What’s that sound? Or rather what’s that lack of sound? Oh no hang on, I can hear something, there in the background – it’s the collective sigh of thousands of parents as their children go back to school. But there’s also another sigh of relief, this time from the bosses and colleagues that have to try to cope with the pressures that the school holidays bring. It’s easy to think that school holidays only effect families but of course they effect everyone. For two concentrated months it seems that half the British workforce needs to take time off, either to go on holiday or to provide childcare. It would help if schools were more flexible about family holidays. I do understand that 6 weeks is a great big holiday but it’s also the most expensive time to do it and it’s also the busiest time to do it and it puts the whole country under an enormous strain.
It’s a strange position to be in as a parent but I often think that parents are guilty of forgetting that our child free colleagues are also in it with us. When three people in the department all have to take their holiday in August then you can bet that the fourth person without children will come fourth in the list of priorities, and of course poor old number four will also have to work extra hard in August acting as lynch pin and co-ordinator whilst the rest of the team are having fun in far flung exotic locations. Of course they probably aren’t having fun, they are probably sun burnt and wondering how they are going to pay for the holiday that would have been £500 cheaper just 3 weeks later. Still if you’re stuck filing in St Austell with an increasing backlog then you won’t be seeing it from their point of view.
Some parents seem to feel that because they have children then their needs must be met first. I’ve had to stop myself laughing when I once heard a serious argument that society owed parents because parents were continuing the species. Now that’s probably the most self serving argument I have ever heard. I didn’t have children in order to honour my Darwinian debt and if I did, it was done subconsciously. I did it because I wanted children, so no one owes me anything. My children are my luxury and my gift, they are not my meal ticket or my excuse to push to the front of the queue. I am really grateful for everyone who helps me and acknowledges that having children is hard work and does things to make life easier for me but I don’t expect it. Human kindness usually ensures that those with children never have to work the Christmas Eve shift if it can be avoided but it’s not a given.
Unfortunately having children does mean that as parents we make them our first priority which is as it should be but it also puts a huge pressure on industry. In the past men worked and women stayed at home and ran things from there but we no longer live in that society, as mothers also work to make ends meet and childcare is increasingly spread over two parents. Gradually, what is actually happening is that childcare is spread out over everyone’s shoulders, whether they have children or not. If a parent has to drop out of work to nurse a sick child the rest of the workforce picks up the slack. It may not seem like Cameron’s Big Society but in a small way we’re already all pulling together everyday. We just need to acknowledge it and realise that no one has the soft option on the holiday rota.