The main reason I split my time between town and country is to work hard during the week at a job I enjoy in order for my children to have anything and everything they need. My job moved to London and along with the excitement of the hustle and bustle that this brought it also brought the opportunity for me as a 34 year old to plan and develop a career for the next 30 odd years.
But as a result my children turned from day pupils at their Prep school to weekly boarders. I have twins, Seb and Hermione, who are 7 years old and in September moved from Pre-Prep to ‘proper’ school across the road in the Prep department. Their school is one of those wonderful places with acres of land, a main school building with wood panelling and rabbit warren corridors and a friendly matron always on hand to clean up a grazed knee or to provide a hug when someone is missing home. It is a quintessential English private school with posh 4x4s in the car park alongside the odd Ferrari and Lamborghini as well as a splattering of local landowners in their dusty Defenders and a growing mix of foreign children coming to our fair Isle for what I consider to be the best education money can buy.
Within the school there is a growing boarding community which is lovingly and amazingly well run by a dedicated and professional group of very special teachers. It is a happy, laughter filled and busy home away from home. Children from all the years mix together in dorms to eat their meals and to share tuck and watch DVDs when they are not competitively taking on each other at table tennis. I know that when I am 130 miles away in London my two pickles are loved, cared for and in a happy and secure environment. As a mother this is tremendously important and affords me the luxury to be able to pursue the career aspirations I have and to enjoy my life a little as ‘Victoria’ not just as ‘mummy’.
But it means that my children are not with me. I am not doing the basic motherly duties of the school run, cooking supper, ensuring teeth are brushed and that homework is done. I have delegated this to the school and denied my children the sanctuary of their home, their bedrooms and their mother’s arms when they need me on a cold tuesday night when their team lost in hockey and they fell off the flip bars and had to spend the afternoon with matron. I am under no illusions that many parents and non-parents alike are silently shocked that I can do this. They look at me and assume that this is easy for me, that I am some feminist disagreeing with the societal norm that fathers go to work and build successful and important careers whilst the mothers stay at home.
This is not what I am. Until my children started school I was a stay at home mum. I took them to music classes, took them swimming and spent hours playing game after game of make believe. I was lucky enough not to have to work and was privileged enough to enjoy a life that most can only wish for. The country house with breathtaking views of the Black Mountains, the Land Rovers on the driveway and the stereotypical two black labradors alongside Barbour coats and Hunter wellies. But I was in a marriage I did not want to remain in and I was not being me. The day I became a mother was the best day of my life and the love and pride I feel for my children is something I can not explain but I need something more. I want to be a mother but I also want to be Victoria.
My children started school and I found a job. James and I split and we divorced. I had to work, I had to have financial independence. Slowly but surely I made my way. I rented a house on my own. I started working full time whilst also being the main carer for my kids. I bought a house all on my own. My house is nothing special but it is in my name and my name only. I look at it sometimes and think ‘wow, I did that and it is all mine’. I am fortunate that my children can now go to private school but that means I have to work and work very hard to fund that. They are thriving in a way I did not think they would. Every single teacher adores them, they have friends from Reception right through to Year 8 and they are having the opportunity to try anything they want. They do sport every day, they do music and drama and art and they learn how to drive a train on the school’s very own light railway. What more could I as a mother ask for.
That is why as I enter the office at 7.20am every day I know that I am doing the best for the two people that mean most to me. My work and my life in London is affording them their future opportunities. I do this for their future, for their success and for their happiness. But I also do it for my future, my success and my happiness. All too often mothers are made to feel guilty for wanting a life of their own but men can work, socialise and play hard whilst also being a parent. I hope that Hermione and Sebastian are growing up to see that I am a devoted mother but also an individual person who is building a satisfying career and a life of her own.
That is why my children board and why I believe boarding is not an excuse for not bothering to be a loving and dutiful parent. Yes I admit it is a risk and in twenty years my children might hate me for it but as any parent knows you only get to bring your children up once and you do what you feel is right. Boarding is not for everyone but for us it is everything. For all of us life is different but in many ways the same, we are all just trying to make the best shot at it as possible.