I had grand plans for this summer, I made a bucket list, I booked some Fridays off in addition to keeping Mondays as my non-work day wherever possible. I wanted to make the most of my time with the little people.
But here’s the thing, I didn’t anticipate the amount of #mummyfail moments. I didn’t appreciate how selfish I remain about enjoying ‘my’ days off, and I forgot that getting housework done is even more challenging with everyone at home all week.
As a mum with a full-time job, here are some of the things I’ve learned this summer:
1. It’s ok to have a plan, but you have to be able to deviate.
Plans make our life work, especially with work schedules, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to stick with it. The great thing about a plan, and why it remains so important is so there’s always a place you want to be- literally or figuratively, it’s just sometimes how you get there might change- and it might not even be in your contingency- it can sometimes be about going with a better choice.
This summer we planned a camping trip to Saundersfoot, as the day got closer the hubby’s gout flared up, accompanying the problems with his hand. The idea of pitching a tent solo was unappealing. The weather forecast was full of rain and strong winds. Hubby decided to book a basic package, a day in advance, to Butlin’s. We got there. We had been upgraded from a room to a bungalow. It was amazing, the children love Butlin’s, and it was completely worth deviating from the plan.
This week I took CM to London. Agreeing what we’d do in advance, admittedly the things I thought she’d enjoy. So many #mummyfails followed. At 1am, having spent too long crying in the bathroom I was intending to just take her home the following morning, feeling unable to not only pacify my Daddy’s Girl but to know what to do to ensure she had a good experience. I decided we needed to deviate from the plan and only do the things she wanted to do, and not dismiss anything as a bad idea. 10am the next morning she opened Hamley’s Toy Store. Definitely not in the plan, definitely the most memorable part of the trip.
2. The best things in life are free.
When you’ve spent money on something you expect it to be a success, either because you’ve taken the time to choose what to spend your hard-earned cash on, or because by paying for something you expect your child to be entertained. You feel completely hard-done to if a bad experience results. And when it’s amazing, it’s even better still because it was ‘for free’.
When you decide to go somewhere locally, where you don’t need to pay an entry fee, and you can take a packed lunch for a picnic, and it doesn’t work, you just bundle everyone in the car and go to the next place.
But you reserve the right to bawl your eyes out when you leave the theatre before you even get to the interval because your 6-year-old has played the ‘scared witless’ card by a show being advertised for a 5+ audience. Completely taking all responsibility for this failure and feeling the full brunt of this #mummyfail.
Worse still is the fact your little people won’t differentiate, they will enjoy both equally, and so you start to ponder the benefit of spending money on expensive places, meals and experiences, when they wouldn’t really have missed them, and they could have had an equally enjoyable time doing stuff for free.
You know it’s getting really bad when your 6-year-old daughter phones her daddy to tell him all about the pink lemonade she received exiting the underground station, and the picture she’s brought home from Hamley’s “and they were for free daddy!”.
And that whilst you’ve been away watching your bank balance depreciate on open-top bus tours, a hotel, theatre tickets, he’s sending you photos of your sons having an amazing time, with no money being spent.
3. I don’t want my boys to start school.
Every milestone in CM’s life has been welcomed with open arms. She has been ready and waiting for everything life has presented. Her first day in reception the teacher had to chase after her to ask if she wanted to say goodbye to her mummy.
I know B and E will be the same. But this time I’ve realised I’m really not ready for it. As always (refer to point 1), all of the preparations for the start of school were achieved in good time, all material preparations that is. And yes, the boys are soooooo looking forward to their new chapter. But I’ve realised I’m not ready, not because they’re too little, but because they’re my boys, I won’t get to do this again, and now I have to say goodbye to them, they just keep on growing up.
