I have taken quite a bit of unpaid time off work this month and spent it at home with the children. Despite my fears that I would be driven up the wall, I was pleasantly surprised to find it all, well, pleasant. I got on better with the children when I spent more time with them. For the first time since I left college, I am having a real summer holiday and I like it – all those long days with nothing much planned. It’s nice too not to be shunting the children off to course after course which must be done when both of us are working.
I am sorry to be coming over all Oliver James, but there it is. I do realise that I am very, very lucky to have such an accommodating employer and not everyone is in a position to do this for financial (actually, I’m not sure I can afford it but we will draw a veil) or practical reasons. I also suspect that if this were an open-ended commitment rather than a limited stretch, I might regard it rather differently.
If it is any comfort, I have already ruined them by all my previous time working. I had a friend over during the week and her four children were completely saintly (including the baby, dammit) while mine, frankly, were squirm-makingly awful. My friend has taken an enforced break from work to go abroad with her husband and she is finding the experience very different from her previous life. As someone who worked all her life until last year, she was recently shocked to hear her two year old say to a working mother: “But mothers don’t have jobs.” The working mother riposted, “Oh, sweetie, mothers do have jobs, they just don’t have careers.” Oh the uncomfortable truth of that.