I have a kind of love hate relationship with school holidays. Any working parent will tell you about the additional angst that comes with the juggle of school holidays; vacation care, holiday programs, day swapping with friends, taking time off work, the boredom, the complaining and the lack of structure.
The lead up to holidays always has me in a bit of a head spin…
I am very fortunate that my work has the option to “self fund” additional leave, so when I went back to work full time this year, I also purchased additional leave to help us manage school holidays. After all, the kids are off school for 12 weeks in a year! so juggling all that time can be part of the working parents minefield.
So now I have bought this additional leave, my holidays will be different. Right? Relaxing quality time, bonding with the children, cafe trips and laughter over hot chocolate, lazing around the house with my feet up, catching up on the kids lives and reducing my motherly guilt about working full time.
As the first set of holidays approach, I’m thinking….here we go, quality Mum time ahead. I even made a deal with my husband. You take a week, I take a week. Awesome, this should be a cinch.
But I found myself in mounting chaos before the holidays even started.
Work, for example, might be officially letting me go on leave, but that doesn’t mean the work goes away. So I find myself working frantically in the week before I am due to be away, trying to get double the work done in order to not leave a massive gap while I am gone. I’m stressed and frustrated, this is starting to look like a bad idea.
On the first day of the “holidays”, I am still wired. The kids are running around like lunatics and my patience is already running thin. I spend the day doing chores around the house and everything I pick up seems to be back on the floor before I even turn around.
I decide I need a project.
Now might be a good time to redecorate my sons room, the car bed we got when he was three isn’t really cutting it anymore…and it will be a great bonding project for us to do together I think.
I drop my daughter at a friends house and head to IKEA. Within 30min my son is complaining he wants to go home. He has chosen a bed, job done in his eyes. He wants icecream. I am wandering the self service aisles trying to find the right flat packs for the bed and chest of drawers we chose. They are not there. We have to find someone to help. They get a forklift. My son is now WAY over it and pulling at my arms. I struggle to get the huge flatpacks on to the trolley with “help” from my son. Somehow manage the get through checkouts and then we are finally free (3 hrs later) and I spend 30min struggling to get everything we have purchased into my trailer.
Pick up my daughter and we are home again. My son has no interest in constructed the bed. And before we even start his whole room needs cleaning out. He moans that he just wants to play computer games. Has a fight with my daughter.
I look around me at the chaos and I think…this is NOT what I had imagined. I feel overwhelmed, defeated and exhausted. I am not enjoying any quality time with the kids. All they want to do is stare at screens and eat junk food. Bloody school holidays.
But then I stop myself and I realise that my expectations have gotten the better of me, yet again. That the picture of “ideal” holidays that I have in my head is unrealistic. Hopefully being off work and spending all day with the kids means that there will be some pockets of quality time together, but that doesn’t mean that the WHOLE time is going to be quality time…infact, likely not at all.
So…I shake myself off and reset the expectations button. Send the kids off to play computer games and watch TV (they think this is awesome), make a cup of tea, put on some music and get stuck into the bedroom.
Over the course of the week, we had some ups and downs. Inevitably some days were hard work, I was not relaxing with my feet on the table having deep and meaningful conversations with the kids…let me tell you now!
But by the end of the week, I was feeling in a much different space. It was nice to spend some time just juggling one component of my life, not all of them at once like usual. I did manage to spend some quality time with the kids, we did go for walks together, we did chat about what is going on with them. They also spent a lot of time doing the things that they love on their own and time with their friends. And, yes, they also spent time lazying around the house watching screens in their pjyamas….and guess what, one day I did that too! (after the redecorating project was complete of course).
Sure…coming back to work this week was another big shock. Clawing my way back on top of the all the work projects.
And now I’m looking at the pictures of my husband eating ice cream with the kids after a walk around the lake (and getting his text messages saying that they are driving him insane)…and wishing I was there too.
School holidays are a struggle, but maybe the forced time away from the usual routine is as good for me as it is for the kids.