Sayings you never hear from a stay-at-home parent:
1) 'Hooray, it's the school holidays.'
2) 'Fantastic – six weeks off with the kids.'
3) 'What a shame it will be when they have to go back.'
Yet this week, I found myself saying all of the above for one simple reason: I need a holiday myself – from school!
This week Parentdish brought you news of a survey that revealed many parents are dreading the school holidays because of the necessity to juggle childcare and keeping the kids' entertained.
But just lately I've found school life way more stressful than my three children being off.
When I was a working dad, I used to scoff at my stay-at-home wife for being so involved in our children's school lives.
To me, there was Work Life and Home Life – and never the twain met. And so I thought it should be the same for her with regard to school.
"Why do you put in so much effort?" I'd ask, incredulously.
Never a day seemed to pass without there being a class tea, a school trip, a class assembly, a school fair, a parents' evening, a class reps meeting. It was relentless.
"No wonder you're exhausted all the time," I'd say. "If I was in your shoes, I'd just drop the kids off and pick them up. End of!'"
Two years on, I am in my wife's shoes (not literally – her Ugg boots don't fit) after she and I were forced to swap roles after I was made redundant. Now I'm the main carer for our three children, aged 10, seven and four, while she goes out to work.
And I am in absolutely no doubt who has the easier life. For despite my insistence that I would have minimal involvement in school life, it hasn't worked out that way. And the reason why is quite simple: guilt.
Much of the time I think, 'What else would I be doing?' so I put down the iron, turn off the radio and traipse to school for the latest bout of parent-must-witness child activities.
Much of the time, my children guilt me into action with sentences such as: "But Charlie/Ben/Sascha/Helena's mum will be there."
To which I reply: "But I'm not your mum."
To which they reply: "But you're Mum's substitute."
Which tends to leave me slack-jawed and speechless.
And the rest of the time, well, I actually enjoy it. I feel like I'm making a genuine contribution to their lives by witnessing, both for myself and their mother, the little triumphs of their day-to-day lives. Oh, and I also get brownie points from my wife.
But even so, it's still too much. If not every day, then certainly a couple of times a week, there is something that requires my attendance at school during hours that if I was working I wouldn't be able to attend.
Such as the last couple of weeks in which I have been to:
• Three class assemblies;
• Two school trips;
• Two sports days;
• One dance performance;
• Three parents' evenings (alone, because my wife couldn't get the time off work); and
• Made cupcakes for two class teas;
• Watched a rounders match in the drizzle;
• Organised a school fair barbecue.
And now I need a lie down.
My children's school lives have become virtually a full-time job, when you combine all of the above with the drop-off, pick-ups, hosting play dates and ferrying my sprogs to play dates.
I know I don't have to do it, and I certainly know of many parents – including those who don't work – who don't muck in. And I don't even blame them, because my own parents' involvement with school was zero. My dad didn't even attend parents' evenings.
But I do it not for my kids (they don't seem to care less whether me or their mother attends or not): I do it for me.
It justifies my stay-at-home-existence. It gives me something to talk to my working wife about when she gets home from the office. Best of all, it gives me something to moan about.
Are you relieved it's summer holidays?
Or will you be even more exhausted in a few weeks?