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Rob Slane: For the modern mum, kids are a dreadful bore


(Satire warning:this is not entirely a joke. In fact, it is only a couple of degrees from reality)

To many parents, Priscilla Kendall’s holiday plans might seem shocking. Like many others, she’ll be heading off for two weeks in the sun this summer, but unlike most parents, she won’t be taking her children with her. Instead, they will be staying at the controversial “child boarding” company Kennels 4 Kids.

For Ms Kendall, who works for an investment bank, this is the third year running that she has holidayed without her children, Daisy (5) and Jack (3), and although she is adamant that she loves them dearly, she feels no guilt about leaving them behind:

“Why on earth should I?” she said. “I tried going on holiday with them three years ago and it was an absolute disaster for me. I was so much looking forward to lying on a beach, soaking up the sun and getting the rest I needed and felt I deserved, and instead I found myself having to think about other people. I simply wasn’t given the time I needed to think about me and my needs when all I could hear from my children was me this and me that. It was an awful experience for me and not one that I would want to repeat.”

Leaving her children with Kennels 4 Kids might be seen by some as controversial, but Priscilla says it is a necessary part of rediscovering the essential her:

“Motherhood is so unfeminine,” she says. “But when I’m walking on the beach in the moonlight, or lying beside the pool sipping cocktails, I really feel like I’m a woman again. To me, walking on a beach or lying beside a pool is what being a woman is really all about.”

When I ask her if she understands that her decision may be seen as controversial, she expresses incredulity:

“I honestly have no idea why anyone would have a problem with it,” she said. “I leave my children every day in the crèche and nobody thinks it odd. But when I board them at Kennels 4 Kids, suddenly everyone throws their arms up and thinks I’m a terrible mother. It’s simply not true. In fact, I think that only seeing them for an hour or so a day and leaving them when I go to enjoy myself on holiday makes me a better mother.”

Harriet Nabel, an expert in child development, agrees and says that Priscilla should feel no guilt about rarely seeing her children and leaving them behind while going off to enjoy herself. In fact, it’s women who devote themselves to their children and who insist on spending time with them that should be feeling guilty:

“Although bonding in the first two weeks of a child’s life can be beneficial and should be permitted by society,” she says, “research shows that after that it can be positively dangerous both to the health of the child and the mother. Children can easily end up becoming dependent on their mothers, and of course mothers can end up becoming attached to their children. But research has shown that motherhood has moved on from the idea of spending time with children, and research shows that being a good mother is now far more about how much time you devote to your own needs, and to spending time with your partner and friends.”

Unsurprisingly, she is a firm advocate of Kennels 4 Kids, but thinks that the idea needs to be adopted by the government and extended to encompass all areas of life:

“Currently, many mothers face the ordeal of having to pick their children up from the crèche after a hard day’s work, and then taking them back home to feed them, give them a bath and put them to bed. It puts an unnecessary strain on a hard-working mother, and means that she just doesn’t get the time and space she needs to unwind, relax and be herself. What we desperately need is a 24/7 crèche system, where parents can take their children and leave them there for as long as they like.”

While Ms Nabel is lobbying the Government to make the change, Kennels 4 Kids owner Nigel Fox has already been exploring the idea of extending his service beyond just holidays, which he says would make perfect business sense, not to mention giving parents the option of trading their children in for a bit of me-time whenever they like. He tells me that the idea for Kennels 4 Kids came about over a pint:

“I was talking to a friend and he was complaining that he and his partner were having to go on holiday with their two-year-old who was very demanding and spoilt. He said to me, ‘If only I could put him up in your kennels Nigel.’ Of course he was joking, but I thought to myself why not. I’d been looking after dogs for more than 20 years while people went on vacation; why not offer the same service for people with children?”

Six months later and Kennels 4 Kids was born, the first of its kind in the country, although a number of similar ventures have since been spawned, including Mutts & Tots in the South WestWhen I suggest that his venture has proved controversial, he is quick to point out that the children are very well looked after:

“I have a very professional team here who make sure the children are fed and washed and that they get to play,” he says reassuringly. “We even have a Skype room in case parents who do feel a tinge of guilt can check in on them in person.”

But doesn’t he think the idea of boarding children in the same way as people board dogs is likely to be seen by some as treating them as animals?

“Nonsense,” he replies. “There’s a world of difference between dogs and children, isn’t there? And at K4K we take that difference very seriously. The children get their own barracks, and their play area is separated by a high barbed wire fence from the dogs. So they’re in no more danger than when they go to crèche.”

Whether the idea will truly catch on remains to be seen, but Priscilla is clearly thrilled by the service:

“I honestly don’t know what I’d do if it weren’t for Kennels 4 Kids,” she says. “My mother refuses to look after the children, which I can’t understand and which strikes me as being really quite selfish. If it weren’t for Kennels, I’d have to take them with me. As someone who just wants to get away from the drudgery of domestic life and spend some time with my partner, my friends – or even just with myself – that would really ruin my holiday.”

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Rob Slane
Rob Slane
Rob is married to Alina, and they live with their six children in Salisbury. He blogs regularly at

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