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Juggling the animals and kids ‘under my care’

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It struck me the other day as I returned home from an emergency call-out to a house in uproar, that perhaps the real ‘under my care’ debate needs to focus on the children of vets, more than on the animals that those vets tend to.

In these peculiar times of local lockdowns, self-isolation and restaurant curfews, many of us are attempting to be vets, parents, child-minders and occasionally teachers – I’ve never spent so much time with my kids and it is both liberatingly wonderful and utterly excruciating at the same time.

Before lockdown, I remember those evenings on call when child care went amiss, and instead of only being responsible for my vet duties, I also had my kids in the car as well – I always struggled trying to keep them quiet while sounding utterly focused and professional on the phone to a client. However, now that everyday is a multitasking day, I wonder what on earth I found so difficult about simply having them in the car with me.

At home, despite firm instructions that under no circumstances must the spare room be entered, sadly no Zoom meetings are private. Memorable moments of suffering during such meetings include a toddler waddling in complaining, and a child asking whether I was speaking to the boss that I did or didn’t like...and just when I think the kids are safely ensconced watching TV, the cat jumps on the keyboard and turns the camera on as I’m covertly getting dressed or blowing my nose. The difficulties in trying to salvage a client phone call when there's a half-naked child hanging around my neck and his/her older brother is wilfully eating sweets under my nose, knowing full well I am powerless to stop him at that moment, means that when the time comes for me to head off on call by myself, I jump into that car in almost a state of bliss.

And boy do I take a lot of time over these visits now. Seeing real, live animals fills me with so much joy – in fact, no animal seems tricky to deal with when you’ve grappled with teaching fractions to an irate six-year-old. You diagnose the problem, alleviate the concern and return home with normal blood pressure levels.

But alas, when you do finally get home again the kids are swinging from the rafters (hopefully metaphorically rather than literally, although give it time and I’m sure mine will be attempting to base jump down the stairs). I’ve been nerf-gunned as I got out of the car, screamed at that I’m a useless teacher, and watched a three-year-old paint herself blue while I was on the phone to a colleague – we had our very own Smurf in the house and I’m still trying to remove the blue staining from the bath.

To be honest, the house really is in a bit of a state as I haven’t had time to tend to the housework as well; I made the mistake of cooking barefoot the other day and soon realised that my feet were sticking to the tiles in a manner reminiscent of a nightclub floor at the end of the night, you know, when the lights come on and the true state of your chosen venue is revealed in sobering detail.

So yes, the house is filthy and the kids are feral, but thankfully the animals are fine.

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