I give you the deliriously happy faces of two exhausted parents as an alternative to the #backtoschool photos! Everywhere for the past few days all I’ve read is about ‘hearts breaking,’ and the ‘feeling empty’ as schools re-opened across the land and the little critters returned to their classrooms.
One parent even wrote she thought of her daughter’s wedding day as her little girl went off to Year 1.
Can I share an alternate perspective? I couldn’t be happier. I am done with summer holidays. Done with the lack of routine, the constant planning of 3426999 snacks a day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, activities, days out, breaking up fights, refereeing arguments and SO much more, on top of working full time and being in my final trimester of pregnancy. I. AM. DONE.
Summer holidays are notoriously difficult for parents and as a working parent I find it impossible to juggle working, parenting and managing the multiple schedules. We both work and getting time off during holidays is notoriously difficult. School holiday clubs can be immensely expensive, unreliable or unavailable if your children are <6y. Our local holiday clubs are between 15-30quid a day per child and for two children that’s a LOT to fork out for 6weeks, even on two incomes. This year, with Covid, the holiday clubs haven’t run as normal meaning our usual back up for one or two days of ‘downtime’ has vanished. Honestly, how does anyone make them work?
If you’ve questioned your own excitement about schools re-opening, I’m holding space for you, you’re not a terrible person, just human! It’s okay to express excitement that schools are back, and life can return to some normality. That you can breathe a sigh of relief, work from home in peace or have that much needed ‘you’ space. It doesn’t make you a bad mother or father, it makes you human. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your children any less. It’s just a testament to how flipping hard parenting is and how hard holidays are, especially if you don’t have the support of extended family, a partner or friends you can rely on.
Whilst I don’t welcome the tsunami of chaos that is the school morning and parenting WhatsApp groups (WHO INVENTED THESE?!), I find 6weeks of summer holidays HARD. Despite this, I know my kids have had a great summer. I managed to score TWO WHOLE weeks off work and spend quality time with them. A few staycations, days out and family picnics has kept the sanity in our home. However, I also know they’ve spent weeks ‘bored’ or having to entertain themselves whilst I WFH and shouted at the top of my lungs in between Patients to KEEP IT DOWN FOR THE 1000000th time. If you’ve made it this far, YES I’m acutely aware that I chose to have kids and it’s my ‘job’ but it’s a bloody hard one. I, like many other parents have basically been holding down two jobs for the past 6 weeks and I’m so relieved it’s come to an end. I genuinely don’t know how stay-at-home mums/dads, single parents and carers manage – because it’s far, far easier to be at work.
So if like me, you thought ‘Thank God’ that the kids have returned to school, and instead of your heart breaking, it was full of unadulterated JOY, then please know it’s perfectly normal and acceptable. It isn’t a sign that there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re ungrateful to have children, it’s a recognition of the realities of parenting in a society that doesn’t support parents and a government that has consistently disadvantaged working mothers. In, fact a recent survey found almost 65% of working mothers did not have adequate childcare for the summer holidays and that number was close to 90% for single mothers. Taking unpaid leave seems to be the answer for many, and many women do this but then have to live with the financial hardships that come with that decision.
Today, I ate my breakfast in peace. Without one child annoyed that the other was breathing too loudly, or alive at all. I ate without having to break up the umpteenth fight before 9am and without the sensory overload of BEING TOUCHED CONSTANTLY. I heard the crunch of my toast, the sound of my thoughts and felt the warmth of my tea. I reveled in that glory.
PS – Sorry teachers, you have my greatest admiration and deepest sympathies. I don’t know how you manage our broods during term time, and then your own over the holidays on top of preparing the year ahead. Society really does owe you so much more!
By Dr Kiran Rahim, London based Paediatrician and mum to two boys.
You can find Kiran on Instagram as @themunchingmedic where she shares her thoughts and all things related to womanhood, motherhood and life as a working Muslim mum. She is a passionate advocate for child and feminine health, health in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.
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