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When the children have 6 weeks off, and you don't!

What's not to like about this glorious weather?!

Summer is finally here, our children are excited for five to six weeks of no school work (and getting bored after the first week!), nights are longer, the jeans are banished to the back of the wardrobe and weekends are full of pools and long, cool drinks.......

.....but with all of the fun times comes the usual dread of the working parent who can maybe use two weeks of annual leave but it still leaves a deficit of too much time to juggle little folks, work and life's daily demands. How does it make you feel?

I used to spend the summer feeling guilty 24/7 (sure I'd felt like this since the first positive pregnancy stick!) - when at work, I'd wonder if the kids were OK, had I done the right thing, shouldn't I be with them? Then, when I was at home, I'd be worrying about all the work I'd have to catch up on when I got back to the office and be questionning if the children were stimulated enough with just me at home - should I be crafting (no thanks, I'm not artistic and glue gets everywhere!), spending too much money on inflated prices in crowded 'family-friendly' adventure parks or watching them argue over the one float in the ever-deflating biohazard of a paddling pool while I drink my fourth coffee of the morning?!

Why are we so hard on ourselves as parents? And why is this most 'natural' thing so blooming hard at times, mentally, physically and emotionally?!

My summer will be easier this year, not least due to the fact that I'm officially a business owner now, my own boss choosing my own hours. Sounds perfect in theory but in practice, I've still had to prepare some new rituals and habits to ensure that I actually continue to work on a business I'm so passionate about without leaving the TV and ipad as primary childcare!

So I've taken the approach of - what if I was still employed and needed to plan for Summer?

If you are, and you're still questionning that Jenga game of juggling it all, here's are some tried and tested tips to try:

- Have open conversations with your Line Manager and team. Tell them your real struggles and ask if there are any opportunities for a more flexible working pattern for a few weeks - flexitime, home working, a temporary change to hours maybe?

- Have you checked the local activity clubs, nurseries or childminders? Don't assume they're all booked up until you ask

- Who can support you in your network? Grandparents, Aunties & Uncles, older teenagers looking for summer work? Talk to your Mum friends, could you share childcare between you and take in it turns? Children are awesome at entertaining each other and in my experience, it often makes life much easier when my three have friends over!

- Let go of the usual timetable if you need to and choose your battles - dinner times and bedtimes may slip, lunch may be beans on toast, again, your house may turn into a bombsite - does it matter? Really? Perspective and acceptance are essential right now, focus on what's most important for the next few weeks and release the rest, it will be September before we know it!

- Use an evening or weekend to get organised - use your slow cooker, meal plan and shop to those plans, book supermarket food deliveries, batch cook and get the kids involved in choosing meals and cooking with you.

- Make a family calendar (that's a craft isn't it?!) - colour code blocks of time in the day, every day for - family fun, house jobs, film or tech time and Mum's work time as examples. Put it up in the kitchen and buy the little folks in to the schedule - they like routine and if they're involved, you're on to a winner!

- If you're working from home, schedule your most important work and meetings for the morning when children are generally happier and able to play without so much intervention (or refereeing in my case!)

- If you can't afford a cleaner over the summer, teach the children how to do age-appropriate house jobs, I don't know a child who doesn't love to please and get praise (and maybe a treat!)

- You don't need to break the bank - your children just want to be with you and they'll find fun everywhere. Check out the local paper and find ways to get out in nature and enjoy quality time together (and ideally, leave the phone at home, you need to switch off too!)

Lastly, find time for you - between the children, work and home, it's easy to forget any time for you. It is possible, I promise - it just needs booking in to the family calendar, or your diary, like all of your other priorities. You need energy and your health more than ever right now so even if it's a cuppa in the garden before they get up, or an evening walk when they're in bed, try and take time for you - every single day. It's non-negotiable.

Happy Summer everyone!

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