I hold my hand up: I am not the best mother in the world. I know that. But I deeply love my kids and enjoy spending time with them: quality, and not-so-quality. Trouble is, I am not too used to being with them for more than a couple of days at a time: I work full-time. This in itself can pose an awful lot of challenges and issues (see my passionate rant from last year), but also makes longer periods with my off-springs challenging (as proven by one of my oldest posts).
Next week is the so-called half-term break in England. Mid term school holiday/recess, in other words.
I love school breaks. However, I usually need a break myself afterwards: which could equally be a good sign as well as a bad one.
So, what can I do to avoid getting into a state, tiring myself out, and generally not enjoying the break?
Here is my “to-do” and “not-to-do” list: my survival bible for next week.
A word of warning. I am nowhere near a qualified parental advisor. I am just a mum of two who learns from her own mistakes – or at least tries to.
I am writing this post with two goals in mind:
- One: to maybe give some ideas to other parents and help them preserve their sanity.
- Two: to help me stay focused. I badly need a break, so this time I want to make sure my half term is as good as it can possibly be.
So, here is the list I will be referring to next week. For my own sake, and for my kids’.
Rule No 1. Plan
As boring as this sounds, the key to having a good break is planning. Meticulous and thorough. Make sure you pack the break with as much as you can possibly cope with. Believe me, this will pay off. It will keep the kids busy, which is the secret to so many goals we want to achieve.
My plan for next week is nearly ready, and I am already tearing my hair out: will I have any time for myself, or to rest at all? I doubt it. Monday: meeting another tall blogger and her kids for a play date and fashion talk (if weather is good: outside at some, supposedly historical, gardens; if it rains – at a kids’ adventure play area). Tuesday: trip to the zoo with a friend and her kids (mine and hers were friends at nursery, and we still keep in touch nine years on). Wednesday: visiting some family friends together with my husband and the children. Thursday: a local country (agricultural) show with a friend and her four kids (not sure that rural activities are quite my thing, but gives us something different to see and do, and I am all for new experiences).
This leaves me Thursday to Monday to still plan for. Which is when I want to fit in meeting up with another friend and her three kids, possible trip to our favourite petting farm, going to the cinema, and possibly stuff I cannot remember at the moment. Such as a trip to the hairdressers, or sorting out my daughter’s outgrown clothes and listing them on Ebay.
Good planning? Tick. As long as I can stick to the schedule, and as long as I complete it to the very last day.
Rule No 2. Go Outdoors (Weather Permitting)
This one is difficult to implement during the October and February breaks, which is why I am going to make the most of it this time round. Do as many of the planned activities outdoors. This will keep the kids healthy and tire them out, which, in turn, yields so many benefits: from quiet time back home, to less arguments and bickering (which is what happens when stuck indoors, inevitably), and generally everyone enjoying themselves. Oh, did I forget a lie-in? My biggest hope: not having to get up as early as I do on a work day.
Rule No 3. Plan for Some Quiet Activities, Too
We don’t want them hyperactive all the time, do we. After all, we need to sometimes put our feet up and relax. Don’t hold your breath for an interrupted cup of coffee or a cigarette, but cuddling on the sofa with a book can be as soothing for the parent as for the child. Even more so when both siblings cuddle at both sides of you. Cutest thing ever.
- Get ready with a supply of new arts and crafts materials: if possible, some new ones to surprise the kids and keep them busy for a while. If you have the time and mental energy to be creative, you can avoid spending money and prepare some simple activities, such as sock toys, 3-D pop-up books, origami, anything you can think of. I must admit it, I never have the patience to watch kids’ arts and crafts programmes, and school breaks are the time when I regret this: I would have had so many useful ideas. But this is what the internet is for, after all, so get creative.
- Plan a trip to the local library. More new books mean more quiet time. And are educational. So school breaks can also be useful, not just enjoyable. Reading equals silence. Which is when you can dye your hair, cook that nice meal or just read a book yourself.
