The silver lining of being 'stuck with the kids' over summer
With the summer holidays comes six weeks of my friends and clients who are parents feeling frustrated by not having their usual quiet work time (or quiet 'anything' time) during the week. I often hear them say that, with having the kids 24/7, they feel added pressure at work or with their other responsibilities, as suddenly they are required to be doing extra parent jobs too.
It’s not enough just to 'keep the small humans alive', as the witty mugs and t-shirts say. Parents want to keep their small humans entertained and make memories with them too, as summer as a child is an epic time.
Do you remember your school summer holidays? It felt like six weeks was literally forever, and there were so many adventures to be had. Of course, when we are small, we don’t think that mum or dad are feeling guilty that they should be more focused on work, or that entertaining us probably blows the budget.
So, while I hear my friends worry about what this summer will bring, from falling behind with work to possibly overspending, I want to highlight the upside to this feeling of 'stuckness' parents may experience.
Being stuck with the kids has a lot to offer too. Here are a few things to consider.
Kids are little mindfulness masters
One of my favourite things about spending time with kids is that they pretty much force you to be in the moment. If you have ever tried to get into mindfulness, or just to make yourself be mentally present rather than thinking about the past or the future, then you will know it doesn’t come naturally to most adults. We have to work at it.
So, I like to think of playing with kids as a little 'hack' for this. Kids are excited by what’s happening right now, and they pull your attention to it with them. I find I get a similar effect from watching my cats, or from walking a friend’s dog. Animals and kids are little mindfulness masters, and I think we could learn a lot from them.
Try getting in the moment with them and see if your work worries disappear from your stream of consciousness for a while.
You can play too
Being on parent duty gives you the perfect excuse to covertly be a big kid yourself. You can get in the sandpit at the park, or the kiddy pool if the weather is nice. You can spend the day at Legoland or watch the latest animated movie - I don’t even have kids and went to see Toy Story 4 and loved it!
But seriously, how often as an adult do you let your hair down and just play, or even just mindfully enjoy something simple?
'Watching' the kids doesn’t have to mean literally watching - why not get involved? It’s actually good for you. Without drowning you in science, suffice to say that psychological studies have shown positive effects on adults from play; these include increased cognitive flexibility and lower levels of cortisol, our 'stress hormone'.
If you’d like to learn more about this, then here’s a little holiday reading - 'Overwhelmed: Work, Love And Play When No One Has The Time' by Brigid Schulte goes into this topic in depth.
Set up a sitting strategy
Why not take the initiative to set up a group babysitting circle with a few parent friends you trust? One day you take all the kids, and another day they can take them. This way, the kids get more playdates with each other and changes of scenery, you get some playtime with the kids, and some quiet time to get things done.
If this strategy works for you and your friends, it could be extended to all months of the year, not just the summer holidays, providing relief as needed.
We've all heard that 'it takes a village', but we rarely apply that theory to our own lives. I see a lot of parent friends of mine, and sometimes clients too, who think that struggle is just part of the deal.
Life has never been busier than in the age we are in now. The 24/7 work culture makes balancing a career with parenting hard work at the best of times. I think the smartest approach is to say 'yes' to help when it’s offered, and to create opportunities for you, your family and your friends to help each other out. We are stronger together, after all.
If you are heading into the summer holidays with a packed schedule and an over-excited brood, then I just want to remind you that you deserve to enjoy your summer too. So get involved, sit in that sandpit or kiddy pool, and enjoy the ice cream! If you can enjoy a little bonding time with your kids, and also work in some quiet time when you need it, you’ll do great.