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Best options for DD? To board or have live-in help?

(49 Posts)
Newlysingleandstuck Mon 10-Sep-12 10:05:27

My dd is in Year 4, and is finally at a really good school and is really really really happy. We moved around a lot prior to Year 3, so she has had a different school every year up until then, and really hated it, understandably.

Ex-h walked out on us in April, and I am due to start my final bit of legal training this week. This involves a daily commute to the city, but hopefully I'll just about manage to tick along. However, in a few years' time I was due to go in to the forces as a Legal Officer. It is something I have always wanted to do, and have been training solely with this in mind for the past 5 years. Dd will then be year 7. I know I should give up on the idea, but I have wanted this for nearly 20 years now, and have until dd is in Year 8 before I become too old to apply. Ex-h was fully behind dd staying where she is and doing afterschool clubs, as his job allowed him to be home by 6pm, but now I am totally at a loss as to what to do. He is not her father, and so has lost interest and dropped out of the picture already (at least he showed his true colours early on!).

Even if I don't join the forces, I will be working incredibly long hours, and dd will end up stuck at home alone or with a nanny as a teen, which I'm sure she doesn't want! However, we are very close, and I'm worried she will despise me. I boarded from 11 as I was sent away for being "naughty", and wasn't allowed to come home despite being bullied and miserable. I am so scared that the same will happen to her, but being an only child with a parent working long hours and weekends will be no fun for her either. I am at a total loss. Does anyone know of any good way out of this?

titchy Mon 10-Sep-12 10:15:48

Find a job that doesnt involve such long hours!

Easy to say I realise, but please don't send your only child away just so you can be fulfilled career-wise.

Newlysingleandstuck Mon 10-Sep-12 10:17:44

I don't really know what else I can do career-wise that involves less hours. Everyone I know works in London, or is married to someone who works in London, and I am not creative enough to become Cath Kidson or Nigella!

milkshake3 Mon 10-Sep-12 10:48:36

why don't you go and look at some boarding schools and then you can make a more informed decision. Personally I would go with that option rather than nanny for a teen, who will feel she doesn't need a nanny and will be fine at home on her own. She'll get more guidance and structure at boarding school if you are really set on following this career path. If it is what you decide don't berate yourself for it, but see it as a wonderful opportunity for both of you. Good luck

titchy Mon 10-Sep-12 10:51:21

Get to know some new people then!

Post on here with your skills, quals and ideal role and maybe MNers can suggest something with better hours.

(Lots of solicitors work pt if this is your area - you just have to be in the right field.)

parachutesarefab Mon 10-Sep-12 11:05:03

I'd go for live-in help for now so that she can stay at her school, where she's happy. The obvious time to make any big change is end of Y6, before secondary, but involve her in deliberations, visit schools together, and let it be her decision.

If you continue with that career path be honest with her, "I'll be doing..., so we need to decide what is best for you", don't try and seek her approval (via a guilt trip) for doing it "I'd love to..., but only if you say it's okay" - unless of course you would happily give it all up were she to say no.

pinkdelight Mon 10-Sep-12 11:06:26

Rather than a nanny, wouldn't an au pair suit you/your DD's needs better as she gets older? My friend who works long hours has had au pairs for her 3 DDs over the years and it works really well as they tend to be young enough to hang out with the DDs but old enough to be responsible/look after the DDs. Their hours fit better around school too, whereas a nanny would be at a loose end. I'm sure that with some combination of an au pair and the various wraparound care options that most schools offer (breakfast/after-school/activity clubs), not to mention arrangements you could make with your DD's friends/their families, you would be able to come up with something workable. Although I would also say that a part-time role (compressed hours maybe - in the public sector?) would be worth investigating.

Newlysingleandstuck Mon 10-Sep-12 11:27:47

Thank you all. I've been honest with her all the way through, she knows that things are going to get a bit tougher now. We have had some really rough patches over the years, and it has always worked out (in spite of the sleepless nights!) and we have managed. The thing that is holding me back from having an au pair (this is something I have given a LOT of consideration to) is that they may have to work over the weekend at short notice, which is far from ideal for them, and I don't want them to have to basically be a stand in mum over the busy periods. Dd has been the centre of my world all her life, so can be very intense, so I don't want to give an au pair that responsibility when they have studies to do. If she were around other children this may balance her only-childishness out a bit, and she could spend more time with friends (we are not too far out of the city centre, but far enough for parents to decline play-dates and to make an au pair's social life very difficult if she wasn't able to drive).

