DIARY OF A DEMENTED HOME WORKER: How to survive a West Cork summer

July 4th, 2021 6:25 PM

By Emma Connolly

Don’t panic if, when on holiday, your family behaves nothing like the one in the TV tourism ads, all jumping for joy. Remember, normal rules are suspended for the next while, so sausages for dinner and 5pm G&Ts are allowed, and advised.

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DIARY OF A DEMENTED HOME WORKER: It’s Week 69 and mainly to make myself feel better, I’ve devised a list of things that might help to make adulting that little bit easier this summer. Or not ....

• I’M horribly practical. It’s both useful (for example I always have safety pins on me and know what’s in my freezer, even down the back, at all times), but also makes me a bit of a killjoy. For example, my top tip to all adults looking down the barrel of a long (heated?) summer is to lower their expectations. And nudge them down another teensy bit. Great. Now that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be wonderful, it just means you’ve accepted on some level that it may also be less than wonderful. It’s about keeping things real. So, while before your main aim may have been to avoid getting tan lines, now it could be to grab half an hour to sit on the outdoor couch that you spent the equivalent of a holiday on (and are now slightly regretting). Do your level best to get that 30 minutes when no one is screaming in that enormous inflatable pool you bought to avoid a scene in the supermarket.

• Next, let’s talk about camps. You need to get your kids into as many of these as possible, but without drawing attention to the fact that it’s because you don’t want to spend too much time with them. Chances are you’ve missed the boat on it for this year as places go faster than the latest Joanne Hynes Dunnes Stores drop, but mark it in the diary for next year. Start making enquiries in early January. You could get a solid six weeks out of camps – sports of all kinds, drama, pottery, swimming, origami, yoga. By the end of them, the kids will be so wrecked they’ll be begging to stay home and should leave you in peace (although there’s no scientific evidence to prove this).

• On a similar note, don’t miss any opportunity to pass your kids off on someone else (once you know their surname, and have a vague idea where they live of course). I think if you’re looking after your own kids you might as well scale up and mind a few others while you’re at it. Unless it’s lashing, insist everyone stays outside, set up a snack station, get them to show off whatever they learned at camp, and start planning what you’re going to do when it’s your turn for an afternoon off.

• Speaking of snack stations, breakfast stations are another great idea to have laid out the night before. Things like cereal and … era just cereal will be fine. Definitely put a healthy choice in the mix (the granola that came with the Christmas hamper which might be out of date), but play it safe with Coco Pops too (are pop tarts still a thing? If they are, bung them in). All kids have mastered the remote controls since lockdown so with this nifty parenting hack you’ve just bought yourself an extra half hour in bed. You’re welcome.

• In general, be prepared to let things slide a bit. A good bit. It’s completely acceptable to drop standards by approx.47% across the board during summer months. So don’t worry if you’re kids are 98% chicken goujons and 2% sausage by September. They’ll be grand. I’ve proof of this (besides, I don’t quite trust anyone who says their child is a foodie. I’m going to need hard proof if you claim your four-year-old loves nothing more than a bowl of mussels). Same for housekeeping, there won’t be time for anything more than a quick run around with a hoover every other week so don’t beat yourself up. In the same way that there’s no point shovelling snow until the storm is over, there’s no point doing a big clean until September. Or Christmas. As for bedtimes? Out the window, along with that vague concept called ‘me time’ that you sometimes enjoyed in the late evening when everyone was asleep. As a consolation, you’re allowed a 5pm G&T. And a 7pm one.

• Here’s a controversial one. While you love your family, you may not always like them during the long summer. There will be a moment, probably in mid-July, where you’ll get into your car and head down the driveway a bit, while they look out the door and realise they’ve gone a bit too far. They will drive (no pun intended) you to this. If you’re expecting these feelings, you’ll feel less disarmed by them (and if I’ve overshared on this … I was only kidding! Also, I’ve a very short driveway. No kid was harmed in this parenting meltdown).

• For less extreme moments,

have yourself a good hiding spot to reset. Most of mine were busted during lockdown and a niggly hip means some others are off access (eg under the bed), but seek one out. And don’t be tempted to tell your other half where it is either – it’s a case of survival of the fittest (dodgy joints aside).

• Stay off social media … it’s  not going to help you on any level. In fact it’s just going to make you feel rubbish. No one on social media admits they serve sausages for dinner, that things get ugly in their gaff, and that they feel less than #blessed every day. Give it a wide swerve.

• Don’t over stretch yourself either. There is a temptation to set yourself a long list of ‘things to do’ over the summer. I don’t know, things like lose a half a stone, paint the house, do the garden, meditate, revive your social life. Leave it off. Do stretch yourself in a good way, though, by trying out new things. It’s great for a mental recharge. Could be kayaking, going on a zipline, painting your toes blue, or applying to be an extra on Graham Norton’s TV adaptation – why should kids get to have all the fun?

• Also, take a break at some stage away from your home if you can manage it at all. We’ve all spent a lot of time inside our four walls this year, so time away from from routine is essential. We’re lucky we’ve so many fabulous places to explore on our doorsteps, and elsewhere in the country. Remember not to beat yourself up, though, if you and your crew look nothing like that lot in the TV tourism ads, where everyone is excitedly running along the Wild Atlantic Way and looking  really into it. Kids by their nature are ungrateful creatures. I’ll admit I’m hard enough to please myself. Most of the time you’ll be either looking for a loo or wifi, but sure at least you’ll be out of the house.

• Try and squeeze in 24 hours away with your loved one, too, so you can remember why it is you actually love them (no shame admitting you might need 48 hours to rekindle things). This is important. And that’s where you can call in favours after minding other people’s kids. The world is not going to grind to a halt if you step off the wheel for a day.

• A few other random tips: get a DryRobe (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and they are very handy); get a good rain coat (but accept you’ll never have it when you need it); take lots of photos and print them (someone will thank you in 20 years’ time) and try not to leave the books/uniforms etc until the very last week (second last week is cutting it fine enough).

• Finally, whatever you do, get your story straight for when you’re back at the school gates in September. Start practising your lines and your facial expressions now: ‘Oh we had a fabulous time, magical. One of our best yet. I must show you the photos .…’ Ain’t nobody want to hear the real truth.

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