5 Hacks For Making Memories this School Holidays

5 Hacks For Making Memories this School Holidays

How are you keeping your monsters (sorry, I mean kids) entertained in the school holidays?

With 3 young, high-energy kids (one with ADHD) school holidays can often feel more about survival than making memories.

More and more dads are taking responsibility for the school holidays, which is excellent news for everyone.

Here are a few hacks I’ve stumbled across.

  1. Hide and seek – this is an amazing mindfulness activity. Having the kids silent and still for a few minutes is bliss. Savour the seeker role by mindfully counting to 100 – nice and slow – whilst breathing deeply. Then take your time to find them, maybe also taking the opportunity to tidy up the house as you go. My kids tend to prefer it if it takes more time to find them anyway. Repeat, many, many times.
  1. Make at-home playdough – I have a fool-proof / kids-proof recipe for made-in-the-microwave playdough. It’s great because the kids help with making it (can’t really go wrong), they dye it their favourite colour/s and then spend heaps of time playing with it. You can also make as much as you want, which is handy when you want to replace the mixed-together brown. Send me an email if you want me to send you the recipe.
  1. Invest in Costumes – Having dress-ups handy fills in a surprising amount of time, and channels creativity and energy in less destructive ways. Keep in mind, that anything can be a costume. My boys love being rolled up in a blanket – sometimes they are slugs, sometimes they are burritos. Either way, it slows them down, and there are big smiles on their faces. My boys also love the simplicity of a bucket helmet. Not everyone needs a Captain America costume to be a hero. Cardboard boxes are also very versatile and can be costumes or craft materials.
  1. Be Present – Multitasking is an absolute myth. It’s rapid task switching and the research shows that you end up doing neither activity well. Trying to work at the same time as looking after kids doesn’t work for me and I’ve found that it makes me more stressed and not my best for the kids. A better method is to give them time when I’m fully present and engaged and give myself 100% to the activity. Then after a while, I find they usually want some time to themselves or they get engrossed with an activity (like the playdough) and I can use that time to cast an eye over some work. Quality time over being half there always seems to work in our household.
  1. Embrace the mess – I’ve discovered that if my expectation is that we need to keep things clean or keep the mess contained, I am inevitably disappointed and grow frustrated. Alternatively, if I assume that something is going to be a Category 6 mess, I am much more tolerant and everyone ends up having a better time (including me). A bit of mess takes a similar time to clean than a lot of mess – e.g. throwing the kid in the shower, so rather than working to contain the mess to little portions, give them permission to go for it.

These hacks don’t work 100% of the time but they are definitely worth a try.

You might also like to read this other post about managing with kids at home for the holidays.

Good luck.

Are you being equal with the Me Time?

Are you being equal with the Me Time?

Or is ‘ME’ time really short for ‘MEN’ time?

We have all heard the idioms:

– Fix your oxygen mask first, before helping others.

– You can’t pour from an empty glass.

– You need to have ‘me’ time in order to be your best self.

This is all true, however, a lot of men I talk with tend to be quite generous with the ‘me’ time they give themselves.

Perhaps overgenerous. And I wonder about their female partners, who are usually looking after the kids whilst this me time is enjoyed.

Some play sports or go bike riding. Some have regular nights out. Some frequent the gym. Some like to work on their cars, or in the garden. The list goes on.

None of this is bad.

Recently I was talking with a good friend who rides regularly. He has a young family – same as me – and I was lamenting about how I would love to join him for a ride or a run, but I was finding it so difficult to fit the time in.

He responded with something along the lines of “You just need to make the time. It makes you a better dad, husband etc.” And then he used the oxygen mask analogy.

The reality is though when he is out for a ride (often 2-3 hours each time), his wife is home with 3 young kids.

There is no equivalent ‘her’ time – at least not as visible or structured.

She has often joked that she should tally up the ride time and cash it in for a couple of months in Fiji. Whilst she jokes, I sense she may still really want to cash in a bit (or a lot) of the time she has earned.

And this is a common occurrence amongst the fathers within my network. Regular – perhaps excessive – ‘me’ time at the expense of their partners getting some time for themselves.

The large majority of these men are employed full-time, whilst their partners may work part-time hours, and almost all of these men out-earn their partners.

By contrast, I hear from women that their ‘me’ time often includes doing the grocery shopping alone – 30mins of child-free time at the shops is cherished.

Compare that to the ride every Saturday morning that goes for 2-3hours. Or the round of golf every Sunday. Or the regular Friday night out with mates.

Does bringing in more money, give the entitlement to more ‘me’-time?

Yes, fix your oxygen mask first, but make sure you aren’t taking all the oxygen.

True, you can’t pour from an empty glass, but that doesn’t mean your glass needs to overflow, whilst your partner is running on empty.

Being your best, whilst your partner is struggling, isn’t really you at your best.

Equality starts at home.

Whatever ‘me’ time you are taking, make sure that it is equal to the ‘me’ time that your partner is getting.

With research consistently showing that mothers take on the lion’s share of caring and household duties, it is worth taking a deeper look at where both of you are spending your time each week.

Maybe it’s time to do an audit.

My Hands Are Full

My Hands Are Full

For the last 18 months, I’ve been, and still am, the primary carer for my daughter on at least two days of the working week (plus Sunday).

