Emotional needs.

I managed a team of people in the late 80s. Mainly blokes but a couple of women in their early to middle thirties who would be a rarity in that line of business. It was a very precise and technical area of endeavour which was very demanding, both intellectually and on your personal life. It didn’t attract any sort of woman who didn’t get a kick out of cracking the Times cryptic crossword puzzle in under 30 minutes flat every morning. I used to watch them click the stop watches on their new state of the art digital red LED wrist watches as they raced against each other.

It was the sort of playtime goofing off activity you decline to notice when you’re the boss of an “A” team when times are slack, because they’re pure talent, not wage slaves who can be relied on to down tools and join the 5pm charge out of the building every day, but the whole section were watching to see which one would be today’s winner. And people think it’s only men who’re that competitive, bragging rights doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Uniquely in my experience as a boss, I had to join in a bit of goofing off when business was slow, because you just can’t hand such imaginative and restless intellects a broom and tell them to sweep the floor just to have them be seen doing something. You’d lose the lot of them. You have to be creative and do the leadership thing, basically make up interesting games and challenges, diversions. We had these light cords dangling from the ceiling all over the office area and I had a huge collection of elastic bands in my drawer from handling all the BS paperwork that I kept well away from them. I could always hit one of them with an elastic band drawn back from my left forefinger.

How I could do that and at long range was a physical thing and drove them mad, but of course I never revealed the technique. Some things didn’t fold neatly into one of their quartic equations. In the end, I’d stand with my back to the room, lekkie band at the ready, and they’d tip one of the cords, shout go, and I’d have to leap around in the air, spot which one it was and hit the swinging fucker with one shot before my feet hit the ground. Pure reflex and deflection shooting. It was pressure, but I rarely missed because of the cheer that’d go up. Team bonding around a maniac boss. Needless to say, such advanced management techniques didn’t go down well with the sourpusses and flaccid bums on seats upstairs, but since we delivered a unique product, we were left well alone.

But throw them a supposedly unsolvable problem, and nobody slept until they’d cracked it, which they invariably did. I was always worried for their welfare, because they weren’t terribly well fitted into the real world. When God gives with one hand, he also tends to take away something else with the other. They were terribly vulnerable and easily hurt in certain areas. On the occasions where it was a crash job, they’d work it hard and I’d be the one going out at all hours to find somewhere open to get takeout, fresh shirts, tampons, a six pack of fresh underpants or knickers just to keep them from starving to death or smelling too rich. When they had the bit between their teeth, there was no stopping them. – just get out of their way. That’s all you can do with a ferocious team like that. You put something as slick as that together, it’s a rod you’ve cut for your own back, so you’ve got to own it.

I’d just started having a family a bit late in life but despite the women being intellectually hard as nails, they were very interested in the day to day details of me struggling to cope with becoming a parent. As every parent of a newborn knows, the first three months are the worst, sheer bloody Hell, with even the best of babies. It’s pure exhaustion and sleep deprivation. I’d be sitting at my desk, perfectly upright but fast asleep, and people would try and be very quiet not to wake me. My phone got unplugged. It’s amazing the punishment you can take for a new human being who doesn’t weigh much more than a couple of bags of sugar.

If there was one lesson I learnt about that first experience of parenthood, it was that men don’t usually tend to be aware of that desire for children, but once the first one comes along, they’d drag themselves over broken glass to ensure not a hair on that golden child’s head was ever harmed. Women are more in touch with that side of our nature from the start and to be very frank, they want their own baby, the one they carry inside them for nine months and have an ongoing conversation with as they distractedly rub up and down that huge lump in their midsection.

At the time, one of my hobbies was photography. There was no digital technology, it was all analogue. It was really a complex hobby. You had to know about the various types of cameras, how to load them with a particular roll and type of film, film speeds, aperture, depth of field, exposure times and a myriad of other teensy weensy technical areas any one of which could totally bugger up a great shot, and you only ever really got one shot. Add in handing the roll of film off to the tender mercies of a developing company you knew fuck all about, and you could end up with nothing. Needless to say, it was a specialist interest, but I loved it.

Those were the days. You actually had to load a camera with a roll of 35mm film which only gave you 36 shots, so you looked very carefully through the viewfinder of your SLR camera, because if the composition wasn’t right or the light didn’t suit the ASA speed of the film you’d loaded, you never hit the shoot button.

I’d shoot lots of film of the baby and my wife totally exhausted but beaming with pride at the new arrival in her arms in the hospital and be cancelling meetings so I could drop a roll of film off at the downtown chemist for developing. My lunch hours had long ago been plastered over with meetings. The women, much more so than the brainy but nerdy young men in my section, were exceptionally understanding and supportive. Against the then current macho grain, I’d recruited them personally because they brought a dimension of imagination and insight to the game which the nerds, brains as big as planets which they undoubtedly had, were totally clueless about.

“No problem, you do your meeting. I’ll drop it off for you”.

The same on the two weeks later pickup side.

“No probs, I’ll pick up the prints for you in my lunch break when they come back from the developers”.

The women were all in this negative equity trap. They’d bought a house a few years ago near the top of the market and could just about afford it if you put the multiples of both their own and their husband’s salaries into the equation to get the mortgage.

Then the property market went down the toilet. Suddenly the house was worth 25% less, and the mortgage company wouldn’t let them sell into that amount of equity loss. The result was that they both still had to keep on working full time to service a mortgage on a house or apartment that they’d come to regard as a cursed albatross hung around their necks.