There is a school near us that does wrap-around care until 8 or 9-ish, as they have boarders too, which dd actually told me about. I'm concerned that she would be in no-man's land between a day child and a boarder though, as we never spoke to the children who joined us for Prep or breakfast, as we thought they were too eager for staying late/coming in early!!

juneau Mon 10-Sep-12 11:34:25

Boarding school doesn't have to be miserable and I think a lot of schools are now much more clued up on bullying and providing a caring pastoral side. I went to boarding school from 11-18 I loved it.

juneau Mon 10-Sep-12 11:35:35

P.S. I wouldn't send a day child to a boarding school - they are second-class citizens and miss out on all the good stuff, which happens after hours. Either send her to a day school with wraparound care of some kind, or send her to a boarding school and have her board with everyone else.

happygardening Mon 10-Sep-12 11:37:25

"I boarded from 11 as I was sent away for being "naughty", and wasn't allowed to come home despite being bullied and miserable."
21st century boarding probably bears little resemblance to the boarding you experienced. Bullying is taken very very seriously and strong action is taken against bullies a child is no more likely to be bullied in a boarding school than in a state school. The overwhelming majority of children are happy boarding and they don't have uncaring parents at home or turn into dysfunctional sociopaths who are unable to form relationships with other adults.
Good boarding schools offer a myriad of opportunities educationally the curriculum is often broader because basically they've got more time and in terms of extra curricular opportunities they will far out number that which can be offered by day schools or parents however dedicated. It is also a genuine and positive life changing experience for children giving them the confidence to take meet new situations/people which many of their day school educated contemporaries baulk at. It is not for all but in my extensive experience of all ages if given the right help/support only tiny handful drop by the way side.
But the holidays are very long we've just had 9 weeks for summer 4 weeks at Xmas and Easter is the norm. Who is going to help you out during the holidays?
With regard to Au-pairs we are veterans of 7 au pairs these are unqualified usually older teenagers English is variable and few stay for more than 6 months if you live in a rural location most aren't interested. I would much rather my DC were being looked after by mature usually qualified supervised individuals surrounded by friends in a structured and extensively tested/monitored environment with lots of extra curricular activities and health care from qualified staff available 24 hours a day.

seeker Mon 10-Sep-12 11:38:22

Where might you be posted if you do joint the Forces? Could she go with you?

OhThisIsJustGrape Mon 10-Sep-12 11:40:25

Either option will be difficult for your DD I think - I doubt she'd want a nanny as a teenager, even though she will need someone there, and boarding school is a tough decision to make too.

If you go into the forces then will you have to go on tours too? If so then boarding school is likely to be your only option as I imagine childcare 24/7 for 6 months is nigh on impossible to find.

Newlysingleandstuck Mon 10-Sep-12 11:42:04

I wouldn't do that juneau, don't worry! Even weekly boarders at our school were second rate citizens! It sounds silly, but I can't work out if I'm thinking about boarding her because it is all I know. Does that make any sense?

Half of me just wants to give up and go and work in the local library, but I know I won't be fulfilled and happy, and I know I will regret it. Dd is so bubbly and friendly and desperate to be with her friends that she would love to be with them full-time, but she isn't particularly sporty, and has a tendency to worry and want to please, so I'm worried she will be a target for bullying or ostracising.

happygardening Mon 10-Sep-12 11:43:10

"There is a school near us that does wrap-around care until 8 or 9-ish, as they have boarders"
I second juneau whatever you decide your child need to be in the majority if a school is very geared up for boarders you would be better to board. If you are looking for weekends then you should try and find a full boarding school or at least a school where the overwhelming majority full board these are few and far between.
Where do you live and do you have any must haves? There are many on MN who can suggest schools to look at then you will get a feel for what happens now. From experience 1 1/2 hours one way is the maximum you should consider travelling.

FelicitywasSarca Mon 10-Sep-12 11:43:44

You need to get more recent experience of boarding.

Trust me it isn't like you experienced any more.

Find the right boarding school (and it won't be cheap) and your daughter will thrive.

Much much more so than she will with a nanny/au pair at home when she is 15- I imagine she would resent that quite a lot.

FelicitywasSarca Mon 10-Sep-12 11:45:32

What area of the country are you in? We could suggest schools?

Newlysingleandstuck Mon 10-Sep-12 11:47:28

happygardening, would I be able to send you a message asking further questions? Holiday care is do-able as it is only for short stints, and she sees her father for half of each holiday, so for the 4 weeks for Easter I would take a week off (or the full two if possible!), and then make it very clear that for the following week I would not be available to work late.

I do go on tours, but much more infrequently than "standard" officers, and for shorter periods. My main role would be court marshals and briefing those who are about to embark on tours on the laws of the country to which they are headed.

