Surviving the summer holidays
Journalist and mum of three, Georgina Fuller, brings us her top tips for enjoying (and getting through!) the long summer break.
It's that time of year again- the summer holidays are upon us. Do you love them or loathe them? I think it's a bit of both for me. The joy of not having to get three small, unruly, shouty people in the car by 8:30am each morning, ferry them back and forth to football, ballet and Beavers, fill in 120 forms each week and try and remember donut day/sports days/school assembly/who got Star of the Week/lunch money etc. is offset by no childcare for six weeks. And having to cook, entertain and shell-out for ridiculously expensive summer attractions, from now until September.
I've found over the years that I essentially have to operate on a 'whatever it takes' basis around my work, sanity and bank balance. So, if taking them to McDonalds buys me an hour back at home to write 800 words, so be it. Or taking them to the local soft-play pit for two hours then sticking them in front of Horrid Henry in the hope that they will leave me in peace for a few hours to get on with jobs at home.
I think it's also worth keeping that old saying about being kind to yourself in mind too. I really try not to beat myself up about letting the standards slip over the holiday as I know things will go back to normal when they go back to school. They won't be able to snack constantly or stare at a screen for three hours, for starters. And so what if you don't love spending 12 hours a day with them or if you miss work and start hankering to have a Pret coffee in peace on day two? That doesn't mean you're a bad parent, does it? I remember my mother used to jokingly say to us: "Go play on the motorway!" I knew she loved us though.
"Divide and conquer"
I'm also a fan of the divide and conquer method that anyone with multiple children might recognise. Trying to manage a 10 year old who wants to play football from dusk till dawn, a seven year old who would quite happily watch tv all day and never leave the house and a demanding diva of a five year old who seems to think I'm her roadshow manager rather than her mother, can literally starve my soul and sanity at times.
"I find managing four kids easier than three. If one has a buddy from school to play with, it seems to make things easier."
I always try and organise lots of playdates or offload at least one child to friend, grandparent or aunt... in fact, anyone who is willing! I actually seem to find managing four kids easier than three. If one is occupied and has a buddy from school to play with, it seems to make things easier. Maybe it's something to do with having an even number of children. I have also found that other parents are generally grateful if you invite one of their children over and that they then return the favour so playdates are a win-win as far as I am concerned.
Holiday clubs are a godsend!
I've also found the holiday clubs a godsend over the years, especially when I have a work deadline or I'm about to lose it completely. We've done everything from football to forest school and, now our youngest is four, Perform beckons!
The curious this is, I always miss them so much when the holidays end and they go back to school. The house feels empty and bereft and I find myself willing it to get to 3:30pm so I can see the little darlings again. That's the strange parenting paradox though isn't it, can't live with them, can't live without them.
Georgina Fuller is a freelance journalist and media consultant.