Thursday, 3 November 2011

David Cameron on doing the school run once a week

Soon after the coalition government was formed David Cameron and Nick Clegg announced their intention to delay morning cabinet meetings so they could help with the school run.

But in this week’s Grazia interview the PM said he doesn’t take his two school-aged children to school as much as he used to, though he does try and do it once a week. “...every morning there are priority meetings and phone calls,” he told interviewer Jane Moore, “so you’re endlessly being squeezed...”

Well, welcome to real life. David Cameron is far luckier than most of the working population because he lives “above the shop” and can dash upstairs to the flat above No 10 for a cuddle with baby daughter Florence in between meetings. If you’re running a small business or working as a teacher (don’t forget, it’s the last episode of Channel 4’s fantastic Educating Essex tonight) there’s no way you can break off during the day and pop home.

For most of us, working means a lot of hard graft and endless compromises. Six years ago my husband was working on his computer in our freezing cold attic. He was in between jobs at the time and suddenly came rushing downstairs at top speed. He’d had an amazing new idea for an ingenious hi-tech system that helps to reduce water leakage. Not the glamour end of the market, but pretty damn smart all the same.

All this time later, his eureka moment has resulted in a fully-fledged company 70 miles from home that’s helping to save vast quantities of water around the world. There’s still a long way to go, but to get this far at all he’s had to work flat out seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. He’s missed parents’ evenings galore, cancelled holidays at short notice and hardly ever took our children to school. But then again, if he had helped with the school run, his company wouldn’t exist at all – let alone be employing anyone or making a major contribution to saving water.

I’m sure he’s not the only parent who’s made sacrifices. In fact he’s probably very typical of so many working parents.

Nick Clegg said last year that children often miss out on time with their dads and highlighted research showing that “where fathers are involved in their children’s lives they develop better friendships, they learn to empathise, they have higher self-esteem, and they achieve better at school.” Well yes, but this isn’t something you can fix through legislation or by insisting fathers (sorry, but it is usually the dads) get home in time to put the children to bed. Working parents simply have to make time for their children when they are at home.

PS: After reading my blog about the forthcoming RCA Secret exhibition yesterday, a reader asked what I’d bought in previous years. I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember who the artists are but the two prints we bought are pictured above, in their full glory. Sad to say, they are not by Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin.


  1. I agree with everything you've said, Emma.

    I'm remembering my early start to the day and the hours I worked in the evening as a teacher (marking and preparation), and the hours my husband worked away from home as a schools' inspector. I had to employ someone to take the children to school and collect them when they were younger.

    It would have been nice to be able to have managed it all myself, but like so many working parents throughout the country, it just wasn't possible.

    In the end, it's not the amount of time you spend with a child - it's the quality of that time. I'm sure that our boys are no better or worse than they would have been had I been there at the school gates every morning and evening.

    Liz X

  2. I'm so glad, Liz. I totally agree that it's the quality of time you spend with your children and working life often doesn't fit in with school hours. Most teachers I know start work at seven so there's no way they can take their own children to school!

  3. For single parents, working like that is not an option - no one to pick up the slack at all, and endless worries about making sure child is where it should be, clothed and equipped as it should be, without back up. But better no back up than having a man in the house slowly going crazy and doing less and less every day, angrily defending his impossible behaviour and making everyone cry and shout; easier without him in the end. Lucky anyone whose husband functions as a provider and a fellow carer.

  4. I agree with everything you say Emma. my husband works in the City and the last two to three years have been totally manic for him, with ridiculous long hours and mega-stress.

    I run a small business from home and look after the children. This is the reality. I would never expect him to feel stress for not being there- he is doing every bit as much for the children by earning enough so that I don't have to work full time, and by remaining employed when around us so many people are losing their jobs.

    There is no one size fits all for families - we have to make up our own rules and don't let anyone tell us that they are wrong

  5. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. I agree that it's even tougher when you're a single parent and everything is down to you, with no support at all.

  6. Thanks so much for commenting, MotivatingMumUK. I'm glad you agree. Seeing family and friends who run businesses and work crazy hours has made me realise that it's impossible to insist that they don't start work till nine and finish in time to collect the children from school.


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