'I've decided to take a Gap Year. This is what it looks like.'

Last year my daughter and I did the HSC.  It was a joint effort – she studied for exams, while I ran a 24/7 version of technical support. I didn’t get involved in the curriculum – it’s been 30 years since I read Hamlet, and her maths books left me behind in Year 7.  But I spent most of the year deluding myself that I could Make A Difference.

Special, nutrient-dense, high-quality food was cooked (every four hours). Car keys were on hand to take her to appointments: English tutoring, the chiropractor, yoga classes (that was just Mondays). I bought wildly expensive, brain-enhancing supplements and gave them out at specific times.   And in between mixing up acai smoothies and grinding my own flaxseeds, I read and read. About stress management, mindfulness training, meditation, exercise.  Let’s face it, if I she wasn’t three inches taller than me, I would have rocked her to sleep in my arms.

Author, Margot Saville. Image via Twitter.

In the end my daughter did well, but did my extreme parenting experiment have much to do with it? I doubt it. She was motivated, had good teachers and worked hard; that’s all you really need. I managed to give myself some more grey hairs and put on 2 kilos, which is what happens when “exam stress” is managed with “red wine”.  But this year is completely different, because I am having a Maternal Gap Year.

It’s a great concept, and one I can highly recommend. The best bit is reclaiming your life; first, you have to vacate the kitchen.  I do the shopping and put it away but - this is the most important part – cooking is entirely optional.

The response to “what’s for breakfast?” or “what’s for lunch?” is now an index finger pointed at the fridge. “There’s plenty of food in there,” I say, my gaze fixed firmly on the newspaper. “Help yourself.”

It took a while, but she’s mastered the washing machine and even the dryer.  But not the iron – no-one in this household has wielded an iron in years: along with making your own junket, I consider it to be a skill best left in the past.

"I managed to give myself some more grey hairs and put on 2 kilos, which is what happens when 'exam stress' is managed with 'red wine'."

And the driving? Well, it appears that Sydney actually has a public transport system – who knew?   She has an Opal card for daytime, and uses a taxi app for coming home late at night. I pay for it, but the upside is that she doesn’t have to be collected.  And the taxi apps (don’t tell your children this) are excellent stalking tools. The Ingogo email tells me where exactly where she was collected and at what time. If only it had a breathalyser, it would be perfect.

So far, it’s been a great year. I’ve taken on more work projects, read some excellent books and even had a conversation with my husband.  And it’s getting better – as soon as I heard about a group trip to the Ubud Writers’ Festival, I signed up. The family thinks it’s a work trip because I’ve left out all the stuff about the cocktails and the massages. If I come back with a tatt, it could even be my own Schoolies.

So far, it’s only May and I’ve retrained the children, reclaimed some mental space and even been to the hairdresser. In fact, this Gap Year is going so well I’m thinking of extending it to two. Cheers.

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