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How on earth does school and working work?

I have been trying to not fret about things.  When I mean things, what I really mean is everything – a list that starts small along the lines of what on earth are we having for dinner and then rapidly escalates through why is something eating the eggs from the henhouse and then takes in worries about not getting pregnant and what if Mr Muddling doesn’t ever get a job again.


And yes I am well aware that some of them are ridiculous but that’s a worry list for you.


The trouble is that things keep on being added to the list.


Bigger is heading to school in the autumn which has been a bit of a shock because I’m fairly certain she was only born about 5 minutes ago.  But there you have it, the powers that be seem to think she’ll be ready for full time education and there isn’t much I can do about that.


Actually the whole going to school thing doesn’t worry me – she’s ready for a challenge, will look super cute in uniform (shallow, moi?) and I love the school she is going to.


What I hadn’t really woken up to (and yes I do have form on this, when we started weaning Bigger I hadn’t really realised that babies carry on having milk – for years after you start giving them actual food… really must start reading parenting books so these things come as less of a surprise) and what I suppose I should have realised is that there is quite a lot of time when children aren’t at school.


I’m not talking about the fact that schools don’t tend to start until 9am, as in well after I am usually at work even ignoring the logistics of a commute, or that they finish at 3.30 and I don’t tend to get home until 7pm at the earliest.  Yes there is some wrap around care that can sort of bridge some of that time but does still leave a few hours a day when you can’t have nobody looking after the children.


What I hadn’t realised was just how long school holidays are.  I get 25 days of leave a year.  Plus the bank holidays.  So I have 33 days to be away from the office.


School holidays appear to be a couple of weeks in the autumn, 3 weeks at Christmas, another week of in February, 4 weeks at Easter, another week off in June and then 8 weeks in the summer.  That’s 19 weeks, over a third of the year and more importantly about 14 weeks more than I have holiday for.


How on earth are you supposed to hold down any normal job and still be able to look after your children during these months of holidays?


Forget trying to work out the logistics about getting them to and from school and supervising homework but what do you do with them for the rest of the year when they aren’t actually at the school?  And what about the cost?  Not only do you have the costs of school uniform and all the extra bits but then there is all this childcare on top.
I thought it was supposed to get easier once they went to school!


The more I look at it, the more I realise that this country is set up so that only one parent can realistically work – that it is set up entirely so that the other parent has to fit in with covering the gaps and then trying to create a career in the small spaces left.


The more I think about it, the more I realise that I am doomed – how am I ever going to manage this and the demands on my job?  How am I ever going to get this work?  Because even in a household of equals I suspect that getting this to work is going to be my problem and I’m going to be the one that has to stretch themselves out of shape to make it work.


I honestly cannot see a way through this one.

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26 comments to How on earth does school and working work?

  • Childminder- most of them will also take the kids during the holidays… Rubbish though isnt it!

  • kninki

    Oh don’t. I’m in major denial about this myself. I’m currently trying to piece together childcare for a 3 year old and a 1 year old for when I return to FT work in December. Factors include: an hour-long commute for both Mr K and I, the 3yo in pre-school for 15 hours/week, my parents covering 1 day/week, the fact we’ll be (hopefully) moving house early-mid next year – and then there’s the cost.

    If I could raise my head out of the sand long enough, I’d be tearing my hair out. Where the hell do you start?

    • This school thing is making our current situation look blissfully simple (which I guess is a silver lining, right?) – I think the only solution is to ignore it and hope for the best, the cost thing makes me feel quite giddy

      Guess we can survive on baked beans

  • This is where I am now. I always expected to go back to work when my children started school, but I simply can’t see how I can do it. OH rather unhelpfully asked whether I’d be on maternity leave until they went to university, but which jobs are well paid and part time/term time only? My qualifications and many years of experience will be wasted as flexible working does not seem to really exist.
    I could go on! Good luck with working it all out x

    • Ouch that isn’t helpful…

      Incredibly my boss has an idea that I’ll be able to be full time when the girls are at school whereas the reality looks to be that it’ll be harder than it is now. Is utterly rubbish

  • Move to Scotland! We don’t seem to get anything like that much holiday… (def only two weeks at Christmas and Easter and six in the Summer…).

