Before I had kids of my own, I had this idea that once they were old enough to be at school, the ability to balance work with parent life became much easier. No more sleep deprivation, nappies or toddler tantrums in the middle of Coles.
But what I didn’t fully comprehend and still haven’t exactly mastered, is that when kids start school, the days are short and the holidays are long. So while there might not be any disrupted night dramas or nappies to change, the workload of being a working school parent has become less physical and more… organisational.
Since our two boys were born, the first in 2010 and second in 2017, my husband Jules has mostly been employed full-time. I worked freelance for many years to ensure I was around for drop offs, pickups, sick days, holidays and plenty of cuddles.
Like many families, it was easier for our household to have one parent at home more. But when the opportunity for my dream job came up at Mamamia, it was too good to miss and I was ready to get back into the workforce.
I love working and I love being a parent, but sometimes these two elements in my life do not mesh well together. Jules works shorter days, which is great. But as an essential worker, it is much more complicated for him to take leave or sick days for the kids and so those elements still fall to me.
It is a constant juggle – as any working parent knows. When the day goes well, and everyone is happy, fed and where they should be, I feel superhuman. When the day doesn’t go so well and we can’t find their drink bottles (again) and I’m late to a meeting because the school traffic was busy, I feel like an out-of-control mess.
During term time, it is a daily battle to ensure both boys have a clean set of the right uniform on, as well as a packed lunch they will actually eat and are out the door on time with shoes on the right feet.
While I am at my desk focused on work (I write for a living) or catching up on emails, there’s the regular pinging of notifications from class teachers and school admin about various things to remember, forms to return and homework to keep up on. Then before I know it, school is over for the day and it’s time for pick up, snacks and after school activities. And not forgetting to empty those lunchboxes, homework and dinnertime.
It’s a lot.
And as the busy school term ends and ‘holidays’ appear over the horizon once again, the planning begins for how to keep the kids happy, amused and fed while we’re still working. The amount of school holidays does not match the amount of annual leave for the average employee. Fun-packed holiday activities don’t come cheap either and so we often mix paid activities up with playdates and occasional grandparent care.