Every parent on Earth has an opinion on school holidays and that opinion generally falls into one of two broad categories: Dread or bliss. Funnily enough, parents themselves also fall into one of two broad categories: Working or stay-at-home. Interesting parallels. You do the math…
As a working mum, I’ve officially faced and survived 29 separate school holiday periods and am right now bracing for Number 30. That may actually entitle me to a gold Rolex or something (mental note: check that). Over the past 7.5 years I’ve had my fair share of school holiday dread and bliss. In the earlier years, it was mainly dread as I struggled to balance life and work in general, let alone throw some holidaying children in the mix. On the first day of the school year, when errrrryone was flooding Facebook and Instagram with photos of their cherubs wearing pristine oversized uniforms and perfect hair, I was famously known for sharing a selfie of myself at work doing the “Working Mums’ Happy Dance”, such was my relief at seeing the school gate on those mornings after SIX weeks of juggle.
Having said all this, I’m proud to report that, of late, my school holidays are more blissful than dreadful. So, with that newfound bliss, on the eve of the mid-year school holidays, I thought I would share some ‘expert’ knowledge on how working parents can find their school holiday bliss via a carefully considered “juggle-plan”. Let me know if you agree or have other school holiday survival tips to share…
Top 5 tips to winning the working parents’ school holiday juggle…
1. Don’t try to do everything!
Thinking that you can maintain the same working momentum AND simply juggle the kids on top is ludicrous. This is where I went horribly wrong for roughly 6.75 years. Lucky to be self-employed with an office just walking distance from my house, I thought it’d be easy to juggle both worlds at once (#becausewoman #hearmeroar). Yeah, nah. How flexible is your employer? Can your employer accommodate non-standard business hours (ie. can you do some hours early in the morning or at night)? Could you work from home? Can you job share?
2. Lean on your network
With 12-odd weeks of school holidays to accommodate annually, and the ‘normal’ employee getting four weeks of leave in that same period of time, there’s little scope to simply take the same amount of time off work as your kids get off school. Most of us have a school mum network and it’s in times like these that those understanding fellow working parents can be such a support. If you find a likeminded fellow school mum or two and strategically plan some kid swaps, you can tick a few boxes here. Kids love to spend time with their school mates outside the school gate and when your kids are enjoying time at their friend’s home, you can plug in some solid work hours. Just make sure you return the favour. You don’t want to be that mum.
In the same vein, if you are lucky to have family around, don’t forget to utilise them. Don’t feel bad for asking for help. Lean on your network. It takes a village to raise a child. This will never change.
3. Remote control
If you have a home-based business or have arranged some work-from-home days with a flexible employer, never expect to work in an interruption-free environment. Having this headspace from the get-go means less frustration when the kiddie interruptions no-doubt occur (over and over throughout the day). The best tactic here, however, is to plan ahead. The night before, come up with a list of activities for the kids to keep them busy. Maybe you can throw some easy (paid) chores in there? You can even prep a day’s worth of snacks and drinks ahead of time so the kids can help themselves. And don’t feel bad about popping them in front of a movie to get a couple of solid hours into your laptop. Chilling in front of a movie is actually what holidays are about!
4. Check your headspace
I went years thinking that school holidays were a big drag. A hassle. A pain in my working butt. Then it occurred to me that I was the one putting the negative energy into school holidays – without even giving them a chance. Rather than starting the stress routine weeks out from an impending school holiday, like I normally would, I started putting a juggle-plan in place early and a smile on my dial and it honestly made such a difference to my headspace and mood come the holidays.
If you’ve got a juggle-plan sorted and have allocated some free days for yourself and your kids, make sure you completely switch off from work, focus on those kids and make some solid memories during your free days. If you are half-watching your phone all day, just in case a work call comes through etc, you’ll defeat the purpose of the juggle-plan and your well-organised time off. Remember, you’ve earned this ‘holiday’.
Do you have any ideas for other working parents on how to survive the school holidays? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you!