As the school summer holidays are upon us, my thoughts turn to occupying the kids. How to keep them busy. How to manage my own work and juggle childcare. All the practical things. And I know I’m not alone in this.
‘Doing nice things’ feels especially important this year, after 15 months of on-and-off lockdowns. But with covid-19 still looming large decision making over where to go, what to do, who to see and when feels more complicated than ever.
Amidst all this, it’s easy to forget your own needs. They don’t go away just because the school term’s over. For many women the reality is that ‘holidays’ are a complete misnomer. They’re not holidays, at all – they don’t bring relaxation, a slower pace or a change of scene. Instead they’re a time of increasing demands and pressure.
And, of course, it’s natural and noble to want to create magical memories for your children. But don’t let that be at the expense of your own needs. It’s not just ok to think about how to keep yourself on an even keel over summer. It’s absolutely essential.
So in this blog we look at seven ways you can meet your own needs over summer when looking after the kids. I won’t pretend all of these will work beautifully for everyone – they don’t always work for me! But having some new approaches up your sleeve is always helpful, so see which of these might help.
The other parent
It should go without saying that if there’s another parent on the scene then they should also be pulling their weight looking after the kids. But, sadly, for most of my clients the emotional and practical load falls squarely on their shoulders. The other parent might need a gentle (or not-so-gentle) reminder that they have a role to play too. If you haven’t already set aside some time to discuss the balance of responsibility over summer. And just because it’s always been you doesn’t mean it always has to be…
Agree ground rules at the start
Whether you’re juggling work alongside childcare or are with your children full time during the holidays you’ll need to find a new rhythm while school’s out. It can be helpful for your children to know in advance what the expectations are.
Does it mean they’ll always remember and stick to them? No! But it does mean you have something to refer back to and reset when chaos reigns. The idea isn’t to create strict rules, but to create an environment where everyone’s on the same page. So at the start of the holidays, sit down and try to come up with some ground rules together.
You know your family needs best, but you might want to think about principles that cover expectations around:
- When people are up and dressed
- When you need to be left alone to work/rest
- Keeping the house tidy
- Food and snacks
- When the TV goes on
Allocate choice days
If your family’s anything like mine the summer holidays can be filled with days squabbling over what to do. You might want to head to a park, child 1 wants to play lego all day and child 2 wants to go shopping. At the time you’re setting ground rules you could also try allocating choice days. So there are specific days when you get to make the decisions about what you all do, and days for each of the children.
As long as you set boundaries (in terms of time and money!) around activities, this can be a good way for everyone to feel heard and get what they want, while learning about being flexible and going along with other people’s wishes. (Or the squabbling might just carry on! But it’s worth a shot!).
Are there ways to share the burden with friends and family? Childcare swaps, having a special auntie or godfather day scheduled in, or going on outings with another family can all be ways either to make time for yourself or have a co-pilot to share the load with. Get the dates booked in now.
When I’m feeling low or frustrated I know I need to get outside. Even if it doesn’t work miracles it takes the edge off. So if you find yourself having one of those afternoons at home, get everyone out. Even if you don’t make it to a park or further than the end of the street. Just some fresh air will help. And if you can’t get outside, get them in a daytime bath or shower. Having a splash around can reset the mood.
Be on high alert for times you can steal for yourself. And try to use them for something restorative, rather than scrolling through your phone. Can you take a book into the garden with a cup of tea for ten minutes while they watch Danger Mouse? Are they playing with friends upstairs? What can you do for yourself while they’re occupied?
It might be worth making a list of quick activities that you know make you feel better and pinning it to a kitchen cupboard for reference so you can make the most of those tiny slices of time.
Plan in your September restoration now!
If you know you’re not going to get much headspace for the next few weeks, it can help to have something to look forward to. I’m reducing my working hours over the school holidays but I’ve made sure I’ve got plenty of slots available for September. So do contact me now to discuss what times and treatments would work for you. Whether you’re a new client or a regular I’d love to hear from you!