In which she reveals her secret identity: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No

It was a narrow escape from the World’s Looniest Redhead. She was a cross between Bree Vanderkamp, Eva Braun and Dolly Parton coming off Prozac. Those prodigious jugs made my eyes water. I can’t imagine what they did to her posture.

My two-week notice period dragged on and on. Many a time I was tempted to just get up and walk away, especially when she launched into the “You–Ungrateful-Bitch-After-All-I’ve-Done-For-You” speech, or any of a number of creative variations on the theme, “I Was About To Fire You, Anyway” and “You’ll Never Amount To Anything” being just two of them.

I couldn’t bring myself to storm out, though I’d planned my dramatic exit perfectly – a stirring monologue, with a few scathing close-to-the-bone insults thrown in for good measure. But as you know, I’m a gutless wimp. I didn’t do any of those brave, satisfying things. Instead I gritted my teeth, swore a lot in my head and stopped eating. Great for losing post-pregnancy fat, terrible for mental health. Walking out of a job before the agreed time was something Sensible Tracy and her cronies just wouldn’t allow. Only irresponsible people did that sort of thing and, God knows, I had enough black marks against my name already. In a sick, masochistic kind of way, I was proud of myself for sticking it out as long as I did. How wretched is that? I’m telling you, people, it was a madhouse. It was like A Clockwork Orange, and I’m not talking about her hair.

I moved on to a pleasant new job with a small company that did obscure Internetty sorts of things, impossible to explain to random wrong-number callers. This was my first “good job” that wasn’t a dead-ender with no prospects.

And what a difference it made to my life. I put on six kilograms (thanks to Engen QuickShop… choccie brownies, mmm…) and was longer chronically dehydrated due to Crazy Lady’s “No-Drinking-At-Your-Desk” rule. No paranoid delusionals, no religious freaks and zero shagging prospects to distract me from the task at hand. Peace and quiet; a real job, at last.

Just me in my office, nobody to bother me, spewing out Excel spreadsheets until my little heart burst. It was wonderful. For the first time ever I was happy at work. I was good at what I did and I was learning new skills. And, oh happy day, I could walk around barefoot in the office and nobody cared. As much as I like looking at fancy, professional-looking strappy heels, the fuckers are a bastard to wear. Gimme my Tigger socks, any day.

There were no rules for eating, drinking or toilet usage, no conspiracy theories and no bipolar cases. (That I knew of, anyway.) Unlimited Internet access (woo hoo!) and sympathy for my parental responsibilities made it a very cool place to work. Regular hours (I was out of the door and on the pavement by 16h27 every day) meant I was always home in time to do the required Mommy Things with the children.

Of course, I had plenty of help from my family, especially Mom. But I tried very hard (and still do) not to take advantage of that, with varying degrees of success. I’d had it pretty easy, all things considered, so making life harder for myself seemed the logical thing to do. I’ve been known to jump out of bed in the middle of the night and run around the house picking up toys in my sleep, just in case Mom woke up and noticed something out of place. I’d have two school lunches made and one uniform ironed before I woke up. It’s a special talent, but doesn’t make for restful nights. No wonder I look like shite half the time.

Mom looked after the children while I worked, so I managed to avoid sending them to aftercare. That suited me, since it was a saving and I knew my children were happy in their own home with their granny who loved them and who wouldn’t force them to eat beetroot under pain of death, as had happened to poor Steven during his heart-warming days at the Preschool of Hell. That terrible place probably contributed massively to Mom’s hatred of the idea of aftercare. I think she believes children in aftercare are used as cheap labour to make Levi’s or soccer balls. And there you were blaming Malaysia. Tsk tsk.

Mom is a different sort of granny – not the knitting, baking, shawl-wearing type. She prefers Tomb Raider and sword fights and building her own steps. She doesn’t cook if she can help it and I’ve never known her to embroider anything.

The two of us are very different, yet in some ways so similar it’s frightening. Two grown women in one house is a daunting business, and I feel sorry for my dad sometimes. He usually tries not to take sides when we fight. Dad is the Switzerland of the Engelbrecht family, preferring to mediate, while calmly and rationally considering both sides of whatever battle is being waged. This sensible, mature approach usually earns him withering scorn from both sides. Then, in the face of our combined derision, he’d scuttle back to his couch, a beaten man, leaving us to our Mexican stand-off over the correct way to iron a shirt.

We make things complicated for ourselves, Mom and me. Still, I owe her a lot, and I will always be grateful for the peace of mind she has given me, and the years of her life she has given my children. Thanks Ma.

In the early days at my new job, stress that I’d been living with ever since my relationship with W just melted away. My hair, which had been falling out in clumps thanks to Crazy Lady, began to grow back. The regrowth was all patchy and weird, but an improvement on the bald spots, so who am I to complain?