As I packed the older two kids off to school this morning I felt that usual mixture of sadness and relief that I always get after the holidays. But I also felt a little background niggle of feeling slightly guilty that I was sending them back to the classroom far more exhausted than they were at the end of term. I’m pretty sure the point of school holidays is to give everyone a rest but we’ve never quite managed to achieve that in this house.
As per usual, we’ve had a very busy break, filled with family and friends, Easter antics, a trip to Dorset and an 8th birthday for my eldest. We’ve hunted eggs, dug forts on the beach, visited zoos and farms and basically been busy every single day. We’ve all loved it but it is hardly a surprise that the kids were yawning on their way to school this morning.
I know how they feel. It has been a fantastic holiday but I’ve been looking forward to the relative peace and quiet of today for a while now. Today it is just me and T, trundling along together. It is a blessed relief from the mayhem and I can tell that T agrees. He was in the best mood that he has been in for ages this morning, full of smiles and happy babbling. I think he was delighted to have me back to himself for a few hours and, more importantly, to have time to sit on the floor and play to his heart’s content, without being dragged off for yet more Organised Fun. Two year olds don’t always deal so well with Organised Fun and I think he was sick to the back teeth of being carted from pillar to post at the expense of time alone with his beloved trains. His mood went to shit this afternoon by the way, but we’ll gloss over that.
I have to admit that can see T’s point and I’ve been feeling the strain myself this last couple of days, with the end of the holidays in sight. I’ve basically reached kid saturation point. No matter how amazing the break was, there is no question that it was exhausting, especially when trying to meet the needs of three little ones. I’ve been drowning in demanding kids and high-pitched nagging voices for longer than I’d like and certainly longer than I deal well with. I lost my cool badly on Sunday morning when I was trying to tidy the house and the nagging reached a peak. There was screaming. It wasn’t pretty. A sure sign that I need to step away from the small people for a while.
I’m used to having two kid-free days a week while I work but, with time off for our holiday, I’ve not had a child-free moment for nearly two weeks now. I know that is par for the course for many stay-at-home Mums with pre-schoolers – and I salute you if you are one of them – but it simply doesn’t suit me. I’ve tried it and it nearly did me in. I quickly worked out that I’m not designed to be a full-time stay-at-home Mum. I love my kids deeply and I generally thrive on the mayhem – why would I have gone in for three of them otherwise? But I’ve learnt that over-exposure to them without a break leads to screaming meltdowns all round and bad parenting misery. The constant moaning, the bickering and the endless questions really start to get to me over time. I am just so in demand that I feel they are chipping away at me slowly and, if I don’t escape for a short while, there will soon be nothing left but a pile of bones and twitching nerves.
When I reach saturation point, I can hear a voice in my head screaming for time off. By time off, I don’t mean sitting about watching This Morning and eating ginger nuts. I’m actually not that good at sitting about and relaxing. Time off when saturation point is hit is basically anything else. Seriously, ANYTHING other than being surround by kids. A trip to the dump, bombing round the supermarket, hell, even a visit to the dentist. All beat being with my own offspring. This is why work is my salvation.
I am in serious need of a work day right now, to be sat at my desk, focusing on grown-up tasks, without small voices getting at me endlessly. Without the luxury of being able to afford much child-free time besides when I am working, having my job is the reason I can cope with three kids nagging me the rest of the time. For two days a week, the cacophony stops for a few blessed hours. Yes, OK, so I am busy working hard on those days which brings its own stresses, but it is a different kind of pressure and a welcome change that keeps me sane. Working tomorrow is going to be bliss.
All parents cope differently with school holidays and there is no right or wrong. Whether you love them or loath them, holidays can be bloody hard work. There is the work/childcare juggle for some and the endless days to fill for others. They are nothing like a break for parents and far from relaxing, no matter what your circumstances or your outlook. So I think we all deserve a pat on the back for getting through them once again.
So, to all the parents out there who have just sent their kids back to school, I say well done. To the ones who are sad and miss their kids already and the ones who couldn’t wait to push them out the door. To the rest of you who are somewhere in between, like me. You all did a bloody good job. Whether you were jet-setting round Europe or wracking your brains every morning to think of something to do, whether each day was a joy or a trial, I say well bloody done to you.
You did it. We did it. Go us.