I love the school holidays and having all my children around but I always forget how frenetic it can be and just how little I manage to get done when they’re all at home. Even though there is no school run I find that I wake at the normal time and find it impossible to linger in bed. There’s also the knowledge that in all likelihood I will be the only one awake in the house for at least an hour so I can’t resist the opportunity to enjoy a peaceful coffee and a few chapters of my book. Generally there’s no chance of an early night either as one of the boys will probably hatch a plan to see friends and need a late night pick up. I generally volunteer to do the late night collection, partly because one pick up around midnight is equivalent to two lifts during normal daytime hours so I end up building a very healthy credit balance with other parents, but also because the only way I can stay awake after midnight is by keeping busy so I will then manage to catch up on various household chores and on all my paperwork. The occasional catch up like this enables me to feel as if I’m on top of things and then I can relax and enjoy my days with the boys. This may mean fun filled outings or simply sitting around chatting, making cakes, or pottering while they do their own thing. It reminds me of how things were when they were young. I gave up most of my daylight hours to playing with the boys, taking them to the playground, making things with them and reading countless books. I would clean the house (with their help) and shop for food (again with their total involvement) but apart from that would leave all other tasks to those precious hours when they were safely tucked up in bed. At that point I would retire downstairs and launch into action. It may be four hours of ironing, DIY, catching up on work, sorting out cupboards or an evening of cooking and freezing; whatever the chosen task I would work non stop until I could no longer stay awake. I would go to bed feeling extraordinarily contented, satisfied that I had done a good day’s work and had earned another fun day with my children.
Once my children grew older and started going to bed later I naturally had to adjust the pattern of my days, no longer able to leave everything until the evening. This though makes it impossible in the holidays as I can neither get things done during the day nor in the evening with the result that the house looks like a bomb’s hit it (my boys call it homely), the laundry basket’s overflowing, the ironing pile is the size of a mountain and I have an ever growing list of things to sort out for work. It’s at times like these that I truly feel like a frazzled mum.
But if I ignore the mess and the chaos I have to say that my days are perfect. It’s wonderful to have all my children at home with me, to enjoy watching them together, to see how strong their bond is and how much they enjoy being a complete unit again. And how lovely to be able to meander gently through the day without any fixed timetables. It really doesn’t matter if I haven ‘t done the laundry, they’ll find something they can wear. It really doesn’t matter if the house is a mess and there’s no point worrying about it, it can all be sorted very quickly once they’re back at school. As long as I have enough food in the fridge we’ll be ok. This morning I had a heavenly time in a local park with my eldest and youngest sons-the others were still asleep. We walked and talked, sat on giant swings, balanced on precarious play structures and then sat in the glorious spring sunshine eating ice creams. All around us were other happy families doing exactly the same, all taking pleasure in one another’s company and in simple things: playing with water, playing leapfrog over wooden posts, flying kites and kicking balls around. Everyone was smiling all caught up in the sheer joy of being alive on a sunny day with no need to do anything but play. The sheer delight of school holidays!
It got me thinking about how lucky I have been to spend so much time with my children and how I would hate to lose out on school holidays with them. I am so fortunate to have my own business and to be able, for the most part,to fit my work around their needs. I have never had to miss a school assembly, a sports day or any other school event. I am always there for my children before and after school and have always been able to look after them in the event of illness. This may mean that I’ve had to work until two in the morning or have had to take them into work with me but that’s a small price to pay. I have enjoyed so many lovely days with my children, days which I hope they remember and will want to replicate with their own children. I am so lucky to have been able to make this choice and am determined not to take that for granted. So many parents (and this applies equally to both men and women) have no choice. There are very few jobs that really work around children and child care is expensive and not always dependable. Some people really want to work but the practicalities get in the way. Others desperately want to stay at home with their children but simply can’t afford to. Some try a middling approach, perhaps job sharing, but then what do you in the school holidays or if your child is sick?
I had a day long work conference yesterday which meant that I had to leave my 20 year old in charge for the day. I came back home to find him cooking the evening meal, our online grocery order had been unpacked and put away by the 14 year old, the 16 year old had sorted out the animals, the 18 year old had cut the grass and the 11 year old had helped in the garden. They had all managed perfectly well without me. I, on the other hand, had found it such a long, dull day. Admittedly a small part of me enjoyed being in work mode but for the most part I found myself resenting the fact that I was missing out on a precious day of the holiday. It made me so glad that days like that are few and far between. I don’t know whether my children have benefited from being looked after me but I certainly have. Yes, school holidays can make me feel like I’m living in a madhouse but I wouldn’t trade that for any place else.