Every summer school holiday (six weeks – a week before Christmas to the end of January), I dream of sitting on a secluded island, surrounded by waitstaff topping up my fruity mimosas and hand feeding me grapes. I laze around a pool (no sand), food belly (not just my fat belly) protruding from underneath my tankini and reading steamy historical romances on my kindle (stop judging!). Not a care in the world. Not a soul (besides the discreet staff) to see me at my worst.
In reality, I am the full-time carer of two wayward children that constantly bicker over nonsense and defer to violence at the drop of a hat. My husband likes to comment that if he was the stay-at-home parent, he would treat parenting like a job. He would have a schedule. He would have activities. He would go for walks to nearby parks. He would have the kids preoccupied, therefore reducing the chances of fighting. The implication here is that he would have these children under some semblance of control. Insert a loud sigh. I really hope my poor deluded husband gets to test his theory one of these days – and soon.
Last I remember, having a job meant getting paid real money, enjoying hot coffees, eating uninterrupted lunch with both hands, clocking on and off, and not rushing through potty time to break up arguments. You actually have a moment to yourself. To breathe. To think. To relax.
The debate of who has it harder – the stay-at-home parent or the full-time parent – sometimes surfaces during school holidays. We are different in many ways; parenting styles, approaches to discipline and play, personal strengths and weaknesses. But regardless of our differences, we understand and respect the other person’s contribution to the family unit.
The summer school holiday just past was brutal, more so than usual. Due to the ongoing bushfires raging in many parts of Victoria (Australia), there were days where the air quality was hazardous, and we were stuck indoors. There were days of extreme hot weather, leading to three perspiring bodies laying prone in front of an overworked and underfiltered air-conditioner. The emergence of Coronavirus meant I was wary of taking the children to public places like shopping or play centres. Uncle TV came out to watch the kids now and then but the side effects of square eyes and delayed meltdown was not a worthwhile trade-off, so I avoided using this form of babysitting where possible. And there was only so much art and crafts that we could handle.
Ultimately, we suffered from cabin fever from being inside, sleep deprivation from the heat and the dreaded boredom. We were all a bit tetchy by the end of school break.
Like Tom Jones says “It’s not unusual.” It happens EVERY year. It’s nothing new. You would think I’d have my act together by now. You would think I’d have action plans in place. But every year there are add-ons, creating new challenges that throw out any expectations.
This year’s add-ons included late nights from visitors, daylight savings, transitioning our three-year-old from cot to bed, and overnight potty training. There were midnight requests “Mummy, can you do me a favour and hold my hand?” “Mummy, can you cuddle me? I’m scared.” There were early morning visits to the loo and problems with resettling. There were many potty accidents (the carpets will never be the same). These add-ons further impacted on everyone’s quality of sleep and made the summer school holidays infinitely harder.
Recently, a friend commented on how she loves school holidays and spending time with her son, and that she misses him when he goes back to school (how sweet!). I could only nod in parental unity and mask my face with understanding. But in all honesty, after sending my children back to school, I did my jazzy happy dance, waved my arms in the air like I just didn’t care and screamed… I’m freeeeee!!!!
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