PARENTS

The Semi-Detached Parent: The Reality Of Single-Parenting Through The Summer Hols

23/07/2013 16:30 | Updated 22 May 2015

The Semi-Detached Parent: The reality of single-parenting through the summer holsAlamy

This week I dropped my son off for his first day back at school with a hugely heavy heart, but also a massive sense of relief - and of course, a mega-dollop of Single Parent Guilt.

I love having him at home, and being free of the confines of 8am and 4pm school runs, endless homework and music supervision, form filling, uniform washing and general school based admin. And I enjoy his company; working from home, on my own, it is undeniably nice to have someone else to chat to when I stop for a coffee, or RSI break. But only on the days when things go to plan.

And it's fair to say, this summer didn't particularly go to plan. Because he had missed so much school during the previous term because of his hand injury, it has very much felt like he has been home with me since the week before May half term.

So the summer holidays had just melded into once vast period of time that had no proper definition: it didn't feel like the holidays and the appalling weather meant it did not feel like summer. I could not afford for us to have a proper holiday and we settled into a boundary-less state where we seldom knew what day it was and didn't really do anything or go anywhere unless it was a work-related event, a dog walk or out to a restaurant because I was too tired to cook dinner.

And thinking back to the summers I had as a child, it has left me feeling nauseatingly guilty, even though there is nothing I could have done to change how we had to spend ours; I had to work, I could not control the weather, and I had no childcare apart from the alternate weekends my son was with his dad.

My memories of childhood summers are full of endless sunny days spent out on bikes with my friends, watching sparkles dancing on the bright blue sea at Littlehampton, the smell of hot vinyl as the sun beat down on the little dinghy my dad bought me to row up and down the river; making camps and dens in the park, and concocting perfume from rose petals with a gaggle of little girlfriends.

If my son recollects his summers in the future I can't help but fear they will consist only of The Summer My Dad Moved Out, the Summer We Did Not Have a Holiday, The Summer Mummy Spent Most Days in Tears, and The Summer I Overheard Mummy Telling Her Friends She Couldn't Wait for it to be Over and Have Me Back at School.

Every year for the past five years I have vowed my child would have a summer to remember for the right reasons. Yet again, I seem to have failed. And I am certain it is only a matter of a couple of years before he chooses to spend his long holidays from school languishing in front of his computer over at a friend's house, rather than being cooped up watching his mum tapping away on hers. Which will at least mean an end to my childcare woes, but just makes me feel even worse about the way my son's most formative years have ended up panning out.

Other single, working parents, can you relate to this?

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