I know there are lots of parents out there who are facing what seems like an impossible task of having kids home for two weeks, without having a household set-up for that. I want you to know that first of all, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.
Here’s how I know:
In the fall of 2005, I had a three-year-old who had just narrowly escaped being intubated for failure to thrive, and a newborn who had a severe facial deformity. And I had a nervous breakdown. The hospital in Brooklyn was fantastic—they kept me there overnight, with a social worker by my side the whole time, until they had a plan for me to go back home and take care of the kids.
In late 2007, I was working fifteen-hour days at my startup and I had both kids in daycare/school/whatever you call it. Then the kids had two weeks off for winter break and by the third day I was losing my mind. My husband kept the kids for three hours while I went to the emergency room in Madison.
I told triage that I was losing my mind, that I needed a pill or something. After they kept me in the waiting room for two hours, I told them I only had one more hour of child care and I really needed them to see me.
I went home with nothing except incredible fear that I would hurt the kids or myself and I would not make it through two weeks.
For years after that I was terrified of school breaks.
Now I see the real problem with school breaks. It’s not that I can’t take care of my kids. It’s that I can’t take care of kids when there is no structure, no routine the kids are used to, no sharing of duties that the parents are used to. School breaks are completely outside of the systems families use to maintain sanity. Families set up their support systems and routines to function with five days a week of school/daycare. Only the very rich are able to seamlessly switch everything up for two weeks.
So when I had the kids at home for two weeks, I went nuts. I counted the days til it was over. And probably, the kids did, too, because there was so much tension.
But the terrible winter break experience did not mean that I was unable to be home with the kids. Kids like structure and routine. If the family establishes structure and routine with kids at home all day, then kids do fine. Everyone needs to know what is happening and they need to find their own rhythm.
I swear it is completely true that my life got a thousand times easier when I took my kids out of school. The constant reordering of my life to accommodate the demands of school is totally draining and debilitating to parents. Winter break is one of the best examples of that.
I look at that photo of my son. He is so small and cuddly and enchanted by the snow. I can’t believe how much time I missed with him while he was at school. And I am so thankful that I started homeschooling as early as I did.