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Why Time Together Can Be Tricky!

It’s time for another piece from our regular columnist Nikki Newman – and this posting certainly speaks to a lot of us Good Enough Mothers. We all yearn for more time with our families – but when we finally get what we want it isn’t all fun and laughter. Have a read and then send over your comments below…

Take it away Nikki…

Out here in Doha, we’ve just had a stay-at-home week off – the school mid-term holiday coinciding with the Islamic festival of Eid – which gave us all a much needed break from the routine. It got off to a great start and ended pretty well but there were a few days in the middle there that I think we all wanted a holiday a long, long way from each other!  Sound familiar?

An impromptu brunch to celebrate my husband’s birthday got the holiday off to a great start.  Unlike the down-to-earth version I was used to in England, with its bacon and eggs, cups of tea and coffee, this was a 4-hour buffet banquet with endless supplies of bubbly at a swanky hotel.  We over-indulged and continued the party at home late into the night. It was a real treat.

We spent the following day in recovery, watching movies back-to-back and eating a vast array of junk food. All in all, a pretty fun weekend!

But then: Monday. The reality of domestic chores reared its head; time to get it out of the way.  My husband and I stood in the kitchen sorting through our cleaning supplies – sprays, polishes, 5-in-1 all-purpose liquids, cloths, sponges… Strangely enough, it was the first time in our years together that we’d devoted an entire conversation to the cleaning regime (can’t think why we’d never had that one before…).  Until now I guess we’d just got on with it; today for some reason, it seemed crucial that we iron out some differences… The conversation developed into a heated discussion – yes, believe it – and escalated into an argument in exaggerated voices that ended without resolution.

Wrangling over cleaning routines?! Perhaps this holiday wasn’t going to be as fun as we’d hoped…

Later, after we’d somehow converged on cleaning approaches to get it done without actually muttering another word to each other, it was time to tackle the windows outside.  A day of rain the week before – the first since April – had brought with it a lot of sand which had stuck to the panes in murky splats and dashes.  After a few moments of spraying with the hose, the windows gleamed again and let the full force of the mid-day sun through.  Oliver and our dog, Rosie, had followed the action, dashing from room to room as Chris directed the hose from window to window outside; then they went out to play in the fresh puddles. A delightful few moments – things seemed to be improving after our tense start. Ah, happy, peaceful days.

Not so fast. Oliver opened the front door and the dog – now with soggy paws and buoyed up with excitement – wriggled in leaving muddy paw prints from the hall through the lounge as she slipped around on the glossy, freshly mopped tiles.  Chaos and shouting ensued which left Oliver on the verge of tears and the dog banished to her bed. My God, I thought – as I’m sure we all did – you can stuff your family holiday at home! I don’t want any part of it!

The house fell silent for a few hours as we all moved about, shoulders slightly hunched, fighting against any flicker of a smile, finding things we could do to keep out of each other’s way, while the dog watched on doe-eyed, from her bed.

The week continued in this way, with petty grievances and general grumpiness lingering in the corners of most days.

It was our first week at home together as a family for so long!  It couldn’t be like this!

But wait, maybe that was the problem. You see most of the time during the week, this was my space, or should that be, my cave? Now I had cave-husband and cave-son with me. The first time really for longer than a weekend since we’d moved to our current house. This was a whole new territory.  Looking back, it had always been a bit like this at the start of holidays, rather imperfect.  This wasn’t about cleaning cloths or soggy paws, this was about the sudden converging of characters, which can take a bit of time to adjust to. It’s not necessarily ‘great to see you and be with you all the time!’ Often it is just, well, ‘Ugh!’

As the week went on, humour and light returned, the cave dweller tendencies lessened, our backs straightened, we began to use proper words, look each other in the eye, laugh…We spent time in the sunshine and read magazines and books, Oliver had a couple of play-dates. In the last few evenings we cooked good food, drank wine with friends, sat around listening to and chatting about music from the past. We had fully evolved into relaxed, happy to co-exist 21st century family-members again.

Next time we have a break at home together, maybe we can be a little better prepared for those first few days, if only to expect that initial clash of the Newmans and go with it. It’s always a surprise, always a disappointment, but it needn’t be because it is just life.  At least we won’t have to have the cleaning conversation again, that one’s done and dusted. Excuse the pun.

Do you recognize your own family experiences here? I’d love to hear about your imperfect family holidays or even just the weekends when everybody’s together under one roof again.  Start sharing…

Nikki Newman, 36, from England, currently lives in Qatar, where she moved this year due to her husband’s work. A former teacher and proud mother of 7-year-old Oliver, she’s currently focusing on settling her family into their new lives, while also pursuing her passion for painting. To see Nikki’s work please go to:


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