Has the time come for schools to recognise the steady rise in the number of working single parents? Are the current curriculum riddled with pupil free days and parent invites outdated in their expectancy that all parents can make themselves available at the drop of a hat?
As working single parents of school-age children we only commit to flexible work that fits around the needs of our children. We then carefully construct a routine based around school hours and work commitments. This should, in practice, create an ideal schedule allowing us to simultaneously be:
- Fabulous parents; and
- Diligent employees.
Then why oh why do things so rarely go to plan?
MY RECENT PROBLEM
Take my recent experience for example. My children’s school (fabulous as it is – I love their school, they love their school) had a pupil free day on Monday, the first day back. So while I enviously watched other schools return to normal, I have begun the term with a problem. I have started on the back foot.
What will I do with my kids while I go to work?
Unfortunately, my boss doesn’t carefully coincide ‘employee free days’ to match ‘pupil free days’ thus helping working single parents the world over. No such luck.
Of course, it’s only one more day and it always works out. It has too. It may involve a desperate ring-around or group text (‘Is anyone free to take my kids tomorrow?’). Bribing them to go to child care (if it’s open – mine hate it there). Or, as the final resort, taking them into work, where they are instructed to act invisible and play silently on their iPads for eight hours.
Like I say, there’s always a solution.
But it doesn’t end there
One of my daughters goes on school camp in week two. (Lucky her – an experience of a lifetime and I don’t deny her it one bit.) However, this means I have to collect her from school at lunch on Thursday – half way through my working day. OK, this is just about manageable. No Employee of the Month award for me, but like I say, manageable. But she also has Friday off school to rest.
Then, just as I’m figuring out how to get through the week without emptying the contents of my work desk into a cardboard box, I discover that the following Monday is another pupil free day. Arrrrhhhhh.
Should outdated schooling consider working single parents? (cont.)
How oh how are working single parents expected to manage this?
Could the school not be a little more considerate towards us working single parents that simply have to go out and earn?
As a single mother who has missed every sports day, parental day, concert and award ceremony in the last two years, I admit, I am disgruntled (and riddled with mum-guilt).
It seems that barely a week goes by when there isn’t a change to the school routine. Be it an invite into school, an early pick-up or a pupil free day, these seemingly small requests from the school are huge spanners in the work of an already ‘just keeping head above water’ lifestyle.
So I ask schools:
Please consider us working single parents when planning the school term. So many of us are independently balancing work/life/kids. We do it well and (in a world designed for conventional families) we are extremely proud of our achievements. However your curriculum-based curve balls are particularly hard to dodge, and impact not only us, but our children … your students.
Worth noting: I am fully aware that that schools are not day care facilities and that our children our lucky to have such great schools (and teachers) in an amazingly country full of opportunities.