It’s the first day back at school for my daughter as she enters her last year at junior school – can I finally see light at the end of the ‘working parent tunnel’?
Companies are generally more parent friendly in their policies these days but it really isn’t easy. I wanted to continue in my career after I had a child as I loved my job, I’d worked hard to establish my career and I wanted my child to have a positive role model to look up to and, of course, I needed to pay the bills. I didn’t realise how hard n it would be to ‘have it all’.
How many working parents have sent their child to nursery/ school knowing in their heart of hearts that the child isn’t completely well and dreading the phone call to come and collect them because they’ve been sick? But you couldn’t have any more time off work or you would be in trouble with the boss or not get a project completed on time. It’s a dull ache right in the pit of your stomach.
It gets no easier when the child goes to school – schools expect working parents to be able to attend all manner of assemblies, concerts, plays etc. during the working day, and parents’ ‘evening’ – well that’s usually at 2pm. Not to mention the 15 weeks of school holidays and 5 teacher training days to cover from your 5 weeks annual leave allowance. How can you possibly miss little Bobby’s sports day? But it is scheduled for 10.45am – 12.45pm on a day where you are supposed to be meeting an important client and you have used all your annual leave on the school holidays. That dull ache again – the meeting is really important for your job but you’ll never get a chance to see that sports day again.
School holidays for a working parent means getting the kids up even earlier than they usually get up for school so that you can get them to a hugely expensive play centre/ holiday camp and still get to work on time. The kids get no rest from long days to recuperate for the new school year, and you end up feeling like the world’s worst person for making them go there, but what choice do you have? It’s a very hard compromise ‘having it all’.
I have been incredibly lucky, I am able to work part time hours and so I can take my daughter to and from school but everything else is a never ending balancing act. You have to take it week to week and plan your holiday allowance in a military fashion just to cover the basics. You need to harden yourself to the days when you just can’t make the recorder ensemble performance no matter how many tears it causes because your job is important too.
Then, finally, one day you get to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This time next year my daughter will be getting the bus to and from high school and will be gone from 7.45am to 5pm. High schools don’t invite parents in for events during the school day, sports day is an internal affair and parent consultations are actually in the evening! I can’t wait.
So to all you parents who are still living this terrible balancing act, it is eventually over and when you look back it will seem like it’s flown. It isn’t easy, but if you are lucky enough to have a parent-friendly employer, then you may even have some recorder ensemble and sports day memories to take with you into the light.