Usually after a school holiday – be it a five day half term or a tooth-gritting, buttock-clencher of an eight week summer break – I find the first day back at my desk one huge shoulder-dropping, deep exhaling, eight-hours of 'finally I can relax!' pleasure.
Note my use of 'usually'.
Today is my first day back at said desk after the autumn half term, but the exhaling and shoulder-dropping are just not happening.
Instead, my shoulders are up somewhere around my ears, and the only breathing out I am doing is in the form of low growls.
And this really should not be so, given that I have barely had to parent my son over the holidays.
And that is the entire problem. I feel CHEATED out of time with him.
I am so used to struggling through school holidays with no childcare, limited finances and the constant threat of a row with my ex hanging over my head, that this last half term has been something of an oddity. And not for the good.
My son spent three of the five days and one long weekend with his dad, coming back and forth to me for snatched hours and one half day to attend various family events and appointments, before being whisked off again.
I don't think he much enjoyed the disjointed nature of it all, constantly packing and unpacking his bag, waking up in one house, going to bed in another, and asking 'where am I going to be today?'
And although the usual arrangement of him just being here with me in the hols can be a struggle and frustrating – I always feel guilty that I am too busy working to do quality-time stuff with him, and he then ends up on his computer for much of the day – it does seem to be the best option.
His dad's work means that this was probably a one-off situation – it's the first time he has taken a half term off, and I imagine it is something that's unlikely to occur again in the near future. And I'm secretly quite glad about it.
No matter how fraught the school holidays always are to work through, there are glimmers of loveliness – having lunch together, giving him little jobs to do in my office, even taking him off to work appointments with me.
OK, so a lot of the time it is not ideal, but we do always managed to have some fun, and, most importantly, spend time together - it's amazing what intense and bonding conversations you can have with a nine-year-old on a train journey into London, or how important it makes them feel doing a bit of filing, or stapling together papers or taking messages. Even if it is all happening against a haphazard work/life not-much-of-a-balance.
And I feel a bit cheated out of that this half term.
How do other single parents feel about their children spending entire school hols with their other parent? Blessed relief or a bit sad?