Back in the day, I used to dread the summer holidays. Keep three small children amused and arrange childcare for them for nearly seven weeks?! Where’s the fun in that?
My very first summer holiday nearly killed me – I had a four month old baby, a 2 year old and just-5 year old. And the 5 year old was a monster and I was breastfeeding and not getting enough sleep and the 2 year old was a delight, but he was 2 and even the most delightful 2 year olds are a handful. My maternity leave came to an end at the end of that one and I’ve never been so happy to go to work.
But fast forward a few years and I’ve really enjoyed the summer holidays. Two years ago was my first ‘proper’ summer holiday, with none of the kids in nursery. All three of the kids my responsibility (or the responsibility of another family member) for the whole time.
My mum and dad looked after them quite a bit, I took odd days off and a full week off (which because of the way my work days fall is more like two) and we all relaxed and enjoyed it. The kids behaved and we were happy.
We don’t do much. I’m pretty unadventurous and as I’m always on my own I don’t ever dare to venture far. And, actually, the kids (with the possible exception of my eldest who is at the stage where he wants to do ‘cool’ things and show off about them) are happy doing the things I like doing. Going to the park most days, going to the cinema once a week, going for a walk every day. We even, evil mummy that I am, do a little bit of homework once a week – because I remember how far my eldest used to slip back in his reading after the summer holidays.
And we were all happy and relaxed.
So, of course, because I actually enjoyed something, everything had to change. This time round, the summer holiday isn’t quite the same, and that makes me sad.
There are two major factors which have changed things – two holidays and not enough leave.
Don’t get me wrong, I love going on holiday. When we’re there it’s the best thing and a great chance to relax with the whole family. I sound like a selfish, ungrateful cow saying two holidays is stressful, but hear me out on this.
We holiday in Britain. Self-catering. We have to be prepared for everything from 12 degrees and torrential rain to 28 degrees and burning sun. This isn’t two bikinis, a sarong and factor 50. I have to pack everything for five people, single-handedly. Because my husband works right up to the wire. In the week leading up to holiday, he will work 7am-7pm, come home, go back to work at 8.30pm and come home again at 12.30am to sleep and then do it all over again. Basically, he works all the hours he would have worked while he’s on holiday in the preceding weeks. I’m also at work, so I have immense pressure to get everything washed, dried and packed ready for the off.
For the canal boat, we didn’t just need clothes and toiletries, we needed even more stuff, like food and towels. Luckily, there was a kitchen sink on board.
We go on holiday for a week, we come home and it takes another three days to get unpacked and everything washed, by which time I am back at work. And need another holiday. One in which I don’t have to pack anything.
When I came to book my leave for the summer, something strange had happened to it. It had disappeared. Where had it gone to? I’d taken time off for my son’s hospital appointment and his violin exam and I’d probably taken more time off during Easter and the half-terms. I do this partly because I want to enjoy time with my kids, but also because my family are less keen (understandably) to look after three kids than they were when there was only one. But I have a finite amount of leave and what I use in Easter I can’t use in summer. So there was nothing to spare. I would be off on my normal days off, but no lovely relaxing Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at home. Out of nearly seven weeks, I am going to have just eight week days at home with my children.
So I have hoovering, bed changing, washing, shopping and packing and unpacking to do on Thursdays and Fridays. Less time for the park and the cinema. The kids are begging to see their friends, but there isn’t much time for that either. My eldest’s friends have been round because they look after themselves and just need feeding. I couldn’t have a 6 year old round and just carry on with all my jobs and ignore her.
So here we are, in our not quite the same summer holidays. The weeks are flying by and it will be over before I know it. I’m not enjoying it as much and I don’t think the kids are either. Their behaviour hasn’t been great, things are changing too often and they don’t have time to settle or relax.
I hope I can get back to the ‘old way’ next year, but there are too many factors which are out of my control.