Parents are on the frontline of the home/work divide and many are buckling under the pressure.
It’s been another turbulent week with more rounds of strikes and kids off school and told to do ‘independent study’, which my son interpreted as Minecraft. The note from school suggested some work he could do. This was followed by the line ‘Mr X will not be taking in the homework’. My son – and probably the entire class – took that as a free pass.
He had Monday off for an inset day and had tried to get a day off the day before due to sickness, although he has a much lower bar for sickness than I do. I am still working with a high temperature while only son feels he can’t possibly do double PE with a sore throat and a dripping nose. To be honest, double PE in the cold doesn’t sound much fun, even if you’re well. I told him that this is one of the joys of being a parent – not having to do double PE – although you do have to keep working when sick and through total mind-numbing exhaustion and worry about everything under the sun. Swings and roundabouts.
In any event, maybe parents should be doing double PE. I barely move from my desk in the day, except for the school run, so I’m not exactly sure about the state of my physical health at the moment.
The school contacted us on strike day as daughter three wasn’t in. The sixth form was supposed to go in, although she had no classes. Some poor person has had to chase everyone about this because only about 20 people actually turned up.
I was speaking to an education welfare person this week. The role sounds very stressful and the pressure has increased since Covid because so many young people are not coming into school for a variety of reasons. Mental health is a big one. The welfare officer wasn’t on strike, but had her own problems as a parent, which are exacerbated as her kids suffer from allergies. Her daughter has had chronic asthma attacks and she herself suffered from a panic attack because it’s not easy to get time off to take her daughter to appointments or hospital. Her employer doesn’t allow her to work from home.
Education seems to be one of the most inflexible places to work, although it has a high number of women, many of them parents. Something has to give. In this case the mum was signed off for several weeks and is looking for another job.
Everyone these days seems to be juggling too many stressful things and so many parents I talk to are at the end of their tether. We need to recognise that, listen to them and try to find a way forward. When I say listen I don’t mean in the way that the Government says it is listening to teachers, but actually taking time to think about what they are saying, what the stresses they are facing are and trying to find a way forward.
Covid has stretched us all in so many different ways and parents are on the frontline, often at home and at work. They need much more support than many are getting.