Being a working parent can be challenging, and it’s made even harder during the school holidays!
We all have mixed emotions when we think of school holidays as we relish having a break from the usual manic routine, but then have to shift around our working patterns and routines to accommodate the children being home.
Self-employed parents and those working from home face the biggest challenge; so how can you help ease the stress of juggling work and school holidays?
Set your boundaries and expectations…
Make sure you are clear (with yourself and your children) about what your working hours and days will be, as well as when you will be free to spend time with the family. Many of us are self-employed and need to juggle work and free time on a daily basis.
If your children are old enough to understand, sit them down, explain what will be happening during the holidays and how you will be working some of the time… From experience, they will actually enjoy being part of the decision making process of what’s going to be happening; especially if they are different ages.
If you are going to be working from home, you could also draw up an itinerary and stick it on the fridge, so everyone can see it! Just make sure you also schedule in play/fun time with the children, and stick to it. A timetable (sad though it may sound) can come in really handy, especially if you have different aged children who want to go to different clubs and activities! Mark everything on the calendar, as this will ensure you don’t accidentally double-book yourself… It is also an exciting way for little ones to count the days to a fun activity or trip out.
When it comes to setting your schedule, the chances are you might have to adapt your existing routine to ensure you get adequate work time, especially if you are running your own business.
Don’t beat yourself up if a change in plan is forced upon you, as there may be times when you’ve planned a day out with the children, but the weather is bad or you need to be available for a work emergency… Keep a level head, explain the situation to the family and help them see the need for the change; it doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom.
If you need to work, make sure you’re giving quality time both to work and your children
It’s really important that you give both sides of your life the quality time it deserves. When with your children, ensure you are REALLY with them, by focusing on enjoying being in that moment with them. Likewise, when you’re working, make sure you ARE working for the hours and days you’ve scheduled.
Sometimes you just need to admit you need some extra help. This can be in the form of holiday clubs, or enlisting family members and childminders to have the children for a day or two during the school holidays.
But help doesn’t necessarily have to involve enlisting other people. Sometimes it can boil down to picking the right activities that will keep your children occupied for long periods of time (i.e. films or building/creating projects such as Lego or model kits etc.).
Finally, remember to keep everything in perspective. It can be all too easy to beat yourself up.
Be aware of being drawn into comments such as “I didn’t get ANY work done” or “The children are ALWAYS disturbing me”. If you’re organised, you’ll be working from a ‘To Do’ list that you’d normally rewrite every few days to keep tidy… If you’re working during a school holidays, don’t rewrite it until the end of the break. That way, you will see just how much you have achieved in your work while still spending time with your children.
Working during the school holidays doesn’t have to be a constant juggling act; it can often be a simple case of forward planning and keeping your focus.