The plans to start a family had to be put on hold for the foreseeable future.

They were in their early 30’s and as the biological clock ticked down, the raw emotional one was clicking up something fierce. In conversations with them, I’d picked up on that nagging worry and sense of a potentially lost forever chance at something that was becoming more pressing and important with every passing day. A man can sire a child quite late in life but a woman’s capacity to become pregnant and then carry a baby to full term ends a lot sooner.

We as a couple were in a better position. I was earning strong and my wife, although being a professional herself, chose to become a full time mother. It was a decision we never discussed but a natural one which with some financial prudence we could afford. Neither of us were snarled up in what was even then the old male pride thing of a certain shame of you being such a bad provider, your wife had to work.

She was strong and couldn’t give a damn about the then prevalent feminist attitude of quite frankly being despised as a full-time mother. She did a great job with our children, an exceptional loving job, unlike those sneering feminists whose single mother, man-free efforts seemed so many years later to produce nothing better than Juvie Hall inmates, rehab swinging door repeat visitors and a second generation of fatherless children.

One morning, running extremely late, I took the opportunity to drop in a spool of films myself on the way to the office and the elderly gent behind the counter, recognising my name and taking the details asked me, “Two prints as usual?” I never ordered two lots of prints in my whole life, it’d be hopelessly extravagant.

I saw it. A bit of a stab in the heart moment and it rocked me backwards for a heart beat before I fibbed my way out of the situation. Priority numero uno, always look after and protect your crew. I told him, I’ll pop back later with that film and another roll of film I’d nearly finished to take advantage of the twofer deal they’d got going. I’d contrive to ask the gals to drop it off for me at lunchtime a few days later for developing.

Such are the innocent and tiny deceptions we all make because we’re human beings, rather than emotionless cyborgs who have a mechanical pump thumping away inside them rather than a heart of flesh and blood. Having a picture of a newborn baby you could perhaps run your finger across would do until the real thing came along because the want was bad. They needed to be a part of having that baby, even if it meant the harmless deception of purloining an extra set of prints of one who wasn’t their’s. It was an emotional need I’d come to understand all too well as a newly hatched dad myself.

Times change though, and the wheel of fortune turns. House prices will always turn up in the end. A number of years later when I’d long moved on, I felt extremely happy and very chuffed to be contacted out of the blue to stand as the godfather at two different christening ceremonies, one for a bonnie boy and the other for a beautiful little cherubic baby girl complete with the golden curls. I was so happy for them. It would be my pride, my honour and my pleasure to assume such a duty which I would discharge faithfully.

There’s a song by Nat King Cole delivered in his unique honey and cream voice, and it has a line in it “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return”. There are not many things certain on God’s good green Earth, but I knew those two babies were going to be loved.


Related articles by Pointman :

Love is simply not an option.

Click for a list of other articles.

6 Responses to “Emotional needs.”
  1. Annie says:

    I enjoyed reading that Pointman. Stable families are so important, valueing their offspring. I used to feel undervalued by ‘society’ for being a stay-at-home mother but glad I did. Frequent moves made it difficult anyway for a wife who wasn’t a nurse or teacher to find paid employment but I was glad of the excuse!


  2. JohnTyler says:

    Place a small cradle rocker immediately adjacent to the bed of mom and dad.
    At night, when the baby cries, drop your arm off the bed and rock the cradle.
    That should do it 95% of the time; the baby will stop crying and go back to sleep.
    Mom nor dad need get out of bed.

    And if that does not work, place the baby on your chest. The sound of your heartbeat – and bodily warmth- will put the baby asleep and allow all to sleep.

    I believe it was the Victorians that began the concept of not having the baby sleep in your room and allowing it to cry him/herself to bed to “condition” (i.e., train) the child to stop crying; as if a baby can somehow figure this out. It probably worked for the Victorians because their nannies would attend to the baby. For some reason, this idea still holds sway but it contradicts 100,000 years of human practice.

    And no, the child as it gets a little older will have no problem adjusting to sleeping in its own room.

    And speaking of females being competitive; just watch a girls high school basketball game. They are literally vicious competitors.


    • meltemian says:

      When our kids came along, being young and broke, we used to rest the baby’s carry cot across the arms of our rocking chair next to the bed and had a piece of string so we could do the rocking without getting up.
      Heaven knows what H&S and Social Services would make of that nowadays!


  3. Blackswan says:


    Your team probably couldn’t believe their luck in having a boss who understood them, and their needs, so well. ‘Going the extra mile’ has little to do with running marathons does it? It’s the people who teach us something about life’s pivotal moments that we remember so well.

    Feminism really sold women a complete lie. Yes, women can do anything they choose, and have it all … just not all at the same time, and not always on their terms.

    There was a time when women had no choice but to accept that they’d never bear a child, either because of their own or their husband’s infertility, but with the advance of modern biological research, all things are now possible. But at what cost? And to whom? Nobody dares ask such questions.

    Good story Pointy – a chance to relive our own daunting years of fresh parenthood, and the learning of true responsibility. My kids taught me so much about the world … and they’re still doing it!


  4. Another Ian says:

    O/T Pointman re Parler

    There was a comment at (IIRC) Chiefio that it is an Amazon concoction and that once you sign in you can’t sign out.

    Found it



    • Pointman says:

      Thanks for the heads up Ian. The biggest problem with these tech giants is that they’re so rich, they’re buying up huge chunks of the internet infrastructure. They’ll have to be broken up at some point.



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