Tears off-camera: the diary of a heart-torn television producer

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Indy Lifestyle Online
`Quality Time', a controversial BBC documentary screened on Wednesday, followed the dramas in the lives of three career women, their nannies and their children. But for one of the producers, Lynn Alleway, the nine- month shoot meant there were tears on both sides of the camera. This is an extract from her diary.

22 May

Day one: back to work after almost a year of odd-jobbing. Skipped down the hill dressed in smartest suit and wiping the dust off my briefcase. This is great: I'm back in the working world.

11am: disaster - just two hours in the office and receive a phone call from my five-year-old son's school. Joshua has fallen in the playground. He's asking for me and can I come and collect him? I drop everything and spend pounds 16 for a cab across London in a blind panic. Joshua needs neither hospital treatment nor comforting and insists on returning to class.

27 May

Saturday and the end of the first week. I'm looking for career women who try to "have it all" - career and kids - and my first day off am confronted by tears from my own son. "Mummy, I don't want a nanny looking after me, I want you or Daddy or someone else's mummy or grandma ..."

I join in the tears. I've spent five years putting career on hold, working in short bursts or part-time in an industry dominated by thrusting, unforgiving male workaholics and childless women. With partner Andrew working 12-hour days, I've held back until Josh starts school. Suddenly, I realise that the children I'm now meeting who have been cared for by maternity nurses from birth and live-in nannies forever after, know no different. Joshua, however, does - and is now protesting because I've suddenly joined Daddy in that apparently permanent state of being "at work". Josh sees I'm upset and cries louder.

5 June

I'm now filming the real career mums - one who has a nanny for each child, plus one at the weekend, and meeting women whose social lives have continued unabated post-children.

Back home nanny is very miserable. Josh has been treating her like an evil stepmother.

10 June

Arrive home, shattered. Nanny bursts into tears and announces: "He's been so horrible to me." We let the nanny slip away quietly.

12 June

Working flat out - the worst possible time for nanny to depart. School summer holidays looming. Everyone in the office jokes: "You should be filming yourself!" Find it difficult to share the joke.

13 June

Have to leave the office at 5pm to get back home in time to collect Josh from a school childcare scheme where he is now - very happily - booked in every afternoon. Have neither the time nor the stomach for taking on another nanny. Want to make it as easy as possible on Josh and decide that I'll just have to wing it. Say goodnight to colleagues in the office worried they think it's half-way through the day.

19 June

Josh very happy. Me: a wreck. I manage my life by leaving work at 5pm to collect Josh by 6pm, get him to bed and spend the evening on the phone working or going out to interview people with the help of a baby-sitter, until partner Andrew is home between 9pm and 10pm.

10 July

Summer holidays loom. Six weeks to cover. Go away on holiday for two weeks on a boat but have to return to London twice to film. Decide to take another week off with a houseful of kids on the basis that every other mother in Clapham will at least owe me a favour during the rest of the holidays. Now questioning my whole life. Talk to Joshua. "Why do you want to do filming mummy, if it's so hard?" Bright kid. "It's what I do, it's all I know" (not absolutely true). "Perhaps you could take lessons," he says. Oh God, even my son is telling me to retrain.

21 August

May have lost all sense of perspective today. Am so stressed, I'm almost incoherent. Having packed my son off to stay with his grandfather for three days, I realise that it is nearly too late to collect him. Decide against four-hour drive and opt to rendezvous at a railway station so I can get some sleep on the way there. My train leaves 29 minutes late so I will be left with seconds for a platform handover before the return train home. Spend entire outward journey on mobile phone trying to synchronise rail network with the handover. Finally, sprint with son in arms from one train to the next. The whistle already blown, granddad opens the train door, puts Josh on, bags on - and I launch myself in, too. Sit down with a very large gin. It's nearly 10pm. We snuggle up together for the journey. Josh is the single most important thing in my life. He falls asleep in my arms. Bliss.

28 August

Major rows in the office - I'm being told I should not have filmed in the summer holidays. Concern is about "resources". What about my resources? Of course I had no desire to work in the summer - I had to abandon a family holiday to do so.

6 September

The women in the film are all trying to "have it all" - career and kids. Not quite sure which category I fit into on some days.

Am now barely talking to my partner. Can't he look after himself? Feel so low that for the first time ever I go away on my own for three days to a health farm - to sleep.

By the end of three days I come to the conclusion that while I love my job, the price is just too high. My little boy was right. I have to retrain. This job is just not compatible with having kids.

But then, oh no, in the sauna I read a magazine article. Hey, this could easily be turned into a documentary. I could do it in London. I wouldn't have to be away from home.

I'm sure I could get it commissioned ....

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