With the end of the school Easter holidays (and her tether) in sight, mum of three and freelance writer Lucy Mason shares her strategies for grabbing some precious, child-free time during the day.
It’s week two of the school Easter holidays and my sanity is holding up pretty well. Granted, most of my work has gone to the wall – apart from writing this blog and sending a few emails I haven’t managed to get much done. But I haven’t resorted to locking myself or the kids in a cupboard either, which to me is something of a school holiday win.
I’ll never forget February half term 2013 – literally School Holiday Hell. It had it all: icy cold rain and freezing winds outside, hacking coughs, snotty colds (the kids) and a bad bout of PMT (me) indoors. Every possible place you could think of taking kids just to get out of the house – soft play centres, swimming pools, museums, even the local garden centre – was packed with other desperate families trying to do the same.
Still, we survived and consider it a lesson learned. I now try to approach the school holidays as I do all of life’s challenges: hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and if all else fails hide in a cupboard with a bottle of wine.
Obviously the weather helps – we’ve had some glorious spring sunshine which fills you with energy and gives a lot more choice for easy, free activities. But I think the real sanity-saver is finding time for yourself, alone and without anyone talking to or shouting at you, however brief it may be.
It’s not easy to do. A lot of people need to arrange childcare because of work, so kids are sent off to grandparents, booked into holiday clubs, or found some other ingenious way to stay happy in the holidays.
But because – in theory at least – I can do my work in the evenings or early mornings, I don’t need to arrange formal childcare. On one hand it’s great because I spend loads of time with my kids while they’re off school. But on the other, I spend loads of time with my kids while they’re off school.
I do love them but everyone needs a few moments of peace in the day. I get exhausted constantly organising, running around parks, yelling at kids, sorting out arguments, and patching up knees. I just need some me time to find my centre of balance and get my head together.
So here are a few tips I’ve found for grabbing some precious quiet time in the day. I’m not saying I would do them all, but I’ve seen them in action (you know who you are) and they do work:
- If you’re at someone’s house with your kids – or if someone is visiting you – then claim to have a half-hour conference call booked that needs to be taken in a quiet room. Preferably at the top of the house where no one can hear you not talking.
- When a neighbour/friend/relative is over, pretend to run out of tea bags and say you’ll go to the shop for some more. How long you take depends how far you ‘need to walk to find the right brand’.
- Similar to above, if you’re in the park/café/out anywhere, realise you’ve left a coat or something in the car and ask your friend if they would look after the kids while you stroll (slowly) back to get it.
- I have done this, but not really on purpose. At a crowded theme park the older kids wanted to queue for a ride just as my youngest needed a sleep. So my friend queued with them – for over an hour – as I wandered around the animals section with a lovely, quiet, sleeping baby.
Obviously there’s always the telly, and the older children get the more they can play by themselves, but there’s something about stealing time that makes it feel so precious. And when it comes to saving your sanity in the school holidays, every little helps.