“School’s out for summer, school’s out forever, and I’m bored to pieces”, as Alice Cooper once sang. It was probably the godfather of shock rock’s most chilling song, capturing as it did the genuine horror of realising that the school holidays are here and you are now faced with having to entertain your own kids for two months.
The oldest two are fine — the 19-year-old has a job, while the 14-year-old has little or no interest in any suggestion I have about how he could while away the summer. Read a book? Go for a walk? Meet your pals? He has the internet, so he has no need for any of those things.
No, the summer holidays proper really only start when the seven and almost nine-year-old finished up. We were lucky to have had the foresight to book a few Let’s Go and soccer camps, but that still only occupied a couple of weeks, and now all we have to look forward to is six weeks of just us. Six long weeks. But it’s not all bad, partly because I am starting to see the benefits of working from home.
I was slow to embrace WFH, as I generally like being out of the house. But then I started to worry about the cost to the earth of all the diesel I was using to get to and from the office. Just kidding, it was the cost to my pocket that I was worried about, as the price of diesel has made me painfully aware of every trip I now take in my car.
So for now, it’s some days at home and some days at work — a situation which makes my wife’s job, which is entirely work from home, possible. She is on the phone all day and can’t be disturbed. So without my couple of days at home we would either need to arrange childcare or have considerably more trust in our 14-year-old to look after his younger siblings five days a week and not have it descend into the Stanford Prison Experiment.
For us, WFH has turned out to be a godsend. There may be the odd family distraction or disruption when I’m working, but for the most part, those are quickly resolved with various threats and bribes or placating them until lunchtime when you can properly find out who did what to whom. But it’s not just running a people’s court that I can use my lunchtime for.
‘ One especially productive lunch break was spent having a water fight with the kids’
If I was in the office, my lunch would be spent briefly considering going for a walk to improve my health, then disregarding that silly notion and instead eating my lunch hunched over my desk like a large rodent whilst continuing to work simply out of boredom.
When I’m at home I can get things done. I can cook, clean, or just go outside with the kids and kick a ball — one especially productive lunch break was spent having a water fight with the kids, which then resulted in a tense afternoon worrying if I had to go on a video call whilst sitting there looking like a papier-mache model of myself.
I doubt I would have such rose-tinted views on WFH were it full-time — getting out of the house for a couple of days a week is good for the soul. Nobody wants their home to feel like a prison (be it in the basement of Stanford University or not), just as nobody looks back on their life and wishes they spent more time at the office.
We have struck a balance, one that suits us financially. With school book lists and uniform details arriving into our inboxes, and the possibility that the eldest is going to be starting college come the autumn, balancing work and life with WFH just happens to coincide with balancing the books at home.
It’s going to be a long summer, with no holidays planned. I’m sure there are going to be days when working from home has me tearing my hair out or using my lunch break to have a child-induced nervous breakdown.
But I’m also sure that when the kids are grown, I will look back on this time and appreciate how lucky I was that I could be there, watching them grow out of the corner of my eye.