PARENTING | Driving me mental. Why the end of the school holidays can’t come soon enough for me
I bumped into one of the mums from school on Friday in Waitrose. Well, not quite ‘bumped’. She clocked me across the wine section to my horror. I was in no state for a chit-chat about school holiday bliss. I’d had 30 minutes of Teddy’s mithering for a five-quid-a-pop magazine from the news stand – followed by a super-sulk worthy of a bloody Oscar at the word ‘NO’.
Because it’s not like he’s had six whole weeks of treats – FFS they’ve hooked more bleeding ducks this summer then they’ve eaten vegetables. Actually, probably a LOT more.
Ferne meanwhile likes to spend her time in supermarkets racing up and down the aisles screeching with amusement. Ignoring my requests and pleas to her to return the trolley – politely at first – in a soft mummy voice – “please darhhling. Come back to mummy – be a good girl”. Never works. I’m reduced to gritting my teeth and growling the words GET. BACK. HERE. NOW. Neither approach works all that well. And this particular experience was no exception. She likes to goad me at the top of those aisles from behind a stacked shelf of whatever the particular shelf is stacked with. Supermarket hide-and-seek. And as soon as I dump the trolley and make a dash for her, she bolts. More shrieking, this time from us both as I race to grab her, pin her against the bake beans and make it clear to her, my face up close to her hers and using every ‘you better fucking believe it” expression that I can muster, that if she bolts one more time – that is it. Absolutely it. No rabbit. No Christmas. The two stock bribes of the holidays. Used over and over – day in, day out. And both are warring thin.
I can feel the eyes of disapproving middle-class, retired blue-rinses on me. It’s true, my four year old is out of control. Not all the time, but certainly in the supermarket. I’d only popped in for a bottle of God-damn Rose. So anyway, when that mum from school spotted me over the bottles of Whispering Angel, I looked dishevelled. Tired. Burdened. But not from a 30-minute, children-in-tow supermarket shop – I’m weighed down on a much deeper level – I’m weighed down from the exhaustion that comes with six weeks of school holidays for a mum with somewhat wobbly mental health (boarding on unstable right now) who is trying to run a business, juggle child care around and all that comes with no school for six whole weeks! (Needless to say, the blog has taken a back seat).
The look on her pretty, fresh, stress-free face was one of a little pity and concern for the mess in front of her. And I did look a fucking mess. Before I could bob down behind the bottles in hope that she hasn’t spotted me – she already started talking… “Hi There, how’s your summer been?” Oh hi!, yes, eh great – but if I’m honest I’m looking forward to them going back to school – you?” It was one of those situations where I thought if I don’t make direct eye contact with her, she won’t spot the extent of my dishevelled disposition. Of course that’s bullshit and don’t I know it. Still, I try and avoid eye-contact. She wasn’t looking forward to next week – hell of course she wasn’t – she had that healthy glow and the sparkly eyes of a woman who’s spent the summer doing wonderful things with her children. She wasn’t half a stone heavier. I am. Her skin was blemish-free. Mine’s spotty AF. She spoke articulately whilst I chatted to her in a slightly less coherent way with Ferne tugging at my T-shirt because with no warning, she declared herself desperate for a poo (Ferne, not the mum).
I’m done. Tomorrow cannot come soon enough for me.
Whilst I love my children dearly, my mental health cannot deal with six weeks of this irrational, crazy, unplanned period of juggling so many balls. I need structure and without it I simply cannot function properly. The idea of six weeks of lie-ins scares the absolute hell out of me – it’s the green light to stay put in my PJs until noon and stick the kids in front of the TV because when one suffers from depression, getting motivated can be an overwhelming task – one that requires a process that works for the individual. And that process for me is structure.
Structure that comes with school and a consistent approach to childcare on the days it is required so that I can run my business and keep my house in some kind of order. My work is key to keeping my depression at bay but my mental health is also effected by the guilt in the school holidays because sometimes I can’t always motivate myself to ‘make the most’ of the days I’ve had with them. Of course I tell myself their loved and alive FFS, stop giving yourself a bloody hard time. But, for all sorts of reasons I do give myself a hard time.
Our trip to Dorset for two weeks without dad, in the confines of a small caravan was a way of me motivating myself to ensure that we got out and did much more together than I know we would have done if I’d have just taken three weeks off work and stayed at home. And it did work. A change of scenery and the beach down the road made me get my arse into gear and, in turn, we made some cracking memories and ones I know the kids will look back on and smile. Really special, well-used time with my babies before my little Ferne starts school tomorrow.
Sadly, the summer holidays have also resulted in my journey to sobriety taking a bit of a U turn and slowly but surely, the wine has crept back into my life over the last few weeks, and I fear without completely knocking it on the head once and for all again I’ll be right back where I started before I know it – a glass here, and a glass there, and yup, there goes a bottle. But then it’s summer! And of course I have justified every last glass to myself. Because that it what I do. Self-justification is what I am good at.. another glass of wine. another film. another day in PJs. But it always leads to me being disappointed in myself. Sometimes, dare I say it, to a little self-hate. So, I’m looking forward to the sound of the alarm clock, to ironing uniforms, to the school run, to doing their homework with them, to not having to worry about giving them chips. Again. To bedtime – at the same time every night.
I’m looking forward to looking forward to the weekends again – when family time is planned and used wisely.
I’m looking forward to getting back on that sober wagon, focusing on my business properly, and blogging again. Summer – you’ve been great, we, like every single one of you I’m sure, we’ve made some amaze-balls memories as a family this summer and somehow, I survived for two weeks in a caravan on my own with the kids! Now let’s get back to some form of normal please -as normal as it can get in this bat-shit-crazy household. Bring on Autumn – dark nights, crispy leaves, and the fire on. Maybe even a bit of self-love. Good luck to all those little people who are starting school for the first time tomorrow. I know my Ferne is going to absolutely love it! My thoughts are with her teacher right now. Poor cow.
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
A year to the day and myself, my husband and our two children were midway through our 10th Wedding Anniversary trip of a lifetime to Sri Lanka and now this incredibly beautiful and captivating little country is in mourning.
Emma Stirk is a Business Success Coach and Legal strategist for small businesses, she left her corporate career as a high flying solicitor to set up her own business and has never looked back! Emma is passionate about empowering women to identify their purpose and goals, plan and strategise their next career or business move and create a positive, strong and confident mindset with high performance strategies to increase productivity and efficiency so you can work less, achieve more, and make burnout and overwhelm a thing of the past!
Jo Swann has 15 solid years of experience in Public Relations and runs award-winning Leeds-based PR Company – Chocolate PR after working in media, marketing and PR agencies. She has worked with companies of all sizes including the likes of Whistles, NSPCC, Marriot Hotels, Yo! Sushi to name just a few and won many awards along the way but her mission now is to help small businesses, and particularly female entrepreneurs harness the power of PR.