The school summer holidays. Most people embrace them with delight. A break from routine, a break from the normal grind and time off. Time to go away. Time to relax. No school, no mad rushing every day, no long list of extra curricular activities to keep up with, no homework, no packed lunches. Lazy mornings, chill days and fun, right?
I wish. That’s not how it works round here.
You see, my son and I, we thrive on routine. We thrive on regular and planned. We love our schedule and although sometimes the “busy” ness can be too busy, we like structure.
He doesn’t cope when everything stops for the summer break. Which means I don’t cope. He isn’t a child that will sleep in late, enjoy amusing himself all day, and then go to bed leaving me time to myself.
He doesn’t like no routine, no plan. Neither do I.
The summer holidays are not relaxing for us.
Also, the nature of our beast means that I am the one in charge from 7am-7pm five days a week during the summer holidays. I don’t work out of term time, and the husband does, and his salary pays more of our bills right now, so I am it, the childcare for 6-8 weeks of summer. If it’s peeing it down with rain, and we are stuck indoors, then it’s on me to deal. If it’s hot and sunny but the kids need to be placed, it’s on me. Feeding everyone, making sure the kids are kept alive, it’s on me.
I love my kids, I love spending time with them, but the summer holidays are a long break when you have a child who doesn’t like the break from normal. It’s a fair bit of pressure on me. I still do some work, as well as managing him and his sister, and by the end of the summer holidays, I feel less relaxed and refreshed than I did at the start of them. Barring the summer holiday we take, the rest of the time is HARD, mostly not fun, and I refuse to capitulate to the mantra that somehow it’s a glorious time. For us, it’s not.
I don’t think the summer holidays are that relaxing or refreshing for most parents, despite how much we are told they should be.
I have been told patronizingly by many people “just relax, enjoy the time”. Oddly enough they don’t have to deal with our life, so their bland advice is ignored.
I find it mentally exhausting to be in charge all summer. I get resentful when the husband swans off to work, then comes home for dinner, and wonders why I am not delighted to see yet another being who needs feeding and my time and energy.
The summer holidays are expensive. Activities for kids are not cheap. Childcare is not cheap, and whilst I love activities like Camp Beaumont and other things, they are not something we can justify for more than once in the holidays when I am not working. When the weather is miserable because sod’s law says that May and June are stunning and sun-filled but the day the kids break from school that vanishes and dull, wet and typical British summer descends. I am not prepared to do childcare swaps because frankly, I don’t want to be dealing with other people’s children as well as my own (bar the odd playdate, those I can manage)
I rationalise some of our time with the mantra that the kids should and can entertain themselves over the holidays, and that it’s ok for them to be bored some of the time but I find it stressful and frankly, I count the days until our normal routine comes back. I don’t even jump with joy at them going back to school, because our son is homeschooled and with me all the time, it’s not that I want rid of them, or think school should parent them better than me, it’s more the summer break is a long hard drag on us.
So we fix that and this year, because we can’t even go away on holiday, thanks to Covid19, I have firmly put my foot down. For the majority of our relationship and parenting, he is hands on, full time, and I am very grateful for this. He parents, he works, and he does this because he is also their parent too. But the summer holidays are my no man’s land, and I decided that I was done dealing with that alone.
“These are your children, too, YOU need to help me”. It’s only taken me 10 years to be brave enough to admit that I can’t do this bit of parenting alone.
So this summer, whilst other people might be living their best life in their pajamas and taking the day slowly, we won’t be.
We have one day a week of childcare arranged. He has also taken leave one day a week, where HE is in charge of the kids. The other three days I will carefully structure so that we are not too bored, but not madly busy, but routine enough that my son doesn’t hit the sensory meltdown because his life and routine have changed, feral stage at the end of each day, and we will thrive not just survive barely this summer.
We have tried the let the kids do nothing, just relax, summer holiday thing and frankly it is hideous.
At some point, both my kids will realize they can have a life and will find themselves things to do in the summer break (or I will make them get jobs so they can at least pay for the vast amounts of food they eat in the school holidays) and I will not be under pressure to manage the long weeks mostly alone. I may look back and feel fond about the summer holidays, but that’s doubtful. Until then, we need to do it better so I don’t dread them and the stress doesn’t break me.
I think I could cope better if the summer break was shorter. I am a big proponent of shorter summer breaks. However, sadly, that isn’t likely to happen, so we manage in a way that works for us. It isn’t what other people do, and as with all my motherhood journey, that is ok.