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Take a moment for yourself this Imbolc, Mama. Imbolc is a cross-quarter festival, marking the midpoint between the Solstice and the Equinox.  It’s a threshold time.  A time between time.  And in this way Imbolc can remind us...
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The Mama Journal

- Journal Post -

to the Mamas worried about the Summer holiday juggle

Feeling worried about the Summer holiday juggle does not make you a ‘bad mother’.  It makes you human. Read that again if you need to let it sink in.

I’ve heard from so many Mums this week – friends, clients and on social media - who are feeling a bit anxious about the Summer ahead and I think it’s worth saying that if this is you… it’s understandable and it means nothing about your mothering.

It can feel like if we’re being anything less than positive about a stretch of time with our children we’re at risk of being judged as ungrateful, ‘bad’ or less than.  We end up pre-emptively judging ourselves, denying our right to feel how we feel and imagining once again it’s only us.

‘I shouldn’t be stressed or worried about this, I should be looking forward to Summer... everyone else is!’

Let’s remember three things.  1) Lots of working parents or those with commitments alongside their children have complicated feelings about Summer. 2) You can hold many feelings simultaneously and your feelings are valid.  3) There is a reality to all of this that has absolutely nothing to do with how much you love being with your child/children or your worth as a Mum.  When your childcare stops for a period, it's the school holidays or your usual rhythm changes but you still have a job, a business or a whole heap of commitments you have to tend to, the juggle is A LOT. 

You’re not wrong or bad or anything else for noticing this.  You’re human.

*

I don’t have all the answers for your unique situation, love, but as a self-employed mama who can no longer drop all work for the duration of the holidays, with a self-employed husband and two kids who of course have beautiful, ever-growing appetites for all the fun (and no additional childcare), I can offer you how I’m approaching it all.  Maybe our worlds are totally different and maybe there’ll be something in here that’s useful for you…

the Worry Box

I had a chat with my husband while racing to a school choir performance yesterday (so many end of term things this week!) about what’s in my worry box where the holidays are concerned.  He had some stuff in his too and it felt helpful to share them so we can figure out a way to balance our work with the desired holiday fun.  That convo isn’t finished yet (we arrived at school!) but where we got to was helpful and it’ll be supportive to keep having it I think.

Family chats

What’s worked well in past years, particularly since Paul’s work came home for the pandemic and never left again, is a kind of family meeting in the first few days of the break.  Our kids are 9 and 12 now and they respond really well to knowing what’s going on for us and having the chance to talk about each of our hopes, wants, needs and expectations.  Beforehand Paul and I will come up with our plan for balancing our working hours and share it with them.  It’s always fairly fluid because depends on what the week’s client work looks like for each of us.  But I find sharing with the kids a view on how our week days might look helps them anticipate what their days will look like.  And clarity upfront tends to avoid disappointment later for my two.

the Summer list

Within that chat we’ll make a Summer list.  Everyone will throw in ideas of what fun stuff we’d like to do and we’ll each choose our top one or two as definites.  The rest will be like an ideas pot we can dip into as the holidays go along.  We’re outdoorsy and big fans of (free!) outdoor fun so lots of that kind of stuff will end up on the list.  River swims and beach expeditions will feature highly I’m sure and I’m looking forward to that.

In days and out days

We’ve always naturally fallen into an in day / out day rhythm or something resembling it.  None of us have the nervous systems for wall to wall fun every day and that bodes well for the balance with work.  We’ll likely talk about what projects or home-based things they want to do over the Summer and organise anything they need to help with that so they can more easily occupy themselves when we’re needing to work at the same time.  Last year R caught both the baking and running bugs which kept him busy and us in good snacks.  This year N wants to do the library reading challenge, likely from a den in the garden.  I’m quite up for that myself!

Advocating for & communicating my needs

I love my kids being home and I’m not immune to mum guilt so it’s way easier than I’d like for me to slip into ‘it’s ok, you go and work and I’ll be with the kids’ mode.  But it isn’t an option this year.  We have to share it more.

I’ll need to take time out at the weekends to look at my week ahead and be clear about what I’ve got on and what I need.  Some things just really need a quiet house and we’ll have to figure out how we each get that. 

If you’re carving out time for work too, something I would offer… be extra realistic with yourself about the amount of time you need and communicate it clearly.  Don’t expect yourself to squeeze 6 hours of work into 3 hours because that’s all you feel comfortable asking for.  It’ll only increase your stress.  Agree ‘from’ and ‘to’ times and be boundaried around them.  It’s inevitable if we’re all home that one of my kids will come and find me with a random question their on-duty-at-the-time Dad could’ve just as easily answered – I’ve had to get a lot better at lovingly-directing them to him so as not to interrupt my flow.  Otherwise my whole morning quickly reduces to ten actual minutes of focused work.

Being realistic

I could make the Summer a lot harder on me by over-reaching.  I’m have a history of that and it does me zero favours.  So my Summer approach is going to be about a hefty dose of realism over the space I have and focusing on the essentials – client sessions predominantly, groundwork for upcoming projects and keeping marketing activity ticking over.  A slower and more spacious Summer pace and lower expectations.  I’m privileged to be able to choose that, I know. 

So anything that isn’t essential and won’t fit into the time available I’ll park for September.  And doing that feels much easier when I make clear notes I can pick up later.  An ever-present notepad (or notes app) is my friend because you can bet your life I’ll have a thousand ideas I can’t immediately act upon as soon as I breathe out.

