I was a rubbish and depressed full time mum for a short time: I have been much more fun for my kids to be around since I worked as well as parenting. But going out to work during the long school summer holidays has always felt uneasy. It feels somehow wrong to dive out of the door while your offspring are just about donning their dressing gowns. It feels especially important to spend some time with them now they are 12 and 10. I am all too aware that the days that hanging out with mum is desirable are numbered.
Which is one of the reasons I am so lucky to job share. On Tuesday, the first full day of summer holidays, after a bit of discussion with the ten year old boy about the relative merits of a day on Minecraft and a wholesome outing, my kids and I went on a long bike ride in bits of our local area we had hardly been to before.
We found a lovely café in a little rec that must have opened since I last went there ten years ago. (Then, it was a patch of scrubland with no seats on the swings. There seemed no reason to return. Public investment, of the kind we are all soon going to miss, has transformed it. But that’s a different blog). We cycled past the houseboats on the River Lea and mused about what it would be like to live on one: beautifully cosy but perhaps a bit hot, they thought. I thought untidy too, but they weren’t bothered about that. Further into Tottenham Marshes, we watched a family of baby coots, and found a barge that was entirely a garden. Then to cut back to a familiar local park we took a detour via a Victoria Line tube depot (who knew that was there?), and then found the secret path under the railway and cycled back onto familiar ground, to the confusion of the kids (“Eh? How come we are HERE?”)
For the price of three ice creams, it was a cool way to spend a beautiful summer’s day.
On Wednesday, the next day, I went to work. I worked intensely – I am only working two days a week for the next few weeks, and I will have to get my head down to make those days count. But I will come to it fresh and relaxed so problems will be interesting challenges rather than insurmountable enemies, and the days will pass in a flash because I am packing so much into them. And then I will have another day with the kids. Perhaps we will go swimming next time. Or venture into London town. Or just stay home and play some games.
I am very lucky that I get to do this, and have the best of both parenting and work. It shouldn’t be a lucky thing. It should be an option for everyone who wants it.