There are plenty of us, although down at the local park on a sunny Saturday morning it might not feel like it’s the case. I see Dads everywhere, giving their wives a lie-in whilst they take the kids out to run off some steam, enjoying precious family time denied them by a busy week at work.
But for those of us who are the primary carer of the children and have a spouse who works one or maybe both days of the weekend, it can be tough. Particularly when the kids are small. My husband works on a Saturday and has done since our daughter was a toddler. I am very fortunate to have my parents living close by and when my son was a baby this help was absolutely essential.
I recall a conversation I had with a fellow mum, who had brought up her three children when her husband, a former colleague of myself and my other half, had worked saturdays. She recounted how difficult the children could be on that day, instinctively knowing you were without backup and cut adrift from the usual structures provided by the working and school week. Their house was often in turmoil – toys and mess everywhere – when her husband finally returned in the evening, exhausted himself.
Having spent so long in the economic recession we have learnt to accept the hardships of our working lives, grateful for employment and emphasising the positives in our jobs over the negatives. But if there was anything I could change about our lives it would be this aspect. Not so much for my benefit anymore but for my husband’s. Weekends are the time when Dads get to interact with their family at a more leisurely rate. With 12 hours lost, the homework and chores tend to dominate instead.
As the children get older, it gets easier. No longer does that Saturday seem to stretch out endlessly ahead of you from the moment when you’re first woken up by a lively offspring at the crack of dawn. There are still issues, however. When both of the children are invited to a party or play date you are immediately unsure of how to get them to the right place at the right time single handed. I call upon my parents for help, but I do wonder how others cope.
The reason that I was prompted to write about the subject on this Saturday morning, is that I was reminded of one of the positive legacies of my solo starts to the weekend. Ever since my daughter was tiny, we have always embarked on some kind of creative project to begin the day. This tradition appears to have embedded itself into the culture of our Saturday, long after the requirement to fill an interminable day has dissipated.
Whether it is completing a Lego set or painting a picture, Saturday a.m. is the time we do it. The habit has been firmly instilled. I think this is a lovely tradition but entirely unintentional!
During every weekend now, I do spare a thought for other families in the same boat. Without a doubt it’s hard, but a necessity and one out of which some unexpectedly pleasant habits can grow.