Rule No 4. Stock Up On Snacks
I know I shouldn’t say this. But some biscuits and chocolates can work wonders when nothing else can. As bribery, as a way to buy some quiet time, as a reward for good behaviour, or for anything else you may want to achieve. Goals justify means. At least during half term.
- Don’t worry that your kids will gain weight: it is only a week, after all. Plus, let’s not forget that you are planning plenty of outdoor activities, lots of walking and running around, so they will easily burn the calories off. Plus, you won’t be feeding them chocolates 24/7, will you!
- If time allows you (that is, if your plan is not as jam-packed as mine!), try some baking: especially together with the kids, if their age is appropriate for such activities. Here is an idea for quality time together, making them feel helpful, and stocking up on cheap treats/snacks. Plus will save you money you can spend on ice cream in the park instead.
Rule No 5. Avoid Shopping – At Any Cost
If your kids are anything like mine, you may have found yourself swearing to never ever go grocery shopping with them again. Worst hours of my life, honestly! I am positive that any parent will relate to this. Which is why I make sure I do the major food shopping just before the start of the school break. I am all stocked up and ready, so no need to irritate each other by trying to avoid World Ward III at the supermarket. Obviously, you cannot help the occasional top-up shop, but with more planning it will only take minutes and won’t have any serious consequences for your nerves. Or your kids’.
Rule No 6. Loosen Up
Yes, we all have rules the kids have to follow. Don’t obsess over them: not this week. It will help keep the harmony in the family, which is what quality time is all about. A happy messy house is better than a tidy house where everyone is at the end of their tether and ready to get on each other’s throats.
- Allow them to watch TV a bit more than usual (whenever you do stay at home).
- Don’t refuse that XBOX game. But what I know I will do is steer the gaming towards active behaviour. This is what Kinect is for. Let them burn more energy off and be happy at the same time. Just make sure the siblings can take turns and play together, to avoid any arguments.
Rule No 7. Enjoy
Whatever you end up doing, enjoy it. Don’t do something just because you know the kids will like it, but you won’t. Make sure you recharge your batteries with positive energy and experiences. Enjoying what your children like doing is so rewarding!
- Play together. Anything. If you are outside, kick that ball or play basketball with them. If you are stuck at home, play Ludo, or Battleship, or Monopoly. Or whatever your kids like. You will enjoy being at their level and seeing their smiles.
- Don’t be afraid to get silly. If you fancy running after them in the park, do it. The likelihood that someone will take much notice of a frantic woman chasing her son and laughing hysterically is pretty slim. This is what the outdoors is for, so make the most of it.
- Keep yourself active, too. I feel guilty already for having to miss a week at the gym, but I will make sure I make up for that. Plenty of walks should do the trick. And less of those baked treats or shop-bought biscuits.
Rule No 8. Keep It Cheap
Last but not least, don’t forget that a school break doesn’t have to break the bank. Yes, in an ideal world I would love to take my kids to Disney World. Or Alton Towers, Legoland, anywhere, for that matter. This time round, though, I have to cope on a relatively tight budget. Which doesn’t have to necessarily be a problem.
- Plan trips to the museums. If you, like me, have explored them all locally, go further afield. Museums are mostly free, and educational: killing two birds with one stone.
- If you are cinema lovers like me and my off-springs, look into the cheap options. In England, the cinema chain whose customers we are runs kids clubs at the weekends, as well as throughout half term. For £2.50 per child, what more could I ask for. Definitely on my “to-do” list on a day when weather is dull, or if I am too tired from being an active mum.
- As mentioned above, don’t underestimate the power of public libraries. Free quiet time – free entertainment.
- When out and about, take picnic – to avoid overpriced sandwiches and cakes. But don’t be stingy when it comes to ice cream. This is one treat no one should be resisting. I would say that ice cream equals quality time together. And doesn’t break the bank.
So, these are my ideas. I hope I will stick to them and will have the energy to report back.
I would also love to hear back from other parents – with more ideas and tips. How do you make sure you enjoy your school break?