School holidays – for how many of us this creates mixed emotions. Joy at not having to do the school runs yet the feeling of dread at the thought of being alone with your children.
Sounds silly but gut feeling is that many mothers feel this way. So why has this situation arisen?
Well society make up has changed, families are divided geographically. There is less social support from relatives and communities are more migrant. People move away for job opportunities. As a result society is more fragmented, for example how many people know many of their neighbours on their street?
Financial circumstances, a change in attitude and opportunities about women’s roles has resulted in many families having both parents at work. There are few jobs that give you annual leave where you can cover all the school holidays, hence childcare has also become a big business. This has led to an emergence of camps and structured classes, which families choose to, or must, utilise.
Children can no longer be left to go out in the day and wander on their own with their mates and back for dinner. The culture of fear of child abductions, paedophiles and therefore child safety has led to a shift in the way we parent. All this has placed a greater demand on the ability to parent, so increasingly you’re on your own.
It is harder still when you have young children. Thank fully those days have passed for me. The decision to stay at home or go out both had pros and cons. After packing toys, snacks, wipes, nappies, spare clothes, then trying to get them out of the door with a pushchair/stroller/buggy board was… let’s say a mission. Finally hoping they behave without being criticized or given looks as a mother who had no control over her children. My memories of those early days were constant nagging and telling them to ‘hurry up’ to be at this class for this time. I felt pressure that they needed to go to art class or gym babies, that they were missing out on what everyone else was doing; staying at home in your jam jams was not the done thing. Yet that was our childhood and we turned out all right?
But then I thought why do what everyone else is doing, if it is causing stress and a fear of being alone with them? So, I changed two things to get out of that mindset:
- Slow down and be present (MINDFULNESS)
- Belief in myself and my parenting abilities
I used to dread the holidays, how would I cope with three children by myself. But I’ve reached a point in my life where I can say I enjoy them! And the change resulted not in a change of circumstances but a change in MY attitudes and beliefs. I now remember the crude farting jokes more than the arguments.
Most of all I love the fact they want to spend time at home, it means I’ve created a place for them where they like to spend time. That is the greatest feeling of accomplishment any parent can have.
So here are my top 10 tips to enjoy your children more:
1. A messy house is ok!
Mess means children were here and life exists! Take away the pressure to have an overtly spotless home. Spend it with your kids or better still get the kids involved in the housework. They love spraying and dusting. Make it game and see who can do it in the fastest time.
2. Forget the lists
Being a busy mum is an endless list of chores. Make a to do list and then forget about it, stop ruminating over it in the shower. Enjoy moments with your children and don’t worry about the endless things that need to be done, you know they will get done eventually.
Tears and arguments are part of growing up. It’s not a failure of parenting it is a lesson in relationships. Let them negotiate their way out of a sibling disagreement, only stepping in when needing to.
4. Have moments of NOTHING
Let there be times when you are just sitting and lounging with your thoughts and their thoughts. Let them be comfortable in a space of stillness.
5. Talk to them and read
You can submerse them in discussion and language with a daily half an hour of your time and achieve more than any club or class.
6. Accepting help
In the form of relatives or friend or paying someone to help with cleaning/cooking. Free up your time to have a fun day.
7. Putting away the phone
I’m struggling at this one myself. I must remind myself I am model for them so hearing them read with my iphone in one hand, is not going to make them feel I’m spending quality time. I don’t want them to talk to others in that way either!
This will teach abundance. Looking at the glass half full will set the wheels in motion of self-esteem and happiness. When my son remarked he had a bad day we went through the things that went well in the day and he realised actually it wasn’t that bad! We try to do this at night – what was the best part of your day and who helped you today.
9. Get them away from hours of screen time
(The biggest and hardest task for me) is to get them away from hours of technology, holidays are to spend time with their siblings and each other, forming foundations for their adult relationships. For me this is best achieved by getting them OUT of the house. So, we try to reach a mutual agreement. One activity they would like to do (usually park, bowling, sports of any kind) and one activity I think would be good for them (trip to museum or a play). There is so much on our doorstep we don’t need to send them to camps within four walls away from family. This is not to say there is anything wrong in this, just don’t feel you MUST do it.
10. Have friends over
Emotionally release with your fellow mums, they’ll be the ones who understand the daily rigor of being a modern parent while entertaining your kids, so win-win! Each bring a dish or a takeway pizza so it takes the focus away about food and you’re more likely to engage. Trust me other mums want to get out of the house too they’re not expecting a gourmet meal.