Well, I bet many of us are already feeling a little, how shall I put it, wrung out having looked after our little darlings for a few weeks. Parenting during the summer holidays can certainly be a challenge, can’t it?
Cue much muttering from the “well what did you expect” and “why did you have kids then if you didn’t want to look after them” brigade.
Many of us find ourselves as the sole childcare provider if our other half is working and, of course, the cost of childcare can be exorbitant – thank God for grandparents.
Let’s press the mute button on our critics and acknowledge one or two things, shall we?
We love our kids and they love us.
It is our responsibility to set boundaries, limits, call them what you will so that our children learn how to fit in.
(Yes I know little Johnny has every right to kayak around the world eating lentils and being ‘free’ but such things are easier with an education and some sort of gainful employment under your belt).
Sometimes, the setting of boundaries requires, (whisper it), raising your voice and imposing sanctions – whether that be the removal of an iPad or time out.
The imposing of such sanctions very often makes you feel like s**t.
Learning to play independently is a valuable skill.
We do not need to provide wall-to-wall entertainment involving crafting, cooking, painting, singing, board games or reading for the entire time our kids are awake.
Meaningful interaction is required of course, but if you find yourself devising a time-table, I suggest you make yourself a coffee and have a word with yourself.
That ‘word’ should involve asking yourself the following question honestly.
“What kind of mother do I want to be” and “Am I physically, mentally and emotionally capable of being that kind of mother?”
Culturally, our society prefers its mothers to have more in common with the Virgin Mary than it does with the living, flesh and blood conglomeration of discordant emotions that many of us consist of.
From an early age, we are taught that ‘mothers’ are sweet, caring and nurturing.
They are selfless, self-sacrificing and willing to relinquish all sense of entitlement to individual happiness just to ensure their offspring thrive.
Readers of this blog may recall that I have, on occasion, found myself identifying with Joan Crawford.
A rather stark counterpoint to the cultural fantasy described above.
The point, of course, is that the kind of mother you want to be is the kind that you are able to be.
An honest assessment of your failings, together with a plan to improve (where you can) is likely to be far more fulfilling for you and your kids than to mope on the sofa at the end of the day with a large glass of vino whilst muttering “I’m just not cut out for mothering”.
If you’re short on patience and your temper is frayed, make sure your self-care is up to scratch.
Are you getting enough sleep?
Drinking enough water?
Are you asking for help?
If you really are at the end of your tether and you can afford it, hire a babysitter (or bribe a relative) and just take two or three hours out for you – even if that’s just nursing a coffee at Costa.
Or arrange to babysit for a friend in return for a night out with your partner or best friend.
Listen, if you are kind, caring and compassionate, if you soothe hurting tummies and wipe away tears, even if you sometimes shout quite loudly, it’s all OK.
So, take a deep breath.
Put your guide to local attractions and “501 free things to do with the kids” down for a moment.
Geo caching whilst wearing floral wellies can wait.
Building a fully functional mobile home out of cardboard boxes and an old camping trailer can be shelved, as can baking a cake in the shape of Mr Tumble.
Tomorrow, when the dark cloud of “useless mothering” looms large over your head, turn everything with a screen off.
Throw some cushions on the floor and just sit down with your kids, tell them a story or just chat.
That’s all they really want. Your attention. Even if it’s just for an hour. Heck, I’ve convinced myself. I’m going to give it a go.
After all, kids are human too. Parenting during the summer holidays? P’ah. It’s a breeze. Now, where’s my wine.
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