How to survive the summer

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I’m going to be honest. I’m knackered. It’s that time of year when the countdown is on to the end of term. If I get another reminder in someone’s lunch box for something not handed in or paid for, I think I might scream. Only 5 more mornings hustling three children out the door. Only 5 more afternoons begging them to remember to bring their own stuff in from the car, to put their lunch boxes in the kitchen, to do their homework before they numb out on screens. I CANNOT WAIT.

Always at this point, I rub my hands with glee thinking of lazy mornings drinking coffee in my garden while the children play. I imagine picnics on the beach. I plan crafting games and projects. I essentially create an avatar of the perfect homey mum in my head and determine that this year I’m going to give them a summer to remember.

We’ve never gone in for putting the children in camps or activities for the summer months. For a start it’s expensive trying to pay for three children. The deal has always been that me being at home would mean we’d save money on childcare costs. Also, my three are at the age now where they can play together and generally (generally) they are good pals and enjoy each other’s company.

We’re not getting a holiday away this year. (Again, 3 children = wildly expensive holidays!) Last summer was completely taken over with moving house/country and setting up our new home. Now that we’re more settled, we’re going to stay put and explore our local area because honestly, when the sun’s out, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than on the North Down coast. Give it its due, Northern Ireland has a ton of stuff to enjoy for families in the summer, most of it either free or relatively inexpensive.

But there will come a point (probably about a few days in, if I’m honest) when I will suddenly remember that I really, really love my work and need to work and the eight weeks of uninterrupted child full holidays will look pretty scary!

So here are some tips that I’m going to try to keep myself sane and keep the work ticking over while I have my three maniacs around and no money to pay for child care.

  1. Lower expectations – Look, I know I’ve not ever seen you and WonderWoman in the same room but I’m pretty sure you’re not actually her. There is only so much one woman can do with there are small humans in the mix so expecting to keep the same level of productivity is just not a good idea. So don’t beat yourself up!
  2. Get efficient –  Make lists but be really strict about what is completely neccessary to complete and do those things first. Stream line and weed out of your ‘to do’ list everything that is not a priority because if you leave it in there, believe me, you’ll do it and avoid the stuff that is truly imperative.
  3. Create ‘quiet time’ – no, really, stop laughing. This is where screens can be a godsend. Let there be no judging but my kids are allocated an hour of screen time a day (and usually that bleeds over into more time) but it’s amazing what you can get done in an hour if you’re focussed. Set a timer and together as a family agree that when it goes off, all screens get put away.
  4. Include your children – I know, I was just a little bit sick in my mouth too, but if your work is in any way creative, little people love to ‘help’. Get the pens, paper, crayons, paint, and do your thing while they do their thing. (But yes, that might not be practical at all. I mean, can you really imagine me doing a self-tape audition with my 10 year old reading in for me? Nope, neither can I. She’d freaking photo bomb, upstage and get the gig herself! In which case…)
  5. Rope in help in the shape of family and friends – I am the luckiest woman in the world with my father in law, affectionately known to my kids as Bapoo. He loves nothing more than to hang out with my children and I’m planning on working out a morning or two a week maybe when he gets time with them all by himself. But if you haven’t got family close by, perhaps you could do playdate swaps with another parent. Choose carefully, mind. You don’t want the parent with the kid who loves to burn stuff but I know two mums locally whose children I adore and who get on well with mine and if they’re happy to have my terrors then I’ll mind theirs for a couple of hours once a week, no bother.
  6. Get up super early – with these bright nights we’re getting in the Northern Hemisphere, getting the children to bed has been a real chore. My four year old routinely insists ‘But mumma, is still MORRRRnin!’ and he’s horrified that he’s going to bed before the birds roost in the trees opposite our house. (That was our winter thing, ‘Look sweetheart, all the birds are going to bed now at 4:30 in the afternoon, you’re getting to stay up waaaaay later than them!’) But the plus side is that they tend to stay in bed a bit later. Soooo, if you go to bed when it’s still light too, then you could get up before them and get some stuff done. I know, I know that sounds barbaric of me. What about Netflix and wine and winding down adult time? On that note….
  7. Avoid alcohol – No, wait, don’t scroll on. Keep reading. I know, I know what I’m suggesting is downright MEAN and you can roll your eyes like your own pre-teen at me all you like BUT if you want really good, really deep sleep so that you can handle a summer of creativity and parenting closing the wine fridge door is seriously a good idea. I’m fessing up here; I love a glass of chilled white wine on a summer’s evening or a G & T or a cold beer or a vodka martini with a twist of lemon… Where was I? Oh yes, it doesn’t feel like summer without an alcoholic beverage of some sort or other BUT I know I sleep better, have more energy, wake up more alert and have the COOLEST dreams (hello Chris Hemsworth dear!) when I lose the booze. Even one drink can wreck my sleep which is seriously annoying. I feel amazing when I go tee total. So I’ve got to find other ways of dealing with the inevitable crazy making of small humans than cracking open a bottle of Sauv Blanc.
  8. Create – When I create I feel good. When I feel good I can manage just about anything. I have taken it upon myself to take up knitting, crochet, painting stones, sewing, anything that involves making something from nothing and it’s given me something to keep the creative spark alive even in the driest times professionally. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be shown to anyone but my children who all thing everything I make is amazing anyway. It keeps me going and keeps me sane. Having a sane mother is every child’s dream – so win, win.

I am not the world’s most patient mother. I don’t naturally thrive in the home environment. I’m not a domestic goddess. Mary Poppins, how are ya!? I itch and scratch through every stage of my children’s childhood, dying for them to be bigger and more independent while simultaneously missing their chubby arms and gappy smiles. But here I am, with a 10 year old, a 7 year old and a 4 year old and the days are flying past. I can curse the lego littered living room all I like, but one day, I’ll crave the mad creations of my wee artists.

For me, the most important thing to do is to breathe and stay present and not to wish the time away.

Enjoy the summer! No, seriously, do… enjoy it!

For more creative inspiration, why not subscribe to the Strut and Bellow podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can always listen to an episode while you’re making the dinner or pretending to sleep through the sixth rerun of Wall-E with your earphones in. You can watch my Shout Out Fridays on the Strut and Bellow YouTube Channel. Or sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you my ebook Keeping Creative for free. If you’d like a hardcopy to take with you to the beach, it will soon be available to order from this website. Stay tuned for the latest on Instagram and Facebook.IMG_1026

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