At the start of the summer holidays, the six week break stretches ahead of you full of promise and adventure.
You imagine all those projects from Pinterest that you'll finally get round to doing and picture wholesome outings with healthy picnics and lots of laughter.
A few days into the holidays and reality sets in. In daydreams everyone is always laughing and smiling but in real life there is a constant low level whinge coming from at least one of the children, occasionally punctuated by a totally out of control and VERY LOUD tantrum or two.
But there is a way of having fun and making it to September with your sanity intact.
1. Manage your expectations
Things aren't suddenly going to be perfect just because it's the summer. Sometimes it will pour with rain, sometimes your kids won't want to do the things you've lovingly planned for them and sometimes (or even often) you'll be tempted to hide in the kitchen with a cup of tea (wine/vodka/cocktail) and stuff your face with chocolate.
The main thing is not to expect too much and then you won't be too disappointed. There will probably be days when your main achievement will be keeping the kids from strangling each other and you know what? That's okay.
For the record, last summer it felt like we barely left the house. I was heavily pregnant with baby number three and both my older girls got chicken pox (but not at the same time because that would be too easy!). We'd barely got rid of the curse of the pox when the new baby and all the chaos that comes with a newborn came along. BUT if you ask my kids, they'll say they had a great summer, which just goes to show that it's the parents who put the pressure on themselves and not the children.
2. Make lists while you're feeling inspired
You know all those great activities you want to do with the kids but don't have the time? Or all those places you see that you think will be great to visit one day? Write them down in a list when you think about them. Then when you wake up in the morning and the small people are demanding to know where they are going and what they are going to do, take a look at the list and pick one you fancy.
If you're super-organised, try to get hold of discount vouchers for places where you pay an entry fee or book online in advance. It doesn't have to be an expensive day out, it could just be going to a park you've never visited before or building a Lego model together.
3. Remember it's okay for kids to be bored
These days, it's normal for parents to micromanage their children's lives. You get used to a routine of ferrying them about from activity to activity. But sometimes it's good for all that to stop so they have to have a go at entertaining themselves and using their imagination.
In the 1980s, I don't remember a packed programme of activities being laid on for me in the summer holidays. I remember sitting around watching 'Why Don't You?' and having to come up with my own ideas for stuff to do. Don't feel guilty if your kids have a day where they don't have anything to do. You may have to endure a few dawn choruses of the "I'm bored, I'm bored, I'm bored" song but if you leave them to it, they will come up with a way of having fun.
They might even play with the mountain of expensive toys which clutter up the house (which would be a nice change). Oh and whatever you do, don't compare your own summer to the ones everyone else appears to be having on Facebook as it will never measure up (remember people only ever post the pictures they want the world to see).
4. Get in some rainy day supplies
This is Britain so let's face it, it's probably going to rain (quite a lot). Get in some craft kits, colouring books, jigsaws, sticker books and playdoh now in anticipation of at least a few days stuck indoors with your children pacing the floor like a caged tiger.
Make watching a DVD into an adventure by creating a cinema in your front room and making/buying some movie snacks. Share some of your own childhood memories or read a book together. Or you could just embrace the wet weather, stick on some wellies and go jumping in muddy puddles or dance in the rain. They may do a very good job of pretending otherwise but all your kids really want to do this summer is spend some quality time with you.Suggest a correction