I am again in a phase when school holidays matter. My son has started school this September and after over twenty years of blissful independence, I find myself once again tied to the relentless pace of the scholastic calendar, made of busy days and, as of this week, hugely anticipated breaks.

I have been expecting this first mid term break with even more excitement than the kids. I can do with not having to fill lunch boxes or rushing children (and dad) out of the door at what feels like the crack of dawn, but mostly  I am really looking forward to the temporary suspension of my slavery to the seemingly almighty clock.

I am sure I am not the only mum experiencing this, but

since I had kids I live with a sort of  hyper awareness of time.

My day, organised or disorganised as it may be,  seems to be marked by a sequence of deadlines not entirely dissimilar from what Nick Hornby in About a boy used to call ‘units of time’. Deadline one: getting dressed. Deadline two: meal preparation time  (by 3, plus snacks). Deadline three: getting home before dark –  and the list goes on, until we get to the biggest and most rigid deadline of all: bedtime.

I know I am not alone in this perception of time: many of the mums I know seem to live exactly as I do, trying to fit activities and errands in between these rigid time posts.

It is most visible during play dates: when we get close to our self imposed deadline, our body language starts to change – suddenly a slight tension gets hold of us, there is urgency in the air: we have to go, we have to make dinner or we will be delayed for bedtime and chaos will ensue! You might say that I am exaggerating, and to some extent I am, but the truth is: sometimes chaos does ensue, if we are casual about time. If we are not aware of it. Late dinner might mean late bedtime, tired children, tears and an escalation of mutual stress usually ending in a negotiation between a new toy for an episode of Homeland.

The only time when I feel this doesn’t happen is when we are on holidays, and especially when we are travelling. If we are away from  home, suddenly the routine doesn’t seem to be that important, the thread of time seems to become more fluid and I feel I can, like many years ago, lose track of time. With no consequence.

I have a routine and I find is useful, reassuring even for me and for the kids, but then I wonder: is my routine serving me, or am I serving my routine?

I’d love to hear the opinions of other mums about this: do you also feel like a slave to the clock or do you find routine overrated or possibly even damaging? Do you bring your routine with you when travelling with children? I’d love if you would share your experience in the comments!

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