We love our kids, but there is only so much a mum (or dad) can take, right?
Yet in the summer holidays, it just doesn't seem to be the done thing to moan about reaching tether's end - you only have to look at the smug Facebook updates from the yummy mummy brigade to instantly feel like the worst mother on Earth for praying for the start of term.
Note these two recent posts from mothers of my acquaintance: 'Loving the hols too much! Never want them to end!' 'SO lovely having my babies all to myself!'
Yeah, right. Let's get real, shall we?
'We've just paid £400 to send our oldest to Portugal for a week with a mate of his (and his family),' says weary dad-of-three, Mark. 'And trust me, it's worth every penny.'
'My daughter gets 9 weeks off,' says mum of one, Sally, 'I considered just killing myself at one point. I've instead taken to hiding from her around the house. Eventually she gets bored of looking for me and goes off to amuse herself.'
She jests, of course, but with a month still to go, there's no denying the summer break is tough. So what can we do? How can we keep our sanity without reaching for the gin or locking our children in the attic?
'Guilty as parents might feel wanting a few minutes' breathing space, your kids will be much better off (as you will be) by taking care of yourself, too,' says life coach Eve Menezes Cunningham, 'Think about it – when you're frazzled and haven't had enough time out, anything they do can make you feel incredibly impatient.
'By taking a little time each day to look after yourself, you'll take the holiday's ups and downs in your stride far more easily, whether that's being stuck in traffic for ages, or just every-day tears and tantrums.'
Eve's Top Tips:
Meditate. Start the day with 15 minutes to focus on your breathing. As you inhale, visualise yourself breathing in the kind of qualities you want to be prominent throughout the day (maybe love, peace, calm, fun, joy...). As you exhale, breathe out all the qualities you want to release (maybe stress, anxiety, anger, impatience ...). After a few minutes, you'll notice a real difference. And if you get distracted, just bring yourself back to it gently and keep going.
Plan ahead as much as possible to help your days run more smoothly. Think back over recent holidays. What were trigger points for you and the kids then? What might you do differently this holiday? Something as simple as ordering your groceries online and having them delivered could save you all the angst of traipsing around with a grumpy entourage when it's hot and sunny.
Help your children help you. No matter what age they are, you can give them appropriate chores. At first, showing them how to put their toys away, wash up, vacuum, do some weeding or whatever IS going to be much slower than doing it yourself. But this is how you teach them how to take care of themselves and they will get faster and better at it. They want your love and attention. It'll be easier to give them that when you're both doing similar chores together, than you attempting to speed through it all while you ask them to be patient.
Create new routines for the summer. Just as your kids have different bedtimes for holidays, think about what you need to support you whilst you are balancing late nights, work, childcare and everything else. It is as important for you to be well fed, rested and exercised as it is your children - if you don't look after yourself you'll be that much more tightly wound and no use to anyone.
Boredom isn't bad. And remember - a little boredom can be a good thing for a child - encourage your kids to go off and make their own fun, be that with the help of a dressing up box, arts and craft stuff or by making a 'camp' in the living room. Don't feel guilty for leaving them to their own devices - you are a parent, not a constant source of entertainment!