I survived the summer holidays

The summer holidays are a metaphor for everything that is great, and ‘challenging’, about parenting. A 6-8 week period of intense family time which rouses emotions ranging from serene contentment: “oh how wonderful to have such precious time to creating everlasting memories”. To scenes of complete and utter irritation: “when will this fresh hell be OVER?”. That kind of thing.

I love my little munchkins, but my word do they test my patience. Over the summer three ‘phrases’ have echoed around my head (and I’m sure yours too). So, as a way of drawing a virtual line in the sand and to signal the beginning of a new school year, I have suggested some solutions for future holidays. Don’t forget October half-term will soon be upon us!

P.S. I’m considering introducing a reward based system (blackmail) for blatant misuse of these phrases for future holidays.

1) Indistriminate use of the word ‘mummy’
We wait months for them to say it and then wish they would find literally any another way of starting a conversation. This summer I estimate the daily tally of “mummy” with no valid follow up question or coherent statement has probably reached 50 a day (it could be more). The word makes me recoil before they’ve even finished uttering it “mmm-uuu-mmm…”. I’ve developed a nervous tick, but on the plus side I’ve honed my razor sharp response “YES?!?” down to a nanosecond.

Solution:
Refuse to answer to “mummy” unless there is a genuine question that only you can answer. My default now is “is it a question daddy could answer?”. Answer is usually, but relunctantally “yes”. Also, suggest that asking a question without prefixing it with “mummy” will elicit a more favourable response. Deduct imaginary points for blatant misuse of the word just because they like hearing their own voice. How many times have you heard “mummy” on repeat and it’s clear they’ve either forgotten the question or they’ve developing a form of tourettes.

2) “I’m bored.”

This is a tricky one because I’m sure as a child I was deeply annoying. I find myself repeating words my parents used to say: “Only boring people get bored”. If you’ve found yourself using this old chesnut, have no fear it simply means you too are displaying a similar lazy kind of behaviour but just in the context of parenting. No shame in it, we’re all guilty of this, particularly if you’re trying to work around the kids at home. Parents can get bored too. In fact I think I’ve said to my kids several times this summer: “I spent most of my childhood being bored. Welcome to my world”. Yes, I’m both lacking in any kind of creative parenting style and a hypocrite.

Solution:
Find other bored parents with their bored children and hangout together. You can have a good moan over a cuppa and they will probably wind each other up and then play nicely 20 minutes before you’re due to leave. Classic.

3) What are we doing today?

“Nothing. We’re just doing jobs at home.” If your children are anything like mine you can only get away with this a few times in the course of six weeks. Their generation is living the middle class dream of café society, cultural days out mixing with different people and going on two or sometimes three holidays. They don’t know they’re born, which is why we go camping (just to keep it real). Joking aside though, their expectations are so high these days. I blame the parents (i.e. myself). We’re all having kids later in life and we miss the lattes, lunches, boozy dinners and mini-breaks. As a result we’re all desperately trying to recreate it with our kids. But are we creating little monsters who want it all?

Solution:
Actively seek out opportunites to detatch from the luxuries of modern life and let them go feral. We need to go feral too: perhaps not in the hygeiene department, but we all need to find our inner ROAR and go wild. Take a walk in the country, enforce a digital detox, go for a swim outdoors, breathe fresh air.

Ever feel like an imposter?

Yes, that old chestnut. Don’t worry we all do sometimes. I regularly have moments where I have to reality check the self-doubt I feel. Talking to friends and family helps (and being give a metaphorical slap around the face). I don’t whether this is a particular trait amongst women, but I know a lot of us feel like this. Raising the subject publicly acts a reminder to myself to have more confidence in my own abilities, but also to reassure anyone reading this that (despite appearances) even the most apparently switched on people have wobbles too. You’re human and it would be a bit odd if you didn’t.

I’m not usually keen on labels (I don’t feel they are particularly helpful), but in order to illustrate the point I’m making, I want to talk about ‘Imposter Syndrome’: a recognised term in clinical psychology that eludes to a number of behavioural characteristics. The basis for these feelings broadly manifest themselves in the following ways:

  1. A belief that you’re not capable or accomplished, despite all evidence to the contrary.
  2. Difficulty believing or accepting genuine praise and recognition.
  3. Feeling like you’ve somehow faked your success.
  4. Fear of being outed as a fraud.

If you’ve taken time out of a career to have children you may feel this more acutely. That’s why support from fellow women is such an important part of validating your experience and sense of self-worth. Lack of career confidence is a huge barrier to achieving your ambitions, even if on paper you have everything going for you (and I guarantee you have). Receiving praise and recognition for your professional achievements, no matter how small can be the difference between making or breaking someone’s spirit. Often it’s the kindness of strangers that affects us more than the unconditional words of approval we hear from those closest to us. If you’re feeling like this then my top tips are:

  1. Talk to other people:
    I guarantee other people will have felt like this at some point. It’s such a cliché (but it’s true) a problem shared is a problem halved. Families are great, but speaking to objective people who know your industry can give you a more constructive insight into how good your knowledge and skills are.
  2. Write it down:
    Make two lists: one outlining all your achievements and experience; another ordering any areas of concern you have. Next, make a list of actionable goals (can you tell I like lists?). Make a realistic plan of ways you can work on your professional development: attend a training course to enhance your skills, refresh your CV/LinkedIn, join a business networking community.
  3. Meet up offline:
    There is no substitute for meeting people IRL (this is an acronym young people favour, instead of saying ‘in real life’ – I’m down with it). Share your experiences with like-minded women and support each other.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up:
    Remember we’re all winging it to some extent (some of us are better at appearing to look like we know what we’re doing).
  5. Find time to chill out:
    Put things into perspective. I find a large glass of wine and cake really helps (sorry I meant exercise, yes, exercise definitely helps too).

Written by Amy White