PARENTS, we’re almost at the finish line. The end of the school summer holidays is tantalisingly close. Soon, we’ll be enjoying six hours of freedom per day in which we can work, clean, cook and get organised without feeling guilty that we’re not doing enough to entertain the kids.

This summer holiday has felt more arduous than previous ones. Though that is perhaps no surprise given we’re going through a cost of living crisis that means all the go-to activities you’d normally enjoy during the summer break were a lot more expensive.

I’m working more than ever, which in theory should be a good thing.

READ MORE: Margaret Ferrier paid the ultimate political price - let her move on

But I’m also a single parent of an only child, which brings its own logistical pressures.

If I wasn’t working so much I’d have more time to dedicate to making Instagram-worthy summer memories. But I also wouldn’t be able to afford electricity, so it’s a tricky one.

When you first become a parent, advice isn’t in short supply. It seems there are a multitude of strategies for being the best parent you can be and everybody thinks they’ve cracked the code.

What we don’t talk about as much is how much time you’ll spend feeling guilty that you’re not doing enough.

This is exacerbated by the fact the average wage hasn’t risen as fast as childcare costs have.

I booked my daughter into various clubs over the summer holidays. On those days, I can work without guilt, knowing she’s off having fun, doing activities with other kids.

Superhero camp was a particular highlight this year. During that week, she enjoyed arts and crafts, cooking, circus skills and even did a wee stint on the radio.

There isn’t a shortage of amazing clubs that kids can attend during the summer holidays so parents can work in peace. The problem is, they are completely unaffordable for most people.

My daughter’s dad paid for all her clubs this year. I paid for all the taxis to ferry her back and forth from them. It was a huge expense but one we are lucky to be able to manage.

From speaking to other parents who are currently experiencing summer holiday fatigue, it’s clear our infrastructure around childcare needs to change.

Some councils offer free or subsidised clubs and activities for children during the break. But many families are dependent on having access to a car, or having the kind of flexible workplace that allows you to take time away from work to do drop-offs and pick-ups from a two or three-hour play session.

We know local government budgets are under strain. Councils are feeling the pinch and so a country-wide programme of free childcare during the summer holidays feels like a pipe dream up there with pet unicorns for all and a summer without torrential rain.

But there’s no harm in wishing and wondering about what could be, when we’re all a bit frazzled and worn out after eight weeks of meticulous scheduling and organising.

I for one am hugely relieved that another school summer holiday is nearly over and we’re almost out the other side. I’m sure there are some parents who find the whole thing a breeze. They’re not hard to find if you take a quick glance at social media.

They’re usually the ones posting photos of a flock of suspiciously tidy and well-behaved children at a farm park cafe or woodland retreat with the hashtag #MakingMemories. I’m pleased for them, honestly I am. I just also wonder what their rent is as a proportion of their income.

For those parents who find the summer holidays a struggle and not a sepia-toned highlight reel of moments of pure joy and family fun: I get you. There’s nothing wrong with feeling a sense of relief that it’s nearly over.

People get sniffy at the idea that some parents view school as “free childcare”. As though we’re straight off down the pub after doing morning drop-off and not working our arses off to try and survive sky-high inflation, energy prices and rising living costs. Yes, school is a place of learning. Teachers are there to cultivate and nurture young minds, not babysit our kids.

READ MORE: Words of sympathy will not win Sarwar votes

But while they’re doing that, parents also get a much-needed chunk of time where we can do what needs to be done to get through that day.

I hate those so-called inspirational parenting quotes containing sentiments like: “You can always make more money but your children aren’t children forever.”

That kind of guilt-inducing nonsense isn’t helpful for the vast majority of parents who live on a month-to-month budget.

It would be lovely to take a sabbatical from work so we could spend eight weeks making daisy chains in a sunny wildflower field with our smiley, happy children.

But we live in the real world. So the best we’ve got to look forward to is a hot cup of tea in a quiet house when the schools go back.