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The Working Mums’ Guide to Surviving the School Holidays
No time of year tests work/family juggling act for a working Mum quite like the school holidays, and even more so for those Mums who run their own business. We love the break in routine – not having to magic up ideas for lunchboxes, no after-school activities and the opportunity to spend quality time with our small people.
It sounds idyllic but a holiday usually means guilt, extra work and planning for a handover, and if you run your own business there might not even be anyone to handover to! In many cases if we don’t work we don’t get paid. So we try to continue with business as usual, snatching moments here and there and end up feeling like we are neglecting both our children and our job.
Holiday time is precious and necessary
It is important to have time to spend with our kids before they are young adults and we become a glorified taxi service. The trick is to balance the kid wrangling with focussed time on your business so that you don’t spend the month of May playing catch up.
So how do we manage the juggle without a struggle?
Make a Plan
Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance (and Parenting).
You’ve heard it a thousand times before but I promise you it’s true. If you take a little bit of time today to make a plan, the school holidays will be manageable, you will be able to get your work done and still have time to spend with your children without being tethered to your laptop.
- Get out your diary and schedule in all the important stuff – client meetings, deadlines, deliveries, etc and the work required by you to make them happen.
- Then make list of your non-negotiable tasks. These will be different for everyone but tend to be directly related to the bigger strategy of your business. They are not time sensitive but will cause you a world of pain if they are left undone for two and half weeks. Focus on the important stuff.
- Once you have your list, decide how much time you need to spend each day or week on these tasks, what time of day works best for you then schedule it in. Be realistic to avoid setting yourself up for failure (are you really going to be able to get any work done the morning you are taking the kids to the Easter Show when excitement levels are at an all time high???)
Now you have a very clear picture of when you are working and when you are free to have fun with your children. Your mission now is to consider how you are going to cover the work time and what you will do to make the most of the family time.
There are tasks that we do regularly in our jobs, many of which you could get done before the holidays start. Set up auto payments for bills, write and schedule social media content or newsletters, prepare invoices, anything that can be done ahead of time. This may mean getting up a little earlier each morning (or go to bed a bit later you night owls) but you will appreciate the extra hours in a few weeks.
And on non-business related matters, buy your Easter eggs this week. Don’t even try to sneak them into the shopping trolley during the holidays with your kids in tow. You will get caught, there will be questions, just don’t do it to yourself.
It Takes A Village
Mothers do not have to do all the kid wrangling alone. My husband takes our girls to work with him one day every holidays. We also tag team a couple of mornings where I will get up super early to work then he goes into the office a couple of hours later than usual and works back to make up the hours.
For those of us who are blessed to have grandparents and other willing family members close by, school holidays are a wonderful chance for them to spend time with their offspring. If they don’t live close – even better, pack a small bag and send them off for a night or two.
If you don’t have family you can lean on, why not do a swap with another family where they take your kids for a day (or part of) and then you take theirs another day in return. No time to reciprocate these holidays? Offer to help them out another time – babysit for a date night, pick their children up from school, do their shift at the canteen.
There is an abundance of school holiday activities on offer for kids. No matter what they are into whether its music, sport, crafting, coding or cooking there is something to fill in a day or two. It is also an opportunity for them to try something that they don’t usually do during term time (there are only so many afternoons in the week for them to do all the millions of things they want to do). Co-ordinate with another parent or two so that you can car pool and make the most of the childfree time.
Working from home when the kids are around can be a challenge. As soon as you sit down in front of your computer you can be guaranteed your child is going to want your attention.
They do not care or understand how important what you are doing is, they only care that you are not looking at them!
- Communicate with everyone in the house what you need to get done and set some boundaries. Explaining to them that if you are able to finish what you need to do then you will do something fun with them when you finish – bribery… I mean promise of a reward works.
- Set a time limit and offer for one of the kids to be in charge of the alarm.
- Make sure they are occupied.
- Remove yourself. For maximum focus and productivity you should work in another room unless you have kids who are more likely to leave you alone if they can actually see you.
My girls have a vague understanding of what I do for work and feel very important if they can be involved somehow. They much prefer helping my husband because he is a designer so they get to draw and play on the computer. I am all for giving my children age appropriate tasks to help out. Sticking labels on envelopes, packing boxes, searching Google for images.
They won’t do it as quick as you, they will probably get bored quickly but it will make them feel important and buy you a bit of time to finish things off.
Be All There
The purpose of providing these tips is so that you do not feel compromised while enjoying time with your children no matter how much time that is. Think quality not quantity. We often feel guilty about the lack of time so we try to do the most supremely (usually super expensive) exciting activity when we are with them. There is so much pressure to have an Amazing Time that as soon as the littlest thing goes wrong, everyone melts down and you wonder why you bothered in the first place (we’ve all been there right??).
Ask your children how they would like to spend the time with you. The holidays are meant to be a time for them to recharge so leave some blank space in the schedule. In an ideal world this work/family thing is going to go swimmingly but we all know life will get in the way.
Children get sick, customers have emergencies, you could win a holiday to Fiji. Make sure you have space for contingencies.
Then put the out of office message on your email, turn off the notifications on your phone and make a really conscious effort to be present and enjoy the madness… I mean the moment.
Article written by Northern Beaches Mums Guest Contributor Michelle Broadbent. Michelle supports small business owners through critical turning points in their journey. Passionate about seeing others succeed, Michelle transforms businesses and the lives of their owners. As a mum of two, Michelle understands what it is like to juggle a growing business with the needs of a busy family.