Lisa Markwell: When mothers and sons enter the job market

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The Independent Online

Does any working parent ever feel like they're in the right place at the right time? The call from the school office to report a playground injury or (worse) a youthful misdemeanour always comes when you're with the boss. The call from the office to ask about a missing document arrives just as you're bellowing "I'll knock your heads together" up the stairs. Or is that just me?

Worlds collided this week when BlackBerry services went down: my son observed over Weetabix that he was running out of credit fast, since he had to use texts instead of instant messages to set up footie. I'd been gnashing my teeth about not getting emails from foreign correspondents the evening before: night exchanges are part of the job.

Many's the parent who communicates with their child via email or BBM, just like colleagues – it's the best way to get a response.

Another collision has been the news of a new youth unemployment figure of one million in this country. It has brought into sharp focus the anxiety every parent of a GCSE-year child feels: what if results aren't good enough to stay in school? What even if they are? Should we have been pushing for academic results, when vocational training could be more fruitful?

Turns out this anxiety is shared by politicians, if the launch of "work academies" that will marry work experience with training and interview skills come to anything.

Just before the news broke, I had dragged my son to WorldSkills London in Docklands. It was a gigantic job market aimed at 14-19 year olds.

On the way there, we both sulked – I felt a heel for making him give up a Saturday in order to get freaked out about the future and do more homework; and I resented giving up my sparse free time (although in fairness it did stop me from slumping on the sofa watching Grand Designs).

When we arrived, everything changed. Everything from bricklaying to beauty treatments was being demonstrated in a fun, optimistic atmosphere. He was working with artisan carpenters within minutes, then doing some 3D product design with foam and a hacksaw.

On the journey home we talked in more detail and more honesty about "the future" then we'd ever done before.

I did feel rather more like a boss than a mum at the time, but perhaps part of being a working parent is making children aware, in stark terms, of what work is, exactly.

And yesterday I got an email from his school, asking me to go in and give a talk to the media studies students. Hope my son doesn't see it as a fatally embarrassing collision.

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