There’s one conversation all the primary-school parents around me are having right now.
“Why do schools still think it’s 1950?”
You know, those days Tony Abbott longs for when everyone had a mother in a pinny waiting at home with freshly-baked cookies. When every household had two (straight) parents and dinner was always on the table when a man got home, Goddammit.
A time before “working families” and “career women” and “after care” and “Deliveroo”.
Of course, those times never really existed. Working-class women have always worked, single-parent families have always existed, not everyone was ever straight and statistics show that, even in the good old days, 48.7 per cent of women could not bake a biscuit if their lives depended on it*.
But still, it was the conversation I was having over and over in a school yard last Thursday, when my youngest started kindy. At 10am.
Two things to note in that sentence – Thursday. And 10am.
Are school holidays too long? Listen to Holly and Ben Fordham take it on on the This Glorious Mess podcast:
My friend Lisa, a single, working mum who, like us, already has a child at the same school, was looking anxious in the playground. She wants to be there on the morning her baby starts school (of course she does, we all do) but the first day of kindy is 10am-2pm and her company has a big project launching this week. She’s meant to be in a crucial meeting at 10.30am.
“Come on,” she’s saying, as the teachers gently herd kids in over-sized shirts and enormous backpacks into wiggly lines. There’s no way she’s leaving before she waves her nervous daughter up the steps, but seriously, her boss is losing patience. After all, there’s just been six weeks of juggling holiday care and leaving early and starting late and smuggling kids into offices to play quietly on iPads.
Lisa knows she’s going to be running into that meeting 10 minutes late, flustered and on the back-foot, despite being up last night preparing. Feeling the judgement of the other people in the room. And worrying about how her daughter’s going in that unfamiliar classroom.
Welcome to the life of a working parent, yes? Yes. But does it have to be this hard?
“Two pm pick-up is bullsh*t,” another friend, Lucy was saying, as I nodded furiously. “It’s not like Jake hasn’t been in daycare for two years. He can handle 3pm, even 5pm!”
It’s true. For parents who have already arranged pick-ups or after-care around 3pm, a 2pm finish for a significant period of time cuts their working ability off at the knees.