Something I noticed during the most recent school holidays was just how much I managed to get done and I hadn't even taken time off work.
Instead of rushing around trying to get everything sorted while the kids were at school, I was calmer.
I worked more, I cleaned more, I hung out with my kids more and I even managed to relax more. And the only thing that changed was no school.
There was no school correspondence. No school runs. No uniforms. No lunchboxes. No after-school activities. No social planning. There was also less washing, less food shopping and less precision planning.
What I discovered was school makes my life far busier, not quieter.
I was led to believe that when my kids started school, life would be way easier, but that's a big lie.
As soon as I dropped my kids back for the start of term four, I could feel my stress levels rise. Already, I was thinking of the added commitments that lay ahead of me. There's school camp, end-of-year Christmas concerts, after school sport, birthday parties, play dates, sleepovers, excursion forms and teacher meetings. And my eldest is starting high school next year, so now I'm dealing with two schools, and a mix of graduation events and induction activities.
Then there's the constant stream of school communication across three different apps. It never ends and it's exhausting.
I'm thinking of hiring an intern just to deal with all the school correspondence. It'd be a great way to teach a young person the reality of parenting. That and getting them to help in the first few weeks of bringing a newborn home or going shopping with a three-year-old or policing the use of a surly teenager's device.
Sure, getting a few hours quiet without the kids does help me because I work from home, but to be honest, my kids are all at an age that they're capable of taking care of themselves.
When they were younger I would've done anything for some time out. Parenting young children is intense and unrelenting. However, when they're older they're really lovely to have around and if I'm lucky one of them will make me a cup of coffee.
It's not so much them being at school or not, it's all the added responsibilities that come with school-aged children. Even finding three pairs of matching socks everyday is exhausting. Where do they all go?
It's simply cruel leading parents to believe that that when their kids start school life gets easier because it doesn't. It gets busier. And the work/life/family juggle gets harder. Your stress levels rise and your guilt is amplified.
Parenting is the best job in the world, with so many rewards, but don't ever be fooled into thinking you get a break. It's a job - never forget it.