I’m sitting here at 9:50pm, the last of our three kids has finally gone to sleep and for the first time all day the house seems less chaotic.  I have a glass of wine, some music playing softly in the background and I start to relax in this chair.

Are we there yet? What about now?


At last I’m feeling like myself again. It’s short lived, suddenly a thought pops into my mind, a question that I’ve been avoiding for days now. I push it to one side but I just can’t seem to shake it so I say it aloud. ‘How much longer before school holidays are over?’ I sigh exhaustively.

Am I the only parent out there who is thinking this? I feel terrible, I’m guilt ridden. God knows that true quality time with your kids these days is getting harder and harder to find. We’re working longer hours, doing more interstate business trips and our mobile phones are practically attached to our ears.

We’re contactable, pokeable, tweetable and taggable 24 hrs a day! It’s crazy but that’s reality. All that makes it sound even worse that despite the fact I have six weeks of pure and sacred quality time to spend with my kids, I’m counting down the days until school starts up again.

I sip my wine. Then I take a few more sips. There’s that thought again. So I sip a little more. Maybe it’s the drink writing now but I’m no longer concerned about whether or not I’m the only one who’s thinking it because I’m pretty certain that that’s not the case. Of course other parents are thinking it.

It goes without saying that we all adore our children and there’s nothing better than hearing a child laugh or seeing the look of pure happiness that only a child can show.  It’s invigorating, it’s fun and it’s one of life’s true treasures!

But I’m a grumpy, cynical old person now. Older than my kids that is. We’re creatures of habit and routine. We detach ourselves for a time from the working world, the world of bills and commitments and all the other boring day-to-day things that we have to contend with as adults.

We switch off that side of our lives to do the right thing for our kids, to give our undivided attention – but school holidays are LONG! Were they this long when I was a kid, I’m nearly certain they weren’t?

Our children are little bundles of perpetually high energy, we can meet them at that level but only for a short time. We’re like the bunnies on the Ever Ready TV commercials, the kids are energized to the max and we’re running on empty. They keep going and going and going and we can’t even reach the finish line!

But still I feel guilty. Somebody used a term the other day that I hadn’t heard before, ‘Guilty Parenting’. They claim that nowadays parents go around feeling guilty about everything – they say we’re forever second guessing ourselves and questioning what we do - Do we spend enough time with the kids, are we teaching them the right or the wrong things? Are we not strict enough or far too strict? Are they eating right…

Apparently because of guilty parenting, kids these days have gotten used to us being around them 24/7 and people are arguing that kids don’t know how to make their own fun anymore like we all did when we were younger. Maybe there’s some truth in that! Irrespective of the argument, it still doesn’t erase what I’m feeling right now. I know how fleeting time is, these are the years that truly matter and before I know it they’ll be gone. 

Recently somebody asked me if I ever played competitive squash and I said, ‘Yes I used to compete a lot’. In my head when I used the words ‘used to compete’ I genuinely thought of that as being a time not long ago – it was 20 years ago – when did those years vanish from my life? 

I’m sure those of you with kids will agree with me when I say that while children help to keep you young, they’re also a visual reminder of how fast time is travelling. Babies become toddlers that become big kids - all in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t take long.

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    • Jay2 says:

      07:33am | 23/01/13

      ..“How much longer before school holidays are over?’Am I the only parent out there who is thinking this? I feel terrible, I’m guilt ridden.”

      Ahhh, HELL NO, you’re not the only person with young children that thinks this. Ahh, the old guilt thing, if we Parents can’t have a constant round the clock feeling of deep appreciative parental love for their kids, its “What’s wrong with me, how can I think like that”. Been there done that.

      You know, I don’t think there is anything I love more than my family, but we all have our annoying quirks that, well, piss other people off.  From birth to death we have, develop and maintain these ‘quirks’.
      Unless somebody is literally a saint or has some sort of disassociative personality trait, there is no way any person can not wish for some time where they don’t have to think about anyone or anything else but themselves or wish everybody would bugger off and leave them be for a little while.
      Yep, I watch the innocence of kids in awe sometimes, the way they skip up to somebody they’ve just met and do introduction “What’s your name??” and then proceed to tell you about the big poo they just did. Equally as impressive is the way they indicate a conversation is over. Simply turn their backs and walk away. Brilliant. No polite segue of “Oh, gosh, look at the time, was suppose to be ....better dash” etc. Nope, just simply turn on your heels and go back to digging in the sandpile. Something we could all learn from that one I feel. Conversation over….NOW!

