I have enjoyed a new experience at home these past couple of weeks, something I haven’t been able to do for just over five years, says Peterborough mother of two Donna Steele:
It is something called being “home alone” and is accompanied by something called “peace and quiet”.
How many parents remember that?
Yes from 9.15am when the oldest daughter’s school day is safely under way, and the youngest has been delivered to her pre-school, I finally find myself in my own company during the day for the first time since motherhood took over my life and turned it upside down- albeit for the better.
Now this is in part down to the Government’s regularly criticised - if you look at the internet and social media - 30 hours of free childcare which became available to families recently.
If I am honest, it isn’t something I had looked into and researched, which isn’t like me at all.
Since September we had been easing her in gently with a weekly session and were looking forward to her taking up the 15 free hours.
Like most benefits I just assumed I would not meet the criteria for the 30 hours. Then one of the mums on the school run put me right and, despite only working part time and being self-employed, I earned enough to qualify.
It was even quite simple to fill in the HMRC’s online forms, which isn’t something you hear yourself saying very often, especially when you work for yourself.
At the end of it you get a code to pass on to the care provider. Simple.
Like me, she is still getting used to it, but it is doing her the world of good, so for that I guess I should be grateful to the department that came up with it.
I also share my gratitude with the pre-schools where staff have really gone out of their way to help her acclimatise and settle in. My trust in them and the great work they do has helped me deal with the separation.
So, despite my husband’s tongue in cheek (I think) suggestion that I get home, put my feet up with a cuppa and watch Phil and Holly on This Morning it just isn’t like that. All stay at home parents will know that.
But what it does allow is time to plan my singing lessons and musical theatre classes without an inquisitive pre-schooler wanting to “help,” or doing the work whilst also piecing together jigsaws, watching Disney films and reading the works of Julia Donaldson.
And there is now time to go out and lead theatre workshops in schools both independently and as part of the excellent Peterborough Music Hub run by my good friend Michael Cross. Not to mention write this column!
Of course I do still have pangs of guilt when it is just me at home, which I know is only natural. But as much as I love my girls and adore having them around, it is nice to be able to concentrate on one thing at a time rather than the usual case of mum multi-tasking.