I have been a bit unsure about how to start this blog - difficult to just start writing about your everyday life for people to read and understand without sounding like a bit of an arse. But this week has been a thought provoking one for me; we are seriously lucky in that my husband's business gives him a couple of extra weeks off every five years, so we took an extra-long holiday in France. We returned on Sunday night and I have really felt as though I have had to re-train myself into lone parenting. It is a strange concept, having done this stay-at-home-mum malarkey exclusively for almost five years, to think that bumbling through life with small children actually involves a skill set, but this week has really bought home to me that it does, and that, after a month off, I am rusty!
I don’t know about you, but certainly in our house, any significant excursion (holiday, weekend away staying with friends, a couple of days at the in-laws) always results in a couple of days of odd behaviour (from all of us, to be honest) once we get home, and a subsequent shifting of attitudes and routines to get over it. This week - after weeks spent with both parents, basically naked (them not us) either in the sea or by the pool, eating French bread, tomatoes and cheese almost exclusively, not caring about bedtimes and naps etc - has been no exception. On Monday evening, my husband came home at 8pm (UK bedtime has previously been 7) to find the house in complete chaos (I'm not just chucking those words out there - I mean all-encompassing bedlam), all three children in the middle of the kitchen floor, naked, fighting over Duplo.
Since then, I have gradually clawed it back. Sam has refused to wear shoes all week ("they make my toes feel funny"), Kit did a wee in the middle of the kitchen floor that went undiscovered for several hours until I slipped on it and nearly broke every bone in my body (surely one of the more depressing ways to do that), the piles of laundry have risen and depleted but possibly more the latter towards the end of the week. All of this is fairly standard, to be honest. The difference this week has been me. Four weeks of having my husband around has spoilt me into losing the patience and flexibility that I believe are required to parent three small children without slightly losing your marbles (both literally and metaphorically).
The constant "mummy"s, the vying for attention, the requirement to play a Queen sitting in a café run by a pirate and the Mayor of London (a current obsession) ordering jam sandwiches, whilst trying to build a Lego lighthouse and stop the baby eating a bag of croutons that was at the back of a cupboard in the kitchen (the contents of which are partly lying on the kitchen floor, partly on display in the 'café', partly being eaten by the dog), whilst also ploughing through the washing and unpacking has been hard! I have snapped, and counted to ten, and hidden in the loo a great deal more than I normally do, and gone to bed feeling frustrated and exhausted.
Then this morning, Sam asked me "Why have you been cross all day since the holiday house?" which is very unfair, as I really haven’t been THAT cross, but it made me feel sad. So I dropped any attempt to unpack and sort, and we headed to the woods where, as usual, everything fell into place. The kids took off, stopping only to examine odd wildlife, ask incredibly complex questions about the natural world that I don’t know the answer to and snaffle the one ripe blackberry in hedges filled with thousands of green ones. We paddled down a stream, built a pretty good fort and collected sticks and it was all very easy and made us all very happy. Back home, huge lunches were consumed, and good naps were had, and then my mate came over with her three girls and we enjoyed a cold beer and supervised the kids as they took 45 minutes to make a stir fry* that would usually take 10 mins to prepare, but which they enjoyed and made them quite proud.
So I think we have finally, five days later, arrived back at (our) normal. It is easy to get bogged down with the chores and the re-establishing of routines that are the inevitable part of returning home from time spent elsewhere but actually I think just slowing down and letting everyone do what makes them relaxed and happy (whether it be walking around with no shoes on for a couple of days, spending a few hours on the sofa reading forgotten-about books, catching up on cartoons, or getting covered in mud in the woods) gets you to the same place, if a little more slowly and chaotically! Plus, I will go into next week feeling more aware of the skill set that I, and all my fellow parents, have to build up to attempt to nail this random, messy, crazy job that is parenting.
*From the original Ella's Kitchen cookbook, if anyone is interested - the Sweet and Sour stir fry. It's really tasty and great for the kids as there is loads of chopping and an easy sauce for them to mix up.