A very long time ago, somebody thought that it would be a good idea to give all little French children a day off school on a Thursday. This, so that the week would be cut in two and the little "têtes blondes" wouldn’t become overtired. At some point, perhaps in the seventies, for some reason, Thursday off became Wednesday off. Then, gradually, as more and more parents started to spend weekends at home rather than at work and wanted to spend some of that leisure time with their children, Saturday also became a non-school day and "la semaine de quatre jours" was born. Theoretically, the children who don’t go to school an a Saturday morning have slightly shorter holidays than those who do and nobody seems to mind this. What nobody, ever ever calls into question, however, is the sacrosanct "jour des enfants" - a day originally intended to be spent chilling out at home in a post-second-world-war sort of way. Only it is no longert a relaxing day of rest at all, at least not in our house, and I don't think we're particulalry atypical. For us, it’s more of a running-around-like-chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off sort of day.
If you both work, you obviously have to find some sort of alternative childcare solution for a Wednesday, a complicated task if you don't have grandparents on the doorstep. This is how, a couple of weeks ago, I came to spend over three hours queuing to sign my four-year-old up for a kids’ club with a really good reputation and a very long waiting list. I got him in. He then sobbed inconsolably when I left him on the first two Wednesdays he had to spend there. His little sister, meanwhile goes to her old childminder’s since we felt starting nursery and doing something unfamiliar on a Wednesday all in the same month would be a bit much for a three-year-old to cope with. Neither of these arrangements is free, far from it.
“Aha” I hear you say, “but if you didn’t work, your children would be happy little bunnies playing contentedly at home all day on a Wednesday with you, their paragon stay-at-home mum devising on-tap creative activities and leading occasional cultural outings.” Perhaps. But I don’t think so. Some working mums I know do manage not to work on a Wednesday. From what I see, Wednesdays are the days that mums (why is it almost always the mums?) spend ferrying children from music lessons to judo, from fencing classes to soft play, from ballet to swimming. It’s also the day to which all medical appointments and the like are relegated and some of the hothoused kids are even treated to extra maths lessons.
Since Wednesday is a no-school day it is also birthday party day which is how I came to organise my schedule today so that I could rush back from work at lunchtime to pick Z up, drive him across town, drop him off at a birthday party, kill two hours while he worked on his sugar high, pick him up and drive him and his little friend back into town and arrive just in time to pick little sister up from the childminder’s.
This evening, we’re definitely not refreshed. Roll on Thursday.