it.
Quite apart from the fact that I’m the worst seamstress going, my son usually only mentioned it the night before. So I’d stay up till midnight trying to cobble together an owl costume out of an old blanket.
And worst of all, schools assume that children love dressing up. Well, my son HATED it. On World Book Day the only outfit he deigned to wear was an aviator’s boiler suit and goggles. In the end we had to pretend that Biggles was his favourite book and he went as a pilot. Even though he’d never read any of the Biggles stories – and still hasn’t.
And the following year he refused point-blank to dress up at all.