Lindsay Woods: There are many parents in a similar situation to mine, working from home with no childcare

Lindsay Woods: There are many parents in a similar situation to mine, working from home with no childcare

Within the first hour of Day One, the eldest had devoured a veritable mixing bowl full of cereal and whatever else he could get his hands on that constituted as breakfast.

He is, and always has been, an early riser. It matters not if he hits the bed at 8pm or as the clock strikes midnight. He will without fail exit his bedroom at exactly seven each morning, which during the summer months can be as early as 6am.

While the other child will not deign to join us until much later, with an appearance that suggests she may well have been wrestling bears and with a morning attitude to match, he is already prowling for more sustenance.

After witnessing the consumption of everything but the floorboards on the first day of the holidays, I messaged my husband the following.

I have DRASTICALLY underestimated the food situation for the week. They cannot be filled! They’re looking at me with ‘Children of the Corn’ eyes.

My children are at an age where they can make rudimentary meals for themselves but anything involving the use of fire is strictly off limits without either myself or my husband present.

But this expanding summer appetite so to speak, needed some order. As I, like so many, work from home while also running the gauntlet that is freelancing, it means that some days there is a deluge of work to be cleared and others can be spent willing your brain to produce a measly 100 word count while having a conversation with the cat. 

Therefore, in order to offset the busier days, it was clear I needed to put into place some sort of structure which did not see me physically living in the kitchen for the ensuing months.

Then one evening, the answer came to me. Or rather, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ gave me the lightbulb moment. As the hobbits are being led on a bit of a trek, Pippin is aghast that Aragorn is not familiar with the notion of ‘Second breakfast’.

“That’s it!” said I, gesticulating wildly at the TV.

“What?” said he, none too pleased at having his sofa snoring so abruptly interrupted.

Second breakfast! Maybe that’s what they need.

So, I set about conducting my trial. If this were to work, it would hopefully reduce the amount of constant interruptions of, “I’m hungry”. My lack of childcare means that I now work with my children present during the summer months. 

Look, it is not the most ideal situation but it is not the worst. I am conscious I’m not working down a mine but it still proves trickier than during the school year when I have a dedicated window of time to work in the mornings. 

I now had to ‘juggle the juggle’, so to say I had a few hopes pinned on this somewhat lunatic idea was an understatement.

The response to my announcement was underwhelming.

“You understand what this means? No more running in raiding the kitchen for food while I’m working? I’ll be finished by lunchtime everyday so it’s not like it’s for an entire day.”

Ok. But, do we still get breakfast?

The first week was an unmitigated success. By 10 each morning, they sat down to second breakfast and then duly bolted outside not to return until lunch. 

It allowed me and them a degree of structure, a forging of an alliance if you will with the aid of waffles and bacon. 

I was able to clear my work with the added promise of the pending summer camps which they would head off to in the coming weeks. I was also suddenly able to say yes to ideas presented to me now that the kitchen was not consistently open for 12 hour stretches. 

Case in point, a message one night to contribute to a radio show the next morning would have been an automatic negative last summer. 

Now, with the assurance of the new meal format and the promise of the second breakfast once off the phone, they were the image of good behaviour. 

There are some who may guffaw at this simplistic notion. But for me it has been a lifesaver. There are many parents in a similar situation to mine, working from home with no childcare. Whilst I am incredibly fortunate to do so, it too comes with a distinct set of challenges.

I will never have the capacity for precision organisation akin to a Stepford Wife but maybe, just maybe, with a few tweaks, we will make it through the summer stretch. Without draining the entire weekly food budget in two days or missing deadlines.

“Mum, are we allowed second breakfast on the weekends?”

I have only myself to blame really…

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