I began this series with the intention of doing it every week, but I’ve had a few obstacles thrown my way by the Universe! Anyway, I’ve overcome them in time to write this week’s edition of Friday 5.
We’re already two weeks into the school holidays in the UK and I have to wonder: How are you all coping? I used to dread the holidays, I’ll be honest. I’d look at it as a time of being completely trapped and unable to do anything without my children getting hyper and causing me to feel stressed. Wrong mindset for me to have. I’ve learned that my current state of mind affects my ability to parent, true story. So the more together I feel, the less likely I am to be cranky and I parent so much better. They deserve a happy mummy, right? Because happy mummy is a fun mummy.
While I work on staying positive to benefit us all, because it is my responsibility to do that, I can then focus on making sure we all have fun time together. Here’s how I’ll be getting through the summer with my children:
1. Plan, plan, plan!
I think it is my creativity that means I prefer to live a life beyond rules and guidelines. I don’t like too much structure but it is absolutely necessary when being a parent. It is important for our children to know what to expect in the day(s) ahead and it enables them to feel a lot more secure and calm too. For adults, it means we have something to refer to and this helps us maintain order and reduces our stress levels, ideally. You feel more in control because you can see the progress you are making as you move through activities.
I adapted this rota from Netmums. I haven’t set times on it yet but I don’t think I will because I’d rather things flow naturally. I sat both of my children down (they are aged 3 and 6 years) and asked them all the different things they like to do for fun. Most of these I knew about anyway, which was awesome. Things like going to Africa are not do-able for now but I noted them anyway. Not every activity has to cost money. Spend days at the park and take a picnic. Visit family and friends. Go swimming. Get old catalogs and magazines and let them cut and stick to their heart’s content. Decorate biscuits with icing sugar and sweets. Make a den under the dining table. Visit your local museum. Go on a nature walk. Check out the free events at your local library. There is so much you can do with your children. Plan ahead and eliminate the stress.
2. Invite people over. No, really!
It’s fair to say that once your children are home from school, you might not be able to get out and about so much. Your Monday morning breakfast meet-ups with the mum’s from school or with your friends may have now come to an abrupt end until September. It’s easy to adopt the point of view that you can’t do anything with children but I beg to differ! One of the best things I did last summer was invite people over. I stopped worrying about whether or not my children would be hyper (they’re kids, it’s what they do!), I stopped focusing on whether my house was tidy or decorated enough, I stopped worrying so much about everything and relaxed a little. I came to the realisation that my friends know I have children, obviously, so they will accept that they may or may not walk into chaos. There might be teddies on the floor, an occasional snotty nose to wipe and the sound of a herd of elephants coming from their room. I got comfortable with having playdates, letting the children play together and enjoy themselves while we adults relax and catch up over a cup of tea. It’s all very well having contact with people across social media, but you can spend the whole week interacting with no other adult and that doesn’t help anyone.
3. Budget better than before. Seriously.
I don’t know how you are with managing your finances but, like wine, I seem to get better with age. In the school holidays, I often spend a little bit more on food shopping because of course my children eat more snacks and I make an extra lunch during the day. I used to make the mistake of going shopping when I was hungry. I’d come out of the supermarket with a year’s supply of biscuits and not much else. I’d also go in without a list and find I’d have to go to my local shop for the things I’d missed, and ultimately spend more money than I had planned. Not good.
What I do now is write a list of meals that we all like to eat. Sometimes I write a meal rota for the week, but at the moment a list of meals is sufficient enough. Then I write a shopping list using the meals list as a guide. I check my cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what I need to top up. Then I think about where I can go to get the most value for money. I am lucky in that I live near three high streets which have a range of supermarkets and local produce shops for me to go to. I go shopping and I make sure I stick to the list. To make it exciting for us all, I give my children items to look out for and put it in the trolley. They like to be involved and it makes shopping bearable.
I know it all sounds simple enough but for ages I didn’t do it this way. It’s almost like I anticipated the stress, worked myself up until I was incredibly stressed, had a horrible experience and spent money on rubbish before vowing only to shop online in the future, without actually doing anything about it. Until now.
4. Put. Your. Phone. Away.
It’s not quite like it was when I was a child. My mum didn’t have a mobile phone for me to compete with for attention. Yeah, I said it. I can be terrible with mine and I’ve had to learn to just put it away. Not every message requires an urgent response. Notifications aren’t so important that they can’t wait. I love social media and I spend time on it building up a following, but even I know that while my children are awake they take priority.
We interact so much with digital machines, that we forget the real life beings that need our attention and love. Put your phone on airplane mode. Even just for the afternoon. Be present. Be with your children. Engage in conversation with them. Let them share their ideas, stories and musings about the world around them. Let them tell you about the dreams they had last night, compliment them on their choice of costume for the day and just stop to give them a hug from time to time. I like to sit with mine while they are playing, although admittedly sometimes they like to be left alone and they shoo me downstairs.
I’m not a perfect parent, I don’t believe there is such a thing. But I know that I don’t want my children to grow up feeling ignored and of less value than my phone or my laptop. I might do little updates during the day, maybe share pictures of how we are spending our time together, but ultimately I wait until the evenings before I crack on with my creative to-do list. These are little changes I have made to benefit them and myself, to keep our home happy and my children feeling secure within it.
5. Have fun!
Don’t take your parenting role so seriously! Have fun, get messy, be silly and embrace the time you spend with your children this summer. Before you know it, they will have grown up and will be too cool for hugs. I used to be a parent who just couldn’t relax, so caught up in how to ‘act’ like a parent to meet the expectations of the world around me. I think this only contributed to my anxiety. It took some time but I’ve learned to let my inner child have fun and now I take part instead of observing so much. My children love a happy mama. They love a mama who joins in and is a little bit silly too. I don’t want to spend this August counting down the days until September because I know this time will be gone in an instant and I don’t want to be wishing I made the most of it.
And when my children are asleep, I can unwind for the night. I may opt to invite a few friends over for a glass of wine, movie night or I may even have a bubble bath and early night instead, whatever works for me because it is my time and that’s how I’ll be spending it.