It was all so easy a few months ago, how quickly things change!

elastamum Mon 10-Sep-12 11:47:47

You can make it work but you need to seriously think about yyour job options

I am a single parrent with a pretty full on job. My DS are day boys at a local mostly boarding school, they do 7.30am until 9pm and are having a ball. They like being day as they get far more freedom than the boarders and they get to join in any of the boarding activities they want to.

I also have an au pair, but I wouldnt expect them to supervise prep etc, they just do drop off and pick ups when I cant and help round the house. the au par is fine in the holidays, but I try to work from home as much as I can when they are not at school

juneau Mon 10-Sep-12 11:52:24

Don't give up your dream OP. I think some of the replies have been very martyr-ish and I don't think that's a good way for any parent to be. Your DD can be happy and you can fulfil your long-held ambitions (which aren't unreasonable), with lots of research. You were sent to boarding school as a punishment, so it's not surprising that you saw it as such and were miserable. If you send your DD to boarding school because it's something you've chosen together, to a school that both you and she are happy with, then it needn't be a negative experience at all. I know several kids who board, some of them with forces parents, and they're all really happy. Whatever you do, if you do it with love, it will be positive for you both.

happygardening Mon 10-Sep-12 11:53:57

"but she isn't particularly sporty, and has a tendency to worry and want to please, so I'm worried she will be a target for bullying or ostracising."
Most boarding schools do offer a lot of sport generally at least 4 times a week at senior level and it is frequently a compulsory team sport. This term is usually hockey next term netball and the last one rounders others sport obviously are offered rowing lacrosse polo athletics and of course extra curricular sports fencing rackets but there are few boarding schools which will allow a child to only follow a minority sport e.g. fencing and I suspect none will allow a child to do no sport although Im sure there are some children who manage to wriggle out of doing any sport.
Again you would have to research your schools carefully and see if you can find anything that appeals to you DD.
If your DD has a tendency to worry then it is important to pick a school with a reputation for high standards of pastoral care all will say they have but some are very strong in this area and have a reputation for it amongst both parents and prep school heads. You say she's "bubbly and friendly" so why should she be ostracised?

Newlysingleandstuck Mon 10-Sep-12 11:54:16

You are all so kind. I was so worried that I would be branded a child-dumper, but I just want to make sure that she is happy and secure, and part of that is having a mum that is happy and secure.

We are in Cambridgeshire. I have spoken to someone with day children at The Leys, but other than that I don't know any around here.

I need somewhere that can offer strong pastoral support-that is my huge, number one, out way beyond anything else thing! It would also be amazing if she could have contact with animals. She is really into animals, and always has been, but I'm allergic so she has never been able to ride or have a dog, or even more than 30 mins access to a dog before my face blows up! We have rabbits at the bottom of the garden, but they really aren't the same!

A strong academic background where children are allowed to read without being laughed at would also be great, but happiness and extra-curriculars would be much higher on dd's list, so they are what I'm looking for.

happygardening Mon 10-Sep-12 11:59:37

Yes OP do PM me of you wish.

FelicitywasSarca Mon 10-Sep-12 12:00:20

Bit of a journey but Tudor Hall in Banbury sounds like an option to me.

Mainly full boarders, sporty (but not obsessive- not all girls must be in teams), massive range of extra curricular- head really really keen on it, caters for the individual- kids are scruffy but happy. Many very rich, but forces very much respected and the kids/families generally have too much class to comment on anyone who has 'less'. Academics reasonably strong and improving- a bright girl WILL do exceptionally well. Half termly compulsory exeats which may be an issue but I'm sure she would soon be invited to friends/ could go to her dads if you were on a tour? Caters for girls who are a bit different seemlessly and encourages confidence and self belief.

Newlysingleandstuck Mon 10-Sep-12 12:05:20

Oh elastamum, you are an inspiration! I have felt so crushed, scared and ridiculous over the past few months as I haven't known anyone who has done many hours as a single parent with any child of school age. You have brought a bit of the old me back!

Dd is happy with sport, she enjoys it while she is playing, but she is aware that she isn't particularly good at it (she is scared of the ball, so runs the other way!). She does hockey, rounders and netball at the school she is at, so we practice a lot together, so hopefully it will pass and she will just get on with it. She has always been a great swimmer, climber and kayaker, but they are not standard sports! Ha!

I'm worried about her being ostracised as she never questions anything if someone does something that is not particularly nice to her, and will never do anything horrid to anyone. As her mum I am very proud of her for this, but it can cause her distress in the playground. She got punched by a girl at school last year and fully thought that it was her fault for talking to her friend (she was on the way to the back of the line and her friend was near the front. She stopped to ask where they were playing after lunch, and the girl thought she was trying to push in, so walloped her).

Thank you all again, I feel that there are options now!!! I am so glad that I have the time to research schools, and work out if this is right for us. If it isn't, then we have tried and we move on.

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