Hanging in there

Parents might look like they are just about managing, but that’s because they are often madly paddling below the surface just to get to the weekend.

Tired woman pouring coffee


Just about hanging in there is probably the status I would put on social media if I had the time to look at it. Many of the parents I speak to these days seem to be feeling similarly challenged. Everyone has their head down focused on getting to Friday or the next day off, which is not really a day off because you’re often checking emails while sorting all sorts of urgent administrative home issues to tee you up for the next week.

Someone asked me how we could get more 30-50 year olds at a festival I work on. Was there a topic we could tailor which would bring in the crowds, they asked?  I mentioned that, short of offering free food, money, massages and a babysitting service, it was a hard sell. Especially on a week night.

I had personal experience of this this week. On Monday, daughter three’s band were playing in London. I feel duty bound, as Chief Roadie, to attend all gigs. So I found myself dropping off equipment just before 7am after leaving daughter three at the tube for work, heading to Cambridge for a long work meeting, stopping in a cafe on the way home to catch up on all my emails and articles and then doubling back at 7pm to pick up my brother and head into London. Only son mentioned in passing that he urgently needed paints for an art project. Daughter two was involved in some major essay writing spree, choosing whether to write about the impact of John Lennon or Federico Garcia Lorca on the world. She was erring towards Lorca, mainly because I studied him and may be able to advise…

I drove into north London, with my brother – just back from over a decade in the mountains of Argentina – providing a running commentary on everything that has changed since he was last here. Drive-through Costas! Self-service check-outs! Skyscraper buildings full of ‘luxury’ flats! Co-ops everywhere!

We had used an app to park because we had to bring back all the equipment. We found the parking space okay in a supermarket and headed to the pub where the band were playing, noting a KFC on the corner as we were slightly hungry by this point [I’d had half a sandwich for lunch and quite a bit of caffeine]. In the event the band started late, played brilliantly and then convened in the pub. Two friends of daughter one came and we chatted to them before leaving for the KFC. It was at this point that I realised the parking space was running out. I had optimistically thought we would be finished by 11pm. We sprinted to the supermarket only to find the entrance closed and locked and police searching the nearby grounds and scaling the building. Uh oh.

We ran round the back looking for the entrance to the car park, carrying the guitar and amp. It was still open, but we were over the app time. We drove back to the pub, but KFC was closed by this point. I told my brother there would be chip shops somewhere along the route back. Daughter three decided to get a lift back with a friend.

There were no chip shops open on the way home. We got home around 1am and we only had a Linda McCartney country pie in the freezer. God bless Linda. I decided to put it in the air fryer. It seems to work for Jamie Oliver. It appeared to cook, but when my brother cut into it it was frozen solid in the centre. I microwaved the central part. I’m not sure it tasted very good. Daughter three was nowhere to be seen. It was around 2am and I went into parent panic mode. She replied 20 minutes later saying she was circling Shenfield, which is miles away in the wrong direction. By 6.30am I was up to get only son to school and write two news stories. It was only Tuesday.

Only son still needed paints. Daughter three needed money for a driving lesson and had just found out that her passport required urgent renewal because of the six-month rule. There was no time to stop or keel over. You just have to keep going.

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