This post is dedicated to the summer school holidays which a friend has aptly described as the “juggliest” of juggly times. To the parents out there who are still standing, hobbling towards the end with a depleted bank account, wafer thin patience and a spinning head, I want to say this: I see you, I feel you. Ok, I am you.
Because make no mistake: six weeks of holidays is a loooong time. A lot longer than the average 4 weeks of annual leave that Australian employees get to spread across the whole year. And a whole lot longer than anyone who runs their own business or works freelance can take off.
In Queensland, school’s back next week but in most other states and territories we are still a full week away from public schools returning. Some kindergarten students, including one of my own, still have another week after that. Another week!
The practical dilemma of managing six or seven weeks of holidays begs the question: how do any of us do it? How do we logistically and financially entertain and care for our school-age kids for between six and eight weeks in one stint, whilst also trying to stay gainfully employed? It’s a square peg, round hole situation for lots of us and mission impossible for many.
And that’s before we even delve into the matter of children missing the routine, socialisation and stimulation that school provides. (Little people, like lots of big people, really do thrive on routine and in my experience more than a few weeks without it, sends them a little loco.) Which brings me to my next point.
Hands up who is a little weary from resolving disputes between siblings who are unbelievably bored and suffering from extreme overexposure to each other? Please tell me it’s not just me.
Parents I see everywhere at the moment are experiencing the same thing: the wonder of finishing the school year, the run up to Christmas and the joy of a week or two away from work is well and truly done. Lots of us are now scrambling with the return to work, whilst also madly scheduling in activities, play-dates and roping in grandparents and babysitters to plug the gap at home, without going broke or compromising what’s left of the combined family sanity.
It’s enough to pine for the days, but perhaps not the fees, of long daycare which really is a breeze compared to school because they barely close down.
As tempted as I am to write this off as inane or inconsequential, it isn’t. It’s a reminder of the structural barriers that still make combining work and family far from straightforward.
For all of us who are doing it, it’s not nothing. It really is the juggliest of all juggles and let’s be honest, we’re hardly amateurs in the art of juggling. The good news is we are almost there. (But not quite, so do feel free to hit me with your top tips for blending school holidays with work).