London - Maybe I’ll be excommunicated by all the “mother superiors” who don’t struggle to juggle for saying this, but I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was when my eldest’s school sports day was cancelled last week.
It had already been rearranged once due to bad weather, and fitting it into a working week a second time had been extraordinarily stressful.
“Hallelujah!” I yelled when I heard, leaping into the air with the sporting grace of someone who was refused entry to her school gymnastics team eight years in a row.
Yes, I know it’s wrong, and that my girls, aged eight and nine, were disappointed. But for a working mum it was a godsend, giving me a precious extra hour at home with baby Mabel and three extra hours at work — which if lost at the side of a soggy football pitch, would have meant toiling until midnight to make up for it.
“Is it because you were frightened of falling over?” Gracie-in-the-middle asked me after she overheard my reaction. “No one starts drinking that early during the week,” Mr Candy informed her unnecessarily, drawing his own unfortunate, and may I add unrepresentative, conclusions.
“Why would I fall over, Gracie ?” I asked.
“During the mums’ race, were you worried about tripping up because it’s downhill?” she explained. I had no intention of entering the mums’ race, I replied looking confused.
“Only you would be okay if you did because you are all squidgy in the middle now when I hug you so you’d land softly and roll down the hill, like a bean bag,” she went on.
See, school sports days: bad for your career and your self-esteem.
I already feel like the end-of-term is an unofficial sports day for parents — we’re in our own sweaty race against time to get everything organised before the children break up and embark on what seems like the longest holiday ever.
There are thankyou cards and gifts for teachers to arrange, assemblies and school reports to be sorted, in between finding homes for the piles of school stuff they bring back in their book bags.
A peculiar assortment of art and science projects involve me and Mr Candy doing copious amounts of secret recycling (don’t tell me you keep all that stuff?).
Right now, I am wondering how to store/recycle a metre-square laminated wall chart of what the Tudors ate (worse food than school dinners at the Cornish comprehensive I went to in what now feels like medieval times).
I’m contemplating offering it to one of the grandparents or godparents as a gift.
Before your children go to school, summer is still scented with a sense of freedom, promising carefree times ahead.
But as soon as they are locked in to term times, the holidays are a double-edged sword of relief that you no longer have to do the school run, coupled with horror at the prospect of keeping them occupied for endless weeks off. And whatever you do seems to become ever more expensive.
This week, I found myself standing at the school gates overhearing conversations among more organised mums about all the activities and clubs they’ve got planned during the holidays.
If being a mum was like being on the board of an important company, I would be about to get fired.
I dread anyone asking me what my three school-age children are up to, as I haven’t got round to organising that yet — and no doubt most clubs and activities have already been booked up.
“Well, there’s a five-day TV viewing course in the lounge, run by an expert in the field, Professor Homer Simpson,” I imagine myself explaining.
“Chasing baby Mabel is the most popular of the holiday sports clubs, as she squeals with Olympic delight every time she manages to escape the pursuers clutches.
“And, of course, the man of the house runs the ‘up and down the stairs’ club, where you follow him as he relentlessly checks all the radiators are turned off to save money in the event of a freak bout of good weather. The good thing about these is they are all free.”
“We’ve got the Olympics to watch, they’ll like that won’t they?” a childless friend of mine offers up when I confess my hopeless neglect of duty on the activity front.
Actually, we have indeed been lucky enough to get Olympic tickets to see an event — but I doubt the children will enjoy watching the men’s beach volleyball quite as much as I will.
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine. - Daily Mail