I'm sorry they're all going back. Not because I'm going to miss them, but because I have to get up early. This summer (when they have been around), it has all worked quite well - mainly because my older two children are now entirely capable of entertaining themselves. My third and last child suffers a bit with my lack of full on interest, but surely that is what makes third and/or last children so special? They have to be creative and imaginative and independent simply because their parents can no longer be arsed to amuse them.
The great thing is that I don't even have to feel guilty about it anymore because there is a new parenting book out called "Can We Give Them Back Now?" which has coined the term "benign neglect". It suggests that we redress the balance of family life, where we attempt to meet our children's needs, but don't pander to their every whim. It's about being around but not actually available at all times.
I don't really have a major problem with this approach to parenting. It's how I grew up. My parents magnificently honed the art of "benign neglect". Choosing instead to drink coffee and/or alcohol and read papers and books and talk to friends and generally have a fun-filled child-free time, even when the kids were about. They used to forget we existed for entire days. Even weeks and months. In fact we were lucky to be found alive after several occasions of being locked in the back of the car with a packet of crisps and a sleeping bag. The same applied when we went anywhere near water. Our parents would feed us a packet of crisps and then tell us that we had to stay out of the water for the next three hours in case we got cramp and drowned. I can hardly believe they got away with it.
The principle behind the approach and the resulting benefits seem entirely obvious to me. Parents become less stressed and resentful and children become more independent. My one criticism is the title. I don't like it. What's wrong with "f*ck off, I'm busy?"
Or maybe that's a bit too harsh.