    That aside, I know exactly where you’re coming from. That came as a massive shock to us too. I had thought that the hideousness of full time nursery in central London would stop and everything would become easier once they were in school, and then realised that that was absolutely not the case.

    The moving to Scotland thing was a joke, but actually that was a big part of the reason for our move: cheaper house = less mortgage = we don’t need all of my salary = I can go freelance = our kids can go to school.

    There are, obviously, holiday clubs – the nursery ours are in while I work turns into a holiday club and they do do all sorts of brilliant things with them, but it all costs more of that hard earned cash, until you wonder why you bother…

  • Tell me about it! And don’t forget to throw in any inset days and, recently, strike days!

    I don’t have quite as many weeks as you to cover but it’s still a headache. So far I have relied on my parents and inlaws and my lovely and very flexible childminder…

    Good luck! I always thought it would get easier once they were at school but actually I find it harder to juggle and I feel I need to be available more for things like reading and homework.

  • Talking to mums with kids a bit older than LMC I’ve now realised that when they go to school is when the real difficulties start. As you say the hours just do not fit in with anyone who works even just 9 – 5 with a commute at either end. How on earth you fit in school holidays and things like after school activities is a mystery to me.

    Where it falls apart even more is when I hear about parents being told that they are then expected to do other things IN SCHOOL HOURS like coming in and taking a turn listening to kids reading, special class assemblies and meetings to tell you about curriculum updates etc. I’ve realised that realistically unless we suddenly hit the jackpot financially I am not going to be able to properly return to my career until my youngest (not even born yet) is in secondary school. Quite how you then manage to pick up a career in a technical field after such a long gap is beyond me.

    As you say it seems that unless you have an amazing family support network around I can only see how one parent can properly work full-time.

    • As far as I can see there are heaps of things in school hours – how on earth are you meant to do that? I just don’t have extra holiday to cover that sort of thing. All it says to me is that schools don’t understand the demands of a job

  • You really hit the nail on the head with this post. I am currently fretting about exactly the same issue. I gave up my full-time job as a lawyer 2 years ago in order to spend more time with my children, and now I can’t see when I am ever going to be able to get back into the paid workforce…

  • Yes! I didn’t go back to work when I expected because of my back and now I don’t know how on earth I am going to find anything that will work. As you say, all the flexibility seems to have to fall on my side, even though Mr is self-employed. I think I’ve lost my career already (unless I can shoehorn enough work into the early hours to develop MilkChic into a “proper job”) and everything I can find that works with small one means either earning less than the nursery fees or retraining! I hate it – I feel I’m neither being a happy full time mum nor a great example of a woman achieving. Balance is hard to find.

  • Andrea

    I really don’t know how people are supposed to do it, lots of juggling really. We only manage because I work in a school myself and even if I work in the hols I can take my eldest in with me whilst youngest is at her nursery. I also purposely changed careers and moved to a job closer to home so I don’t have the hassle of commuting. We still have to juggle though. My husband does school drop off whilst I take baby to nursery at 7:30. Then 3 days a week eldest goes to after school club so I pick baby up at 4:30 then get eldest from said club. The other two days I finish work at 2:30 so do school pick up first then nursery. If I ever have to attend a meeting on those two days I get a friend to do school pick up.

  • Sarah ffelan

    I’m afraid I don’t have a magical solution just empathy. I expected to find juggling school hours and holidays difficult but I’ve managed better than I thought on that one with a very helpful mum, friends, flexible working (though I think I could do more of that – if you don’t ask employers, you don’t get) However, there are two things that have really taken me by surprise:

    1. Kids might not be happy with the childcare arrangements you make. I thought I had it all sorted – a pretty good deal for someone with a working mum: I go in late so do school drop off each day; 2 days picked up by my mum; 2 days with a childminder who has a child in her class and I don’t work Fridays… BUT Kids just want to come home after school and do very little. They are exhausted. Especially in reception year. My daughter REALLY struggled with the childminder and really struggled with me getting home late (she really didn’t get the fact that going in late, means home later, not bothered at 5 are they?!) After tears at school (I miss my mummy, she’s always working) it has settled down but still I hate the thought that I’m not in the playground each day.

