The kids are back at school - yay!

A collective sigh of relief is sweeping across the country – the school holidays are nearly over and children are heading back to school.

It’s so much bigger than the daily “phew – the kids are finally in bed” collapse on the couch.

So a shout out to all the parents, especially to mums of all varieties – working mums, stay-at-home-mums, single mums – plus single dads, grandparents looking after their grandchildren, teachers who are parents, parents who home-school, aunties looking after nieces and nephews, neighbours lending a hand, the wonderfully reliable babysitters, people working these fabulous school holiday programmes – everyone who is helping make the “it takes a village” saying come to life.

To those who feel isolated without support, I hope you can make this the year you find a way to have a break. It’s all we need as parents – a tiny escape from the relentless demands of the self-centred offspring we’ve brought into the world.

My recent night off was dressing up and checking out Frank, the new bar in town, as part of Vintage Weekend. Two great bands and dancing non-stop was just what I needed, followed by a child-free Sunday to recover.

The other thing I do to balance the blah moments of parenting is to have a laugh – best in person with friends, but sometimes a chat online, or reading one of my fav mummy bloggers, Constance Hall or Emily Writes, is enough to put my exhausting day back into perspective.

A classic parenting survival tip I’ve been practicing over the holidays, while there’s not so much pressure to leave the house on time, is telling the boys to get in the car when I’m still not ready. Instead of me waiting, nagging and going quietly insane while they go through the excruciating tasks of finding their shoes, putting them on (preferably on the right feet), forgetting then remembering their bags, dragging out the 15 metres from the front door to the car so it takes forever, then turning back to find some random yet critically important toy to take in the car with them, I do something productive – hang the washing, unload the dishwasher, even just brush my teeth. It makes such a difference for my outlook.

The other tip, which is really obvious when you think about it, is to be careful about punishments. Who is the one that really suffers if you ban electronics for a day – or, heaven forbid, in the case of a serious infraction, a whole week? Yep, it’s the parents who bear the brunt. I need that blob out time as much as they do!

Another from my personal parenting survival plan includes sleep – simply turning off whatever device has hooked me for the evening and going to bed earlier. Some gentle exercise walking my dog next to the river, or getting sand-blasted at South Beach, is next on the list – research shows that “blue space” or being near water, as well as “green space”, has a bonus benefit for mental health; it’s not just physical.

My yoga retreat has given me some great back stretches so I’m doing those when I wake in the morning and it’s making a real difference for this desk-jockey. And the tough one, for me at least, is breaking the bad habit of looking at social media and news websites as soon as I wake up in the morning. Although there could be a work-around, to manage my stress levels at least – there are a number of Trump filter apps available so you can give yourself a break from the latest crazy comments from the US President. One even has the feature of replacing any pics of Trump on your news feed with pics of kittens!

But my main tip for surviving 2017 is to be kind to myself – cut myself some slack, and have that glass of wine, or ice cream, or chocolate, or all three! Ok, maybe I’ll attempt a little balance as a gesture towards good health, but I’m going to do the small things that bring me joy. We’ve got to survive these parenting – and Trump – years.