My wife and I have split responsibilities so that we both do paid work 3 days a week, 3 days a week we are the primary carer for the kids (we have 3), and Saturdays we are all together.

It is not easy to coordinate. And starting and running a business during this time has been particularly challenging.

Both of us realise though that the person looking after the kids on a particular day will, on balance, usually have the tougher day, and needs the ‘hunter/gatherer’s support from the moment they have finished ‘gathering’ for the day.

This is a promise we make to each other, and we try our best to leave our other work at work so that we can be there for the other person.

Personally, I have found it particularly difficult to manage my own expectations of what I can commit to regarding my business.

I’ve been thinking “I only work 3 days”.

Through coaching, I realised that that simple phrase was actually making me feel inadequate. An unconscious narrative that I should be working 5 days in my business, and was subsequently putting pressure on myself to make up the other 2 days outside of standard hours.

I wasn’t logging off, and I was trying to do work when my daughter slept or was otherwise distracted. I was working at night when everyone slept (and I should have been sleeping too).

I then transitioned to thinking “Actually, I work 3 days”. And realised that I needed to contain my work commitments to these days. Having this bleed into home life, wasn’t an option.

But again, through coaching, I began to appreciate that I was still actually devaluing my domestic/caring duties because they weren’t ‘paid’. I still felt the pressure to think about work, when I wasn’t at work. And my other job suffered.

Despite my recognition that caring responsibilities are, actually, the harder job.

The reality is “I’m working 7 days. I have 2 jobs.”

My new personal narrative is that “I’m a father and husband first. My second job is as a business owner, coach and facilitator.”

And, with this in mind, and looking back at the last couple of years (which admittedly have been the hardest of my life), I’ve never been happier.

AND, I think I’m better at being a gatherer.

There is a lot of pressure that we, and society, place on ourselves to be the hunter/gatherer, and to be the best hunter/gatherer.

The difficult lesson I’ve learnt this year is that we should instead perhaps focus on being the best partner and father first (or whatever this other ‘job’ is for you).

In the scheme of things, no one really cares how good of a hunter you are. But the important people care about how good you are at your first job.

Working Parents and societal change

Working Parents and societal change

This week has been a week of transitions in my household, as it probably has been for many working parents.

Our eldest son started back at school, and our younger son is back at daycare.

PLUS, coincidently, my wife has returned to her practice this week, after taking parental leave.

For me, it’s involved juggling around my schedule and availability to assume the primary carer’s role for our youngest – 9-month-old, Lizzie.

Looking after a baby by yourself is tough, and the third time around doesn’t make it much easier.

Even tougher is trying to run a business between naps, pickups, and playtime. I didn’t have this added pressure with the other two, as I took leave from my employers instead (self-funded through annual leave and leave without pay).

📣 So here’s a shout-out to all the people that are doing this currently – and somehow making it work.

📣 And a special shout out to the dads doing this.

Third time around for me, it is definitely encouraging to see the progress that had been made – just in the last 5 years – to normalise dads being the primary carer, and to normalise dads juggling work and caring responsibilities throughout the week.

This time around, I haven’t encountered the “change table is located in the women’s bathroom” issue (although, I think this is still the case in some public toilets).

This time around, the unhelpful comments are much less frequent. No one has commented about me “playing mum” or “minding the baby” or how great it is that I’m giving my wife a break. But there are still some comments – the most recent was from a lady that praised my “Mother’s rock” when observing me settling my daughter.

This time around there are also a couple more dads at the park (still not that many though). But the biggest change is that the mothers seem less cliquey, more willing to talk to me, and more willing to include me as an equal in their parenting conversations.

It is progress in the right direction – which makes this transition much easier this time around, despite the added pressure.

The last couple of times I’ve done this, I said a massive thanks to my employer and my team for supporting me through this time. This time I am my employer, and I don’t have much of a team.

So instead I want to thank Australian society for the progress that has been made. Progress which is supporting me through this time. 🙏

7 Tips for managing the school holidays

7 Tips for managing the school holidays

How do you manage through the school holidays? 

School holidays are not a holiday. Sure there are some great times. 

But the struggle is real. There are tears, tantrums and tough times. 

We need circuit breakers to help us through mentally. 

What are your circuit breakers? 

Here are a few that my wife and I are using as we juggle a son with ADHD, a pre-schooler and a toddler whilst managing two careers.

1. Tag in and tag out. When it gets too much, we tag out and take a break. 

2. Everyone outside! Fresh air and exercise is needed, whilst we use the hour for a ride around the block or a trip to the park, we have plenty of little breaks in the front and back yards. 

3. Have a good cry. Tears are shed for a purpose – we allow ourselves to cry. 

4. Deep breathing. We do this regularly and include the kids as we do it. In fact, sometimes my son initiates to help us calm down. 

5. Screen time – not ashamed by that! I am very thankful for streaming apps. 

6. ‘Strategic hug’. Hugs heal.

And finally my favourite –

7. Hide and Seek – counting to 40 helps to calm me down. And whilst I can usually find the kids within about a minute or less, I stretch it out to enjoy the calmness for a few minutes. I’ve even unpacked the dishwasher or packed away toys whilst ‘looking’ for them. Plus the kids usually don’t want to be found that quickly anyway!