      They way they can be in awe at the most mundane of things, “Ohhh, ohhhh, this leaf looks like a boat Mummy”. Amazing!!  Then they can be demanding, energy draining little buggers as well and that is when I wished they would just go to bed, in the other room….away from me. grin

      The schoold holidays that never seem to end nightmare was done one Christmas, where for six hellish weeks, one by one, all the kids fell foul to chicken pox.  They didn’t even time it so all of them got it at once, so I was literally homebound with kids, who if they weren’t in the midst of suffering from the dreaded pox, were well enough to want to go somewhere on their holidays.  Try explaining to a six year old bouncing off the walls (who was heartily sick of drawing, painting, leggo building, dvd’s, cubby house building, cooking etc) who wants to go and see her friends and play, that it simply can’t happen because while she feels better her younger brother/sister has to stay home because they’re contagious.
      I feel slightly miffed I wasn’t given some sort of certificate of valour from some organisation somewhere for this heroic feat, the suffering I tell you, was bore by me!

      It is true though and you never believe when you’re young, but in a blink of an eye twenty two years has passed since I had my first. People told me, enjoy those childhood years, because it flies. Pfffft, I thought at the time, but it is true. Now rapidly heading towards the mid forties, I am teased about prospective Grandparent-hood, so I will no doubt, be nursing a baby again at some point, but it will be as a GRANDPARENT. Geez… but on the upside, at least I can hand them back when I get tired grin  !!!

    • Colin says:

      07:34am | 23/01/13

      No, holidays were much, much longer when I was a kid. I remember my friend Tom and I used to make rafts together and float them down the mighty missisip’ and then hitch rides on the paddle-steamers that plied her far reaches…Oh…hang on…no, that wasn’t me…

      No, holidays were much, much longer when I was a kid. My friend Steven and I used to go off on bicycle-riding adventures - often for days at a time. We would take our little pup tents with us and camp down by the river. Sometimes we would fish, and sometimes we would just lay on the long grass watching the few scant clouds slowly drift by on lazy summer breezes across an azure sky…Small breaks in the torpidity would come in the guise of warm zephyrs suddenly blowing in gently from the North, bringing with them the smells of wattle and wildflowers that tickled our noses with their subtle aromas…

      When we did eventually return home, my hours would be whittled away building model aeroplanes on my own or constructing billy carts to race with the neighbouring kids; hotter days would be spent at the community pool. Sometimes we would travel to my grandparents who lived by a beach, and I would spend every waking hour in or around the water, making new friends, building sand-castles and running for joy without a care in the world…All of which was over too soon.

      No, holidays were longer in time when I was a kid, but they lasted mere minutes for me.

      P.s. Time to update your bio, Damien; it says that you only have two children…

    • Philosopher says:

      08:17am | 23/01/13

      Hmm! While you were out covering yourself in mud, my childhood days were startlingly similar to that of the young Leibniz, as I explored my father’s vast private library. As I buried my nose in Gibbon and Heroclitus, I could verily smell the dust off the legionaires, and hear the creaking of the ancient bridles. By the time I was six I could recite Cicero in a high, piping voice. My father used to chortle affectionately as I tangled with
      Descarte’s mathematics - ‘I know young fella, those vortices are indeed absurd!’ Still, your childhood sounds fun, in an unhygienic sort of way.

    • ramases says:

      07:34am | 23/01/13

      There is a simple solution, turn off the mobile phone. Now I know that it seems most people now rely on it as some sort of pacemaker that they firmly believe will end their miserable little lives if they don’t answer every call, tweet or text immediately but I can assure you, you will survive and quality time with your children/partner/alone can be had.
        Of course this is a foreign and to some a sacrilege as they rely on their mobiles to keep them upright and any thought of turning off these insidious machines fills them with dread but who’s fault is that, only themselves to blame.
        I worked at my own business first as a sole owner worker and then later as an employer but I saw people who were doing the same lose what little time they had with their children/partner and decided that although there was more money to be made that weekends and afternoons were the prerogative of my family and that was that. I could have made heaps more but my family came first and that what people have to realise, family first or lose them one way or the other..

    • Sickemrex says:

      08:13am | 23/01/13

      Yep. If I’m doing something with my child and the phone rings.  I generally just don’t answer it.

    • Philosopher says:

      09:24am | 23/01/13

      Sickemrex, I get my 2yo to answer the phone. This usually keeps the conversations short ha ha!

    • Philosopher says:

      07:39am | 23/01/13

      Mr Leith is feeling old and tired, and can’t wait to offload his kids back onto the school. ‘My children have eaten me alive,’ wrote the poet Gwen Harwood. Poor Mr Leith! You are passing on the baton, my good sir… see this as an act of honour, not a cause for misery.

    • acotrel says:

      07:44am | 23/01/13

      When I had a young family most of my annual leave was taken up a few days at a time studying for exams.  If I got to go away with my kids, five days was usually the max, and I still treasure the memories. So what was your complaint, again ?

