Don’t get Janine Rudin wrong: she wouldn’t swap her summer holiday, but bloody hell, those smug beach adverts don’t paint the full, knackering picture.
And every year I book 10 days in the sun and find I can’t function because I am not designed for 35 degrees – I sweat so much I permanently look like I have been in the shower and my curly hair, when not dripping wet, is a special kind of frizzy. But with school-age children, excessive heat it is – leaving me praying for a cool breeze and finding a new best friend in an air conditioning unit.
By the time August comes around, I am ready for a break from the work I love: to relax, to switch off and, more importantly to reconnect with, and hang out with my children away from work, school and schedules. It is much-needed time away.
However, I also wear enormous rose-tinted glasses that are bigger than my head and filled with unrealistic holiday advert images of true relaxation and family harmony.
Without our usual routine, distractions of work, laptops, our own space and other people, on holiday we are together 24/7, just us – in the heat, covered in suntan lotion and sand.
A break from routines and juggling and going somewhere new is a holiday in itself and I am always grateful for each break we take as a family. But the annual trip can swap one kind of stress for another: hearing “Mum!” on a loop, having bickering children who need entertaining while trying to relax and then trying to get four people to be up, ready and happy about doing something together can be bloody hard work.
That said, this year, apart from a blip on day three when I was ready to come home and I gave everyone a bollocking – including myself – we regrouped, accepted we were stuck together and then just got on with each other.
I embraced the heat with cold lager; I coped with the squabbles by either walking away or embracing more cold lager, and without those distractions of routines, work, friends and screens, some good times were had. The kids became a team – mainly to take the piss out of me in my bikini and sunhat, but I’ll take it!
The annual holiday is a week where it is OK to have wine for breakfast; where afternoon nanna naps are the law; where my kids spend more time with me than with the YouTuber Sugg Siblings; where one child always empties her cossie of sand after I’ve swept the floor and where we wear only three items of clothing over and over again, despite bringing a case each!
It is a holiday, but it is never completely restful – the smug holiday ads never show Mum picking up after the kids; drying towels and swimming costumes; sweeping up sand from the floor and the bed and the sofa; refereeing any little squabbles and dealing with resistance to all plans to go out.
“Without our usual routine, distractions of work, laptops, our own space and other people, on holiday we are together 24/7, just us – in the heat, covered in suntan lotion and sand.”
Neither do they show the kids walking past their dad to ask Mum to open the suncream (or the aftersun, or the water bottle, or to open the juice or to ask her to find their phone charger) or the mum being on alert like a meerkat on drugs when the kids are in the sea, while their dad snores away peacefully on the sand.
But there’s sun, a good view with regular glasses of something cold and, despite my silly irritations, this year’s annual enforced family fun was a success.
There was minimal whinging, there was lots of walking and swimming, plus the aforementioned beer and ice cream. I read three books, we ordered food and had no idea what would turn up, we played endless games of cards, we took a million photos, we chatted and we laughed until I cried or weed myself.
Now we’re back home and normality has resumed: the kids are back in front of a screen, I am back at work and back to juggling and the housework is still there as ever. The nanna naps have gone; I am starting the day without breakfast beer and am wishing I was back in the heat, with the suncream and the sand and the squabbles. We had fun and we made some cracking memories.
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Antenatal teacher, postnatal group leader, birth & baby specialist, writer, mother, wife, friend, me. My time is spent with my family, working with parents and trying not to eat all the biscuits. @BirthandBabyCo