There is very little more likely to make me feel inadequate than a school holiday. I know I am not alone in this. Somehow I never quite live up to my own expectations. We are just into the second week of a unusually long break of seven weeks and already the world is full of women losing the plot.
The trouble is I always build myself up for the holidays inappropriately, taking no heed of many years of bitter experience and with my rose coloured spectacles perched firmly on my nose. I crave mornings when I don’t have to get everyone up, dressed, fed and out of the house by 8.30 with all their necessary bits and pieces. I long for weekends that aren’t clogged up with dance classes and birthday parties and sleepovers. But what I always forget is that all that schooling and carefully structured entertainment has to be replaced with something else.
I am lucky. Four children is a team. Nice even numbers so that no one gets ganged up on. Split into two age groups that can be mixed and matched in a wide variety of combinations. They rarely fight and are singularly undemanding in terms of proactive diversion. They can generally find things to do with only a modicum of direction from me and if all else fails there is always the Sky box.
So entertaining the children seems not to be a problem. It’s entertaining me where my issue seems to arise. I am happy in my own space and company and don’t mind if my social life grinds to all but a stop. I have my phone and manage the odd cup of tea with other mothers who are from the same laissez faire school of managing holidays as me. But when the children are at school, I have a quick tidy up in the morning and then I can please myself until they come home. Well, it’s not quite like that but you get the general idea. But in the holidays as fast as I can tidy up one area of the house they move to another and start to dismantle that. Someone did suggest that I didn’t have to tidy up all day but could save it all until they have gone to bed. However, anyone who knows me will know that that just will not wash with little OCD me.
And the food! If I am not tidying up I am preparing or clearing up some meal or snack. And the laundry! All four of them insist on wearing something clean every day so instead of a few bits of uniform and some polo shirts, I have literally mountains of ironing.
“So why stay home?” I hear you cry. Well the alternative is a trip out. We do do trips out although, as you might have guessed not as many as others who have fewer children and more enthusiasm. We do both the simple trip to river and paddle kind of trips and the more complicated leave Ilkley, picnic, entrance fee, ice cream, sick in the car on the way home kind of trips too. The kids have a great time (although not so much better than they would have in the garden with a few mates and a hose pipe.) But I find it really hard. No adult to talk to and as a busy, never sitting still or relaxing kind of mum, I get just as bored as I do at home but with no distractions to entertain me. How I long to be one of those mums who sets herself up on a blanket with all her children around her and watches them play til the sun goes down. But I’m not. I can do 15 minutes – tops.
I know all this stuff so I don’t know why it surprises me year on year. It has rained on and off all holiday and apart from a couple of wanders into Ilkley we have yet to leave the house as a family. The kids seem totally content and chilled but I am starting to twitch! I do know people with activities planned for every day but I don’t hold with that kind of holiday. I don’t do kids camps or friends for tea or camping trips or train rides to the seaside. But I don’t really want to do self-imposed house arrest either. I think I will have to find myself a summer holidays hobby that you can do in snatches of ten minutes between cleaning and cooking and ironing and tidying up and directing play? Or perhaps I should get on with enjoying the lack of structure and plan some really exciting stuff for when I get my life back.