4. Life has a habit of catching you unawares.
As well as the start of a new school year, and the start of school, I’ll also be starting over in September. I was preparing for the announcements in October as to whether my job has any certainty, that was my plan, my point of reference. And from left-field I will now, also, be beginning a secondment through to December. I have no idea where that puts everything in terms of permanency, but the job is a blank sheet of paper, full of expectations, a new team completely. I didn’t see it coming but I’m glad to welcome it with open arms, because dwelling on what might be is not a good place to be.
5. Family life is working.
It’s been a difficult year, in addition to all the stresses and strains which come with family and marriage. And I know how difficult life as a full-time parent can be for my other half. Last week we went for a rare night-out, an awards evening, where hubby was awarded with Wales Squash & Racketball Volunteer Coach of the Year. It’s wonderful to see him nervous, excited, and relieved. That he does have so much more in his life as well as the fact he does an amazing thing bringing up our children (mainly keeping to point 2!).
As difficult as the summer holidays has been, trying to adjust to working from home with the little people at home, trying to overcome the guilt of not being off for the entire summer, and trying to keep the children occupied through such changeable summer weather, it’s been ok. And we’re all better for it.
6. I haven’t seen enough of my friends.
Isn’t it mad, you’re so busy trying to make sure they get these ‘experiences’, that they get their fill of playdates with school friends, that your own get put on a backburner. In all things this summer what I’ll probably kick myself for is not prioritising time with those who love my children nearly as much as they love me (artistic license accepted). Busy diaries acknowledged, next year has to have more days with friends incorporated.
7. Being a parent is tough.
Generally speaking, life when your children are at school just rolls through, the guilt of not seeing as much of them as you’d like, the resentment of the amount of time they’re at school, and making the most of the moments you do have.
The summer holidays is the time you suddenly realise you don’t know how to parent. How do I keep three highly-energised children occupied enough that they’ll continue to sleep through the night?
How do I cope with the fact that whilst E’s language development may have been the slowest of all three, now all this highly articulate boy seems to want to do is ask questions, every time he says “Mummy”, day or night, it’s with that intonation, the intonation which confirms, he’s about to ask another question!
How do I survive the arguments, the niggles, and worse still the high volume squeals, giggles, and noise which comes with the three of them being together all day?
How do I not feel guilt when I’m working away and they’re not getting their quota of play-dates and/or mummy time?
How do I not feel guilt asking them to leave the office in tears because I’m on a conference call and they want to talk?
How do I not feel guilt that some of my days off are spent doing housework, or enjoying a cup of coffee?
How do I know that I am not damaging my child’s chances of success in the future by the choices I am making now?
And so the guilt goes on.
8. My parents are the best.
But I reserve the right not to tell them too regularly to retain my ‘obstinate child’ label for years to come.
My mum contacts me each week to figure out my work schedule and makes it so that when I’m away they’re able to help out. And ‘help out’ means at least one day a week they have all three children.
It was the best thing ever this week (sort of) that I was sick the day I was meant to be working in London. I had a sick day with no-one to look after but myself- a proper, duvet on the sofa, watching tv and snoozing day.
Yep, my parents rock.
9. Never rely on the weather
I could have sworn last year the first few weeks of the summer holidays were unbearably hot, and the last few weeks absolutely rubbish. I don’t even know where to start this year.
I need to start keeping more lists, of places to go when the weather’s rubbish- which isn’t where every other parent is planning on taking their child.
I also need to stop relying on last year’s weather as the basis of my decisions.
10. My children are awesome.
It goes without saying I’m sure, because they’re mine, of course they are.
But when I’m screeching at the top of my voice because their rooms are a tip the day after I’ve tidied them.
Because CM is telling me I’m not appreciating her opinion, or worse still not being grateful for her opinion.
Because B & E are wrestling and no matter how much I might have an issue they continue, with mummy having to wade in to defend each child in turn, but still, no matter that the other was hurt last time, there is neither child more in the right than wrong.
Because they astound me. With love, with intelligence, with caring thoughts and with amazing thought processes.
Because they used to fit in my tummy.