    2. And this is the bit that remains unresolved, I had no concept of how much support you have to give in terms of reading, homework, little after school meetings, assembly etc. I left a parents’ evening in tears after being told my daughter wasn’t reaching her full potential because she wasn’t doing enough reading practice at home and when I said, ‘But she doesn’t always want to read’ and told of having books thrown at me. The teacher, with slightly raised eyebrows, replied, ‘Well perhaps when it’s convenient for you to hear her read, isn’t the best time for her.’ Aye there’s the rub.

    I now find myself, having just been told that she’s been relegated from the top table for reading to table 2, feeling quite distraught that I’ve not been around enough to help her and that homework and reading is always rushed and fractious. How on earth I’ll manage with 3 kids at school, I don’t know.

    And the final thing (oh make that 3 things..) that i am now worrying about is that by being at work and home late, I’m not giving her chance to do the all important extra curricular stuff (ballet, sport etc) that she now wants to do but the classes are either after school mid-week or all weekend which I want to keep precious as family time. Haven’t resolved that either yet!

    The thing that pains me most is that i didn’t set out to be the big career woman but like most, we have a mortgage, a lifestyle we want to maintain but I am now doing some serious thinking following a conversation only last week.
    ‘Mummy why does Aunty C not have to work?’
    ‘Well,’ I replied, ‘Because they don’t have a big house like us and less fancy things blah blah…’
    ‘Well,’ she said (cogs whirring), ‘If we lived in a smaller house could you stay at home instead of going to work?’
    ‘Er, yes, I suppose I could’
    ‘Well, why don’t you do that? I’d love that’
    I bet she would. Really.

    So not making any rash decisions. I’m thinking through all options – get a job nearer home (ah but there’s a recession, no jobs!), change careers (but how?!), go to 3 days (employer saying no) and yes now, I’m thinking about the final unspeakable option, which is stop the rat race, downsize, be permanently broke but be around for my 3 kids as they go through school.. I’ll let you know how I get on!!

    Good luck – you will find a way. We all do. A kids are quite robust little things really, Except when they’re tired 😉

    • My big problem is that I didn’t turn off the ambition button when I had the girls – and yes I do still want my career and I don’t want to tread water for the next 10 years but how on earth can I do that and make everything else work

      Would love to totally downsize and give it all up and find a totally different lifestyle but not sure how possible that is and how I would keep my brain ticking over (don’t want to go totally rusty)

  • Mudder-ling

    1. wraparound care – take whatever you can get
    2. holiday clubs – loads on offer, all day events where possible
    3. ‘tag team’ and coordination around drop-off/pick up with Mr M
    4. stop beating yourself up about it!

    LCM x

  • I do think this can be one of the hardest things, we ended up with breakfast and after school clubs when I worked full time, I was fortunate enough to teach so my holidays matched my son’s. I know my sister and her husband have shared holidays by taking different weeks off, but it also means they rarely get a week together.

  • School is much much harder. I was under a (FALSE) illusion that it was easier somehow. It isn’t. It isn’t even that less expensive. On the best days and weeks it is fun and exciting and I enjoy what really is now ‘my’ time with him. On the worst days I feel like killing myself – there are very few women I know who work, and are in partnerships where both people work full time. I’ve found I am a very solitary figure, and unusual, and therefore often misunderstood or simply not catered for in the world of school.

  • I’m currently keeping my head in the sand. I’m meant to increase my hours once my older child starts school. Ha effing ha. I had to choose, job with increased hours or no job and it’s a darn good job so I agreed to the increase of hours, when really I had hoped to work 9-3pm 5 days a week.

    I hope for holiday clubs and gymnastics bootcamps (yes these things exist in Glasgow) – not because I’m a pushy mum but because I need the childcare. We have breakfast club from 8am, and then after school until 5pm which is a start. But we’re short 5-7pm too due to hubby’s commute and my regular late working requirements.

    • Urgh it is horrible – just can’t seem to work out how we bridge from me being at work for 8am and not back until 7pm. And then what about homework and reading

      Enough to make your head explode

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