It hits you! The household is a little more irritable than normal. Everyone’s just a little lower in tone. A holiday is just what the doctor orders! The problem is we are working more hours and taking less time off. We are in theory always on at the moment. This is bringing us all sorts of physical and mental health challenges. We should all ask ourselves if it is time for a holiday! Not a weekend or a long bank holiday weekend. A proper break. A break without “work-related” distractions.
In the modern world I am undecided if because we talk about it more we notice it more or if we just use words to express more how we are feeling. Over the last few months, as well as supporting my existing client base I was involved in an exciting project too (with a positive outcome). I throw myself into these things – I love my job. But I love my life too, especially my family and therefore I ultimately burn out trying to please all. July brings the inevitable. The family holiday season.
As we headed on our Summer holidays there is the immediate thought in my head. How do I make sure Kate and the boys have fun? What do I need to do to ensure that they all have fun. Then I remember – Dad’s need to have fun on holiday too. It is my holiday as much as everyone else’s. Though, and stay with me, I do need to make sure the boys are sorted. They have that equilibrium balance that if tipped has the potential to completely ruin a holiday. So with one hand you giveth and with the other you cross your fingers!
This year we have toured and traveled around the UK which has meant a lot of time in the car. My days as a child involved car games and lots of sleeping and of course “are we there yet”. Modern technology changes some of this. The “time of arrival” means the boys know we are not nearly there yet! So they probably don’t dare ask. We have managed to convince the boys that travel sickness comes from screen time and therefore they have a mix of audiobooks, music as well as TVs and films. So simply talking and other usual car games helps ease the journey (oh and sweets!).
A key to our holidays is involving the boys in planning. It’s not a free for all otherwise we’d never get anywhere but giving them two options for each day to decide – they feel empowered – it also allows them to see what we are planning, whether a National Trust hidden treasure or RSPB location or simply jumping off cliffs in Newquay. A new favourite!
And playing games. Keep it simple. A family favorite has been “A to Z”. Take it in turns naming something beginning with a letter based on a pre-chosen subject. Provided many giggles especially as our youngest recently did sex education so had some cracking answers for the body parts round.
So as I have just returned from a holiday – the longest in a long time. I feel fortunate to have been able to take one. It has made me reflect on some of the things in my life that help ME as a person and as a dad:
1) A network of peers: For many years at PwC we have had groups to help support and network parents. I recently joined a sub-group of this called Dads-in-Space (which admittedly could easily be a 80’s film title) which Chris Holloway 🚀 and many more actively lead on. It is a great space to be open and upfront about the joys and challenges of being a dad. It was lovely to see all the photos of those last pick ups before children headed off to secondary school for some, junior school for the first time and others just off on their summer holiday. For us it was a combination. A much needed family break – we were close to breaking point I’ll be honest! And watching our eldest finish Year 6. Many tears were shed. Coming back from those holidays I wanted to reflect a little and also look ahead to the next chapter.
2) Men need friends: There has been a lot of attention recently in the news around men, particularly middle aged men. Men often don’t have close friends. Women maintain the friendships (in heterosexual relationships) for the couple. This resonates a lot with me. Research shows that men tend to neglect personal relationships to pursue external success. All of this leads to loneliness which has consequential consequences on physical AND mental health.
3) Make time for you: We must not forget about ourselves. I often do this and within days I can quickly spiral. I think I find it too easy to think that everyone else comes first. My boys. My wife. My family. Make time for them. Make sure they get to do what they want and if (and only if) there is time I can do something. I have hobbies to pass the time but true friendships are limited. To help this a fair few years ago I joined Round Table Great Britain and Ireland and Penistone Round Table. I’ve always wanted to give back to my local community (and we do) but the social interactions it gives are truly great. I’ve become friends with over 40 people of all ages – we do socials, we lend each other ladders, we provide advice in tough times.
4) Keeping physical: I’m a big fan of walking and I get to do LOADS on holiday. I’ve really enjoyed exploring the Scilly Isles and Cornish coast line. I have done a walk alone each day with a great purpose for some time for me to reflect and relax. I have walked over 200km while on holiday, enjoyed sea swimming, kayaking, costeering, surfing and so much more.
5) Something for the mind: During my walking time I’ve listened to music but also a fair number of podcasts catching up on Susan Freeman Caleb Parker and kickstarting The B1M podcast as well as some valuable Headspace time. Finding this time for ourselves is key.
So I look back and ask as a dad did I have fun on holiday? And the simple answer is absolutely. I’ve zip wired through trees, injured myself in so many ways, tried to learn to surf, and sampled many nice gins. So yes I have had fun and even bumped into Matthew Sheridan on a beach!
So a holiday serves a purpose. Well, a few purposes. A key one is increasing our happiness and it certainly has. The ultimate benefit has been quality time with the family. It has been tough the last few months and having time together has just reaffirmed the fun we can have. Making memories. Building stronger relationships. Regular time off whether a long term break or just a day off to spend with a friend or family have huge benefits to us and we should all look to ensure we have that time to refuel and recharge.
Until next time, it’s been a blast.