    • andrew says:

      07:53am | 23/01/13

      Don’t worry, i’m sure it’s only a matter of time until kids are given 4 weeks annual leave and 9-5 school hours to match their parents working situation.

    • acotrel says:

      09:33am | 23/01/13

      What is the name of the kids’ union ?

    • St. Michael says:

      05:26pm | 23/01/13

      It’s called the ACTU, acotrel.  Biggest bunch of whiny, entitled infants I’ve yet come across.

    • stephen says:

      08:15am | 23/01/13

      What happens when the kids get no homework and you get no overtime ?
      Clash of the Titans ?

    • acotrel says:

      09:31am | 23/01/13

      More like clash of the tight arses?

    • Ally says:

      08:23am | 23/01/13

      My cubicle neighbour got back from an extended Christmas break this week and immediately began complaining about how tiring it was trying to keep her kids entertained each day and how glad she was to be back at work. They’d been to some sort of organised activity every day - playdates, movies, pool, wildlife parks, etc. You name it, they’d done it.

      This seems to be pretty common now, that some parents seem to think their kids need to be entertained with organised activities every single day. The idea of making them stay at home and entertain themselves in the backyard or with books or games doesn’t occur.

    • acotrel says:

      09:28am | 23/01/13

      My oldest off spring is now in his late 40s, the second is 2 years younger, the third ten years younger again.  They still play board games and cards whenever they get together. I am still the monopoly champion.

    • imste2 says:

      10:41am | 23/01/13

      Well said Ally,  I’ve noticed this well.  First with my siblings kids and now, 5 years later, with my kids.  I remember school holidays being a time of entertining myself, seeing my friends and catching up on tv viewing.  Outings with my parents were a rare treat, not a daily event.

    • Kika says:

      12:46pm | 23/01/13

      Do kids even know what being bored means these days? I remember being bored a LOT when I was young!

    • Colin says:

      12:52pm | 23/01/13

      @  ChrisE

      “Ugh! It’s breeding.”

      Oh, stop; my sides! That is Pure Genius. Did you think that up all by yourself..? Incredible, incredible wit grin

      Tell me; are you watching the Daytime Soaps right now, whilst stuffing 2-minute noodles into your mouth? Or are you on the Playstation… again?

    • Pattem says:

      04:08pm | 23/01/13

      @Ally, you said: “my cubicle neighbour…”

      I hope you have the dial set to “occupied” while you chat…:)

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      08:25am | 23/01/13

      I barely remember seeing my parents when I had holidays…parents these days seem obsessed with making sure every second of their kids holiday time is managed and planned out with “Activities”.  Not sure if this is you or not, but, I certainly don’t feel worse for the independence I had during those holidays.

    • bt says:

      11:14am | 23/01/13

      I remember our school holidays was from about 2 weeks before Xmas until the beginning of Feb.  It’s quality vs quantity. We would be at the beach or park with friends or siblings playing sport, not a parent in sight, but there would usually some one old enough near by. Also, we would only do one or two things a day. Now it seems, people want to do as many things as they can everyday.  Parents wants to spend every minute with their kids, true, but parents need time for themselves too.

    • Terry says:

      09:03am | 23/01/13

      In Ireland, where Damien grew up, there’s a famous saying “Three good reasons to become a teacher? June, July and August!” Summer holidays from school there were ten to twelve weeks! Yes, they were longer then.

    • Philosopher says:

      09:29am | 23/01/13

      and we wonder why the Irish economy is a mess. ‘Twill be ok, Seamus, t’e phone call to London can wait, sit yerself down… now, where were we? Oh yes, now my granpa knew Mr Joyce, and I remember him telling me about a game of darts wit’ the man in tis very pub…’

    • patsy says:

      09:44am | 23/01/13

      Damien, that may be be a pic of your kids on the way to your Tamworth show last Monday. Quality time on the car trip.  My daughter-in law went and got you to sign her CD and loved it.

      Your kids will grow up and leave home and then you both will get a lot of me time and you’ll wonder how it went by so fast. Relax and enjoy it now.

    • Philosopher says:

      10:23am | 23/01/13

      the kids are smiling because he’s finally taken out his own CD of Roy Orbison covers and put on Napalm Death.

    • patsy says:

      11:43am | 23/01/13

      @Philosopher-You might be onto something there. Daughter-in-laws’ mum said if you closed you eyes he sounded just like Roy Orbison. Now I get it.

    • John says:

      09:55am | 23/01/13

      In most western countries summer holidays go for 10 to 12 weeks.  With memories still of sitting in classrooms 50 years ago with more than 50 other boys with no air conditioning in a Sydney February I can understand why.  If you don’t like children, don’t have them.  Six weeks is a doddle.

    • Jeremy says:

      10:49am | 23/01/13

      How the hell did you get 6 weeks off over Christmas? I got 2. So I basically just see the kids as much as the rest of the year, only I’m slightly grumpier and they’re slightly happier.

