How to survive half-term (when you're going solo)
I'm going to be entirely honest and admit it. *braces self* I don't particularly enjoy the school holidays! It's not that I don't love and adore my children because I enjoy nothing more than to squeeze their cheeks and [s]mother them in unrequited cuddles but term time is undeniably fantastic when I work from home and have a partner who works in retail. I find it difficult to entertain two young boys all day, mostly on my own, including the weekends, plus I have boys and there's nothing remotely relaxing about mothering boys. Please tell me I'm not the only one who doesn't welcome the school holidays with a bottomless pit of enthusiasm?
Yet I've been feeling this all-consuming mum-guilt at hearing others who love nothing more than for school to break up, excited to say goodbye to the school run and have all the kids home at once; perhaps I'd feel the same if I had Martin home to help but sadly he works long hours and a lot of evenings/weekends, but I know I'm not the only one tackling the holidays alone. As much as it's nice for the boys to spend more time together and occasionally we are together as a family and it's wonderful but thank god for our National Trust membership when we're not. I wanted to share a few tips on how you can not just get through, but begin to enjoy the school holidays, especially if you're finding yourself doing a lot of it solo.
Get out of the house
I remember asking Dr Google for tips on surviving with a baby and one of the best I stumbled across was to make sure you get out of the house, at least once every day, even if it's just a trip to the shops, and I still apply it to every single day I'm solo parenting. When we've been cooped up inside all day, the frustration and stress peaks to astronomical levels and we're all fed up of the screaming and fighting. Getting out for a walk, taking in the fresh air or even just a change of scenery can help us all to release the stress, enjoy each other's company and the boys are able to burn off some of the endless energy they seem to acquire from who-knows-where.
Don't feel guilty!
It's rich coming from me because I feel guilty for absolutely everything. Too much screen time? Check. Not enough vegetables? Check. Not planning crafts and activities? Checkkkk. However, on the school holidays I try to let go a little and do what I can to get by. I make sure we get out as often as we can and I try and goad the boys into playing with their educational toys as much as possible but sometimes the TV is our saviour.. and the iPad.. and the surprise egg lady. Give yourself a break if you need it, solo parenting is tough.
Learn to cook!
I never used to be particularly great in the kitchen, if I cooked at all. I had no interest as a young single woman (choosing to survive on chicken dippers and baked beans) and then I had a partner who cooked everything for me (and it was delicious) and then I had kids and I found myself wanting to cook fresh home-cooked meals for them. So, I bought a simple cookbook and I discovered something about spending an hour or two a day in the kitchen; it felt kind of therapeutic. I'd have no choice but to leave the boys to it (and bar a few screeches here and there, they survived) and I'd treat myself to a glass of wine, stick the radio on and by the end of it, I'd created something I could be proud of and that the boys loved and I'd found some unexpected me-time in an otherwise crazy day (bonus: and after dinner, it's nearly bedtime!).
I guess, what I'm saying [probably mostly to myself] is, you're doing a great job. We're all different and we all have varied strengths and weaknesses when it comes to parenting, whether we have one child or five, and don't feel so bad on yourself when things get too much. Remember to grab every spare minute you can find and just breathe, and then enjoy it as much as you can, even the hard stuff. These kids are only kids for a short time and though these are probably some of the most challenging years of our lives, they're also the days we're going to miss the most.