Keeping boundaries

As far as possible, if I’m working I’m working, if we’re out we’re out, if I’m doing something with the kids I’m there in that moment.  Being boundaried around the time we’re IN really helps me to be present. But it takes work because if I don’t delineate clearly - ‘this time is for this and tomorrow there’s time for that’ - I’ll end up distracted and feeling like I’m doing everything badly. 

I hear a lot of mamas saying they’ll catch up with work in the evenings once their kids are in bed.  That doesn’t work for me.  Working when I’m not at my best energetically will make everything take longer.  I’ll get wired from being at a screen when tired, stay up too late trying to compensate for the lack of flow and end up a cranky tired mess.  I’d rather figure it out in the daytime hours and have evenings as family or rest time, especially now my kids stay up a bit later.

Yes to playdates

My kids have lots of friends in our local area and being the age they are now they’re very up for hanging out with them more.  R has started cycling to meet friends on the other side of the village and has plenty of people he enjoys hanging out with.  N has friends whose parents are also juggling work and/or younger children.  So I think we’re all up for a bit of playdate swapping.

It’s different when kids are younger I think.  I remember playdates then feeling like more of me was required.  These days (and with the privilege of a big garden) as long as they have access to food and drinks they’ll happily occupy themselves with friends over.  And if I decamp downstairs to keep a general eye on things, I can often get a fair amount done.  We don’t have family nearby to ask for help so playdate swapping is gold!

Anchoring myself

I love routine and I love ditching routine.  Both can be true.  So I will love the fluidity of Summer and the difference of our days.  And I will thrive on retaining some sameness. 

That means, anchoring myself with the daily habits that feed and nourish and keep me feeling tethered.  And it makes sense to keep these simple, doable and with some flex.

My daily non negotiables right now are eating well (a protein breakfast particularly), 20 mins of stretches/yoga and a walk.  When my kids were younger I would’ve struggled to hit one of these but they’re part of my norm now, integral to my vestibular rehab (I had a virus damage my right-side balance nerve a couple of years ago) and so good for me on so many levels.

Book-ending work

Some days it’s inevitable we’ll both need to work for a good chunk of the day and our kids will need to occupy themselves.  I have to remind myself, at the age they are now this is not a problem.  There’s plenty for them to do and they are good at finding what they need.  I can trust them with this (banking these sentences for a Summer mantra as I type them!).

And I will likely feel some feelings I’d previously have called mum guilt. But I’m not sure it is guilt.  Regret that I’m not doing something fun with them perhaps.  Or not even that.  Just missing the ones I love while I work at something I love and this means nothing has gone wrong?  Notice how the language you choose changes the way you feel about it.

And so to satisfy my conflicting need to be with them and be with my work, I’ll try to book-end the day somehow.  A nice breakfast together (breakfast is my kids love language, especially if it involves maple syrup), an early dog walk ramble up to the woods, a nice together-y kind of dinner.  R has requested the odd evening dinner-picnic by the river and I’m thinking this would be a great balancer for all of us on a work day.

Connection over box-ticking

I remind myself often that small moments of connection are worth way more than ticking boxes of stuff we’ve done or spending loads.  Pretty often when my kids ask if we can go somewhere, what they’re really looking for is connection.  That’s what I want to focus on.

It won't be easy

If, as you're reading, you think I'm saying it's going to be easy, please know I'm very clear it won't be! Our Summer juggle is likely to be a shitshow very often. Especially if we have this hot weather consistently through the holidays because it's made everyone's tolerance of everything much lower around here the past few days.

I'm just hoping that by giving it some thought in advance, by all of us communicating needs, expectations and hopes, by having ways we can support ourselves while we're juggling, we have a better chance of it all working somehow. And hopefully, have it feeling like we've all had a Summer at the end of it.

and you...

I wonder how some of this applies to you, love.  Your situation will have it’s own flavour and might be completely different to mine.  I guess the questions to ponder are:

~ What are the hopes, wants, needs and expectations of all the family members over the Summer – and which of those can realistically be met?

It can be disappointing to put it all on the table and find it’ll be impossible to meet all of it, but I would always prefer to ground our Summer in reality upfront. To figure out what's doable rather than deal with waves of disappointment at the end of Summer when we’ve busted a gut and still didn’t manage it.

~ How do you need to advocate for yourself and keep communication open?

Placing yourself as part of the family team, rather than solely the enabler of the family team can help.  It has to work for you too, love.

~ What are the ways you and your lot stay grounded and connected to each other and where can that feature?

If time is tight, little and often can be the best way.

~ And how can you be with yourself compassionately?

If it’s a massive juggle, can you acknowledge how much that taxes you?  When you’re in the midst of it all doing your best, how can you talk the kindest to yourself?  When it feels good, how can you let yourself be in that good moment?  And when it feels hard, how can you ease the load for yourself?

*

If you'd like to read more like this, consider joining my (free) email community who I share my 'Gentle Words' love notes with once or twice a month. You'll also get access to The Self Care Journal - a 20+ page journaling workbook to work through at your own pace, based on my coaching process, to help you find clarity over what needs tending to for you.

Wishing you a gentle and lovely Summer, Mama x

July 14, 2022
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from Mother, Nurture & Wild

Hi, I'm Lisa

Coach for Mums, Self Belief Specialist, Self-Care Advocate, Re-wilder and Supporter of Women

I write here about the messy experience of being a human, a woman and a mother in a patriarchal world, with all the layers of self doubt, confusion, mental load and disconnection to Self that can bring.  I write about how I navigate my own journey and how I work with these themes with the women I coach.  I weave in all that inspires me along with some of the practices, habits and choices that keep me rooted to the Earth and tethered to my whole and wild Self.

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