    • Colin says:

      10:56am | 23/01/13

      @ Jeremy

      That’s nothing; I get so few holidays that I only just found that I HAVE kids..!

    • ChrisE says:

      11:31am | 23/01/13

      Ugh! It’s breeding.

    • Working Mum says:

      11:01am | 23/01/13

      God Really?

      I just came back to work after 32 days off (for the price of 17 days holiday). I had an absolute ball with my two kids. I loved spending every minute with them, we didn’t do that much on our days home, went to the beach had friends over for sleepovers and I tried to have as many of the kids’ friends over for the 4 weeks to “pay it forward” for the rest of the year when I have other parents help me get the kids to sports training etc. I loved, loved, loved it. Felt like I was on school holidays myself!

      I do this every year, I negotiated an extra week’s holiday a year on the condition I take it in Jan when my business is quiet.  take an extended break in January, get to do the ‘stay at home mum’ thing, re-bond with the kids and come back to work relaxed and fully charged for the year. And I still have 10 days up my sleeve for another 2 weeks through the year.

    • NSS says:

      11:25am | 23/01/13

      Damien, you’re right -  tempus fugit, even if it seems to fugit a tad slower when you are the prime entertainment system for three boisterous kids! You’re one of the lucky ones though. You have many precious moments with your family to share and remember, even if your time is frequently not your own. I know you realise just how precious and wonderful these years are and I’m sure your kids will remember with fondness all the great days with daddy.

      Don’t feel guilty though. You sound like you’re doing a wonderful job. At least you care enough to realise through the vino haze ha! that you are counting the hours til your darlings are occupied by someone else for large chunks of time, just like every other parent in your position.

    • ramases says:

      12:04pm | 23/01/13

      Here’s a novel idea, farm the kids out to the grandparents, oops most are already doing that arent they, silly me.
        RESPONSIBILITY, there in big type so that you can read it, that’s the name of the game, you breed them you look after them and stop bloody complaining..

    • Mum of Three says:

      12:15pm | 23/01/13

      Can somebody please explain the term “play-date” to me? What the frigg is a ‘play date’? Why can’t kids just play with the neighbourhood hids without all the parental guidance and stage management? BINM (Back In My Day), we just played with whichever kids were around at the time. Or is this something else which has fallen to the “there’s a paedo around every corner…we must hover over our children!” hysteria of the past 25 years?

      (Before anyone calls me out on that paedo line, I worked for 16 years as a detective in various child protection units/police services, therefore know that the hysteria has done more harm than good!).

    • Working Mum says:

      01:00pm | 23/01/13

      I know what you mean…and agree to an extent. My kids don’t really have kids close enough in age within what today is regarded as a safe, unsupervised walking distance. Which is a shame because it does mean playing has to be more organised than it was ‘in my day’. We’re working on it in our street though…!

    • Solarberry says:

      12:26pm | 23/01/13

      Put them in a school holiday program, thats what I do. I still have to work over the holidays and my parents still work full time so we cant rely on them.

    • Kika says:

      12:41pm | 23/01/13

      Isn’t that why we have children? So they can grow up and have children that we can spoil rotten and enjoy and hand back?

      I’m pregnant with my first now and my mum has told me that when my sister and I were babies all she wished for was for us to get older as if everything will be easier once we were 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 2, 5, 10, 15… Then before you know it we were grown out doing our own thing worrying her. She has reminded me to try to enjoy every moment, because they are only young for such a fleeting moment in time.  Like what Damien said 20 years flies by and before you know it your annoying little kids will be annoying big adults having their own lives with no time for Mum or Dad anymore!

    • Joan Bennett says:

      02:44pm | 23/01/13

      Not sure why parents feel like they are not spending enough time with their children.  Mothers spend 16% more time with their children today compared to 1970.  This is because in 1970s, folks just understood that children need that time to themselves to play with their brothers and sisters or someone else from their peer group.  Why do parents think that their child needs a 35 year old friend nowadays?  On rainy days during the school holidays, by all means get out the board games, but the rest of the time, chase the kids out on their bikes or into the back yard.  They will survive…

    • david says:

      06:04pm | 23/01/13

      ‘At last i am feeling like myself again.’

      It’s sad that you don’t feel like yourself when you are with your kids. Perhaps it may be that children clamour for us because they can see that the real ‘us’ isn’t actually present.

      The real ‘us’ has been replaced by what society tells us our kids want or need - organiser, multi-tasker, negotiator, entertainer, technology provider. Kids cling and demand in the hopes that the real ‘us’ will turn up and just be around - with unconditional love.

      Unfortunately the real ‘us’ only turns up after the kids have gone to bed for the night.

 

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