As the countdown to summer holidays rolled on last month, one cohort of parents in particular were bracing themselves with an odd mixture of relief and outright fear. On the one hand, it’s great to have no more school-runs, no more homework, and a break for the kids. But for WAHMs, who work while the kids are at school, there’s a problem – how to keep going while the kids are off?
If you work for yourself, taking the summer off is an option, but not one that everyone can afford to take. Not working usually means not earning, and can also mean missed opportunities or lost clients. Scaling back is feasible for some, but for others, the only solution is a mix of summer camps and working while the kids are at home.
For me, newly self-employed, it’s not an issue this year. My smallest has been home with me since I finished up in my job in April, so I work at night, after they go to bed. School holidays are 100% a good thing this year – no school runs, no homework, and two big sisters to keep the small boy occupied. In theory at least.
Because we’ve been away, yesterday was day 2 of this new reality, and I was ripe for a bit of complacency.
The girls were making potions out of daisy petals, and the small boy was playing with Lego and singing to himself. Peace and harmony. A perfect chance to catch up on some admin. Not proper work that required actual thinking, just some emails and some spreadsheets. Lovely.
Within an hour, the smallie had managed to spill three cups of milk on the floor, via his tenacious efforts to make ice-pops and ice-cubes with milk. When I finally got it together to confiscate the milk instead of distractedly telling him not to do it again, he took up the challenge with water, and spilled that too. The seven-year-old found a syringe (not that we’ve gone all Breaking Bad or anything – I mean one of those little plastic syringes for giving medicine to babies) and filled it with the potion (it was a love potion apparently) and then accidentally squirted it on the six-year-old, who bawled. She in turn accidentally squirted it on the seven-year-old, who was highly indignant and couldn’t see the justification. The small boy got hold of it then, and drenched them both, so I threw it in the bin.
By this point, the floor was soaked with water and milk and love potions – the abandoned Lego pieces were islands in the stream. The kitchen was in tatters and I was irritated by everyone, but mostly by myself. It had all happened on my watch, or my not-watch as it were, and I’d still got nothing productive done.
My phone beeped. A lovely friend, who is home from the States, asking me did we want to call over. I closed the laptop, scooped up the kids and had them strapped in the car before my resounding “Yes!” even hit my friend’s phone, five miles away.
We spent a gorgeous two hours there – the kids played and my lovely friend and I drank tea and caught up, and all too soon it was time to go home. But we came back in an altogether different mood, a collective valve had been released, and we were better for it. The two younger kids helped me make dinner, the seven-year-old curled up with a book, and I didn’t touch the laptop once.
Next year, if I’m still freelancing – if I haven’t scarpered back to an office job – it’ll be different. I’ll by relying on school and pre-school to allow me to work, so summer might fill me with fear. I suspect there will be summer camps and juggling and night-time working. But for now, I’m putting this one failed attempt down to experience – we’ll stick to playgrounds and coffee shops and meeting friends. In the meantime, to all of you trying to work at home this summer, I salute you. Seriously. I don’t know how you do it.