Caroline's blog: Seasonal countdowns

Hey ho, hey ho, it’s into Advent we go! The Christmas countdown is certainly apace. We’ve started scanning Amazon for present ideas and refining our story ahead of the annual inquisition into the metaphysics and practicalities surrounding Santa Claus. We’ve also reached that point of term where timetables surrender to the season. As far as I can tell, school now consists of a two week free flow of rehearsals, exams, concerts, trips and parties. 

At home, the Christmas spirit hasn’t quite arrived. At the moment “festive fun” is a euphemistic description of what happens in our house when a tot produces a crumpled letter 5 minutes’ before leaving for school, detailing some creation or costume they are supposed to produce that day. When the request goes beyond our Blue Peter skills, my daughter comforts me with her usual mantra: “Don’t worry, Mummy. They said you can always pop it along to the school office during the day”. Pop it along to school? From Bishopsgate? Floo powder, anyone?

Christmas aside, the end of term is the first welcome countdown in our sights.  This term’s been challenging, and we’ll be pleased to see the back of it. Unfortunate circumstances mean that my son now has 4 different class teachers over the week, and it’s been a challenge for all of us to adapt and help him understand why the changes were needed.  My daughter hasn’t fared much better. By some combination of parental osmosis and divination, we were supposed to know that Year 4s have fixtures at other schools most Thursday afternoons. Unless your availability allows you to be a groupie on the U9s hockey circuit around rural Hertfordshire, you get a few days’ notice of the estimated pick-up time. This can be up to two hours later than normal, traffic dependent. This unpredictability has upset my daughter, for whom her Thursday afternoon music lesson is a weekly highlight, yet has often had to be cancelled. I asked the school how working parents manage fixtures alongside siblings, work commitments, and after school activities. I was told that: “other parents all seem to manage it ok”, and “unpredictability is part of being a parent”.  I bit my tongue.

And in amongst the seasonal changes, I have mixed feelings towards the countdown to the New Year. Whilst I love the excitement of welcoming in the new, I am also aware of an undeniable trend, for me at least, of things changing or going wrong – be it practically, physically or mentally – in January or February. It’s not a season I relish.  Our last three childcare arrangements have each come to an end in January, perhaps as a New Year encourages people to look at new opportunities. There’s the inevitable post-Christmas colds and flu which can leave you run down and susceptible to other conditions. The two occasions I’ve needed surgery have both followed this time of the year. And there’s the impact on mood – I don’t know where the threshold for seasonal affective disorder lies, but I’m aware that after Christmas excesses, celebrations and down-time, I can then struggle to pick back up to full capacity in January. For me at least, the short days, lack of light and the freezing weather seem to cause difficulties.

Me and hubbie have thought carefully about how we can make sure 2020 starts well. What we keep coming back to is being kind to ourselves – not overcommitting, focusing on the things that build us up, and factoring in plenty of family down time. We’ve also decided to change our usual holiday pattern. We’ll have a low key Christmas taking minimal holiday, but then go away and get some sun in February half term. We hope this will prevent an end-of-year crash, give us something exciting to look forward to, and provide enough of a vitamin-D-boost to get us comfortably through into the spring.  So, whilst I’m planning to enjoy the celebrations and countdowns of the coming weeks, I’m also aware of the countdown to the New Year, and am looking to manage it as best as I can.

Caroline is the proud mum of an 8 year old daughter and a 6 year old son. She is also a senior associate in the pensions team at a magic circle law firm where she tries to balances work and family life by mixing office and home-based working for four days over five days each week.

Category: A Citymother's Diary

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