Ask Grainne | This is Supposed to be My Vacation Too – Isn’t it?

Need parenting advice that doesn’t read like you joined a new age cult? Ask Grainne for the unvarnished truth about modern Irish parenting.

Dear Grainne,

Summer Holidays. This is supposed to be my vacation too– isn’t it?

Like the rest of the country both my wife and I work. We’re also luckier than most because both sets of grandparents live nearby. We get to have an occasional night out. When things go wrong we have another person to call to do an emergency pick up if someone is sick.

At the weekends it’s all about the kids and on Sunday’s we have a huge roast with everyone around. It’s deadly. lately, however, I’ve been a bit knackered. If I am honest I’ve started to notice a bald patch. The younger one may also have made some remarks about my beer belly when I was collecting her from the GAA. Works been tough, for both of us. Perhaps that was the reason, but, last night when looking at summer holiday options online with the wife I stepped on a landmine. I made the suggestion: ‘Why don’t we leave the kids with the grandparents for a week and take off by ourselves?’

It was like I suggested sending them to a home. 

All her feelings about my Mum’s well-intentioned parenting advice came out. She asked me if I was suggesting that my parents would do a better job with our kids. What would people think of us, the couple who left their kids behind? The kids would feel abandoned. How could I be so selfish?

Basically, I was an eejit for even making the suggestion. But here’s the thing Grainne, I feel I was in the right for once.  When we go away with the kids we end up doing exactly the same amount of work looking after them but with fewer resources. It always feels like we need a holiday after the holiday. My parents and her’s would spoil them rotten for the week. It would teach them to be more self-reliant. I mean, who’s Holiday is this anyway?  Mine or my kids?


Dublin Dad of two.

Dear Dad of two,

This is an interesting question, on the one hand, I think it is a good idea to have a little break where you and your wife get to spend some quality time together. I can understand where you are coming from with regard to the endless energy that is required when having a ‘break’ with the kids. But. It sounds to me like your parents already spend more time with your children than you do! Did you ask them about caring for your kids for a WEEK before the suggestion was made to your wife?

Maybe you need to approach this in a different way, it sounds to me like your wife is already suffering from immense amounts of parental guilt. She is worried about the lack of time you both spend with the kids. There is fuck all you can do about this, our entire economy is set up to make double income necessary just to survive so maybe you need to meet in the middle.

How about suggesting a long weekend away instead? It might be more palatable for the grandparents! A few days to get used to the fact that before you know it, the kids will be living their own life and you will have no choice but to holiday without them. During these few days discuss what you both feel about how things are. Little can be done about it. But at least you can test the water, see if you can stand the sight of each other without distraction for three days.

As for blaming your kids for getting fat and hair loss! If you are worried about getting fat why don’t you volunteer as a coach for your kids GAA team instead of bemoaning the fact that dropping them to training is consuming your weekends. Hair loss is inherited, thank your ever accommodating dad who minds your kids so much.

Dear Grainne

Presents for teachers at the end of the school year?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am grateful for the junior infant’s teacher who has been looking after my little one every day in school.  But, when did it become a thing that I need to tap into my savings for a ‘thank you’ teacher present?  No one is holding a collection at my workplace for me just doing my job. Also, honestly, even though the money is crap, her teacher still earns more than me after I finish shelling out for the after-school fees. So why am I the one expected to buy a present?

Look. I am thankful for the woman and for the fact that my little darling is now four and can go to school instead of having to pay the creche for full-time care. But, wouldn’t a it’s the thought that counts’ handmade card be better than the full day at the spa voucher that I am expected to donate towards? Also does this gift giving madness extend to just the teacher or also the assistants in the classroom, the principal, the helpers in the school’s after-school? The lollypop lady? I mean where exactly does this madness end?

Yours first time school mum.

Dear first-time school mum,

It is the time of year that parents must dig deep in their pocket again. Surely you already experienced this at Christmas when the collection plate circled and the obligatory fiver for the teacher was demanded?

The teacher collection/present at the end of the year may not seem important, but it is. There is a star chart in the staff room with the name of every child on it. When gifts are received a star is placed beside the child’s name and colour coded dependant on the amount. The following year, their new teacher will check how many stars are beside your child’s name and treat them accordingly. If you have not dug deep enough in your pocket your kid will be left sitting at the back of the class with a colouring book the following year.

REALLY!! What do you think? Most teachers don’t really care or, are slightly embarrassed by the gift given to them. There are only so many cheap, allergy-inducing soaps and creams one can use in a year. But cash/voucher is nice, you see we all notice the difference between the teacher who stays back to do GAA training, organises trips, knows our little darlings name!! And the ones that are putting in the week to hit Coppers on a Friday night /are putting in the years for retirement. It is your first year so maybe you have only experienced one type, but believe me, by the time your kid is in communion class you will know the difference.

You also must realise, that many are not on a full-time contract, and therefore will be working in Coppers for the summer to try and pay back their student debt. In fact, there are plenty working two jobs already while living in a room with  3 other non-permanent teachers. It is even worse at secondary school where many don’t even have full-time hours – but there you go, that’s the value put on education. And yes, the gift should extend to the classroom assistant/SNA, they are definitely not on full-time wages and will be down to social welfare on the 1st of July.

As you rightly point out, you do not get paid extra for doing your job, but you may get a bonus. There is no incentive to do the extra work many teachers do, they are not paid according to effort or time they put in. Think of the present at the end of the year as a small bonus. In many cases, it is in the form of a voucher, and yes hopefully, said teacher will get themselves a treat. But if you have a look in your child’s pencil case you will no doubt notice a couple of extra items – prizes won for hard work or being kind.

These are often purchased and handed out throughout the year as incentives. I also know teachers who bring in lunches, stationary, sun cream and have a drawer of clean knickers for kids who have an ‘accident’. These are the teachers we want, these are the teachers that will teach our children about empathy and kindness. So give in the fiver and don’t be such a tight bitch, or that star chart is going to be looking pretty empty in September.

About Grainne: Proudly known as a bitch by her nearest and dearest. Surprisingly still married to the father of her three, only slightly dysfunctional children. Has opinions about everything.

*Disclaimer Grainne is not qualified in any way to answer your problems. She doesn’t do feedback but if you want you can leave a comment below or email her at [email protected] We can almost certainly guarantee you she will NOT get back to you, but, one of her cousins who helps her might. Alternatively, you can stalk them directly on Twitter: @Triona_Campbell or @KearneyRoisin or both.

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