The school holidays are here …
It’s August (how did that happen?!) and we’re well into the school holidays (after probably one of the strangest school years most of us have ever known). The holidays this year are in many ways a much-needed chance to wind down and recharge after a frenetic year of home-schooling, repeated isolations and exam uncertainty.
Hopefully, this means a few lazy pyjama mornings replacing the school run (or the dash on to Zoom), visiting friends and family (now that we finally can), day trips and cosy afternoon films. Lovely.
But for working parents, we know that school holidays are not always quite that idyllic; scrimping together annual leave, finding activity camps that barely cover working hours, or leaning on relatives to share the load. And even though many of us are still working from home and able to have a bit more flexibility, the work still needs to get done at some point!
If the remaining weeks are filling you with dread rather than joy, read on for some tips to help you navigate the school holiday juggle.
Here are eight handy tips, based on experience, that might help.
More than ever it seems, working Mums are sticking together and looking out for one another which is so heart-warming to see. Ask around and find out if any friends are up for reciprocal playdates and then plan your crucial calls and meetings around those times.
Think outside your immediate close friendship groups. If you have a class WhatsApp group, pop a message on there and see who’s up for it. You might be surprised! (And it’s a good way for younger children to stay connected to their friends after a disrupted year socially).
2. School holiday clubs and camps
Although many have been closed on and off throughout the last year or so, lots are now up and running and back at normal capacity. And with people’s travel plans in constant flux, you might find some have last minute availability so it’s always worth joining waiting lists. Regular after-school clubs and classes often run half-day summer workshops which I find a brilliant way to get a few quiet hours a day while still spending time together.
And I try and break up the structured weeks of clubs and camps with more relaxed family time in between. Try asking for suggestions about what’s going on on your local Mums’ Facebook group, or your trusty class WhatsApp group.
If you use local teenage babysitters in the evenings, ask them if they have any free time in the days over the school holidays. More than ever, many would probably love to earn some extra cash in return for a trip to the park or just entertaining them at home. Some older ones might even be happy to commit to the odd full day. Offer to provide a reference as a thank you for their help, and for younger babysitters, it can be helpful to provide some activities and ideas to get them going!
4. Family visits in the school holidays
If you’re mobile (as in work mostly through a laptop and phone) perhaps you could go and stay with family who might not feel so comfortable taking care of little ones on their own. You could then take a few hours to work each day whilst being on hand to help out. Not to mention enjoying some much-needed extended family catch up time in the evenings after so long apart!
5. Structured “at home” days
If you have children who are old enough to entertain themselves, structure some “at home days” where you block out regular work time. This is the time when they can’t disturb you, and if they know in advance, they can make plans for what activities or games they’re going to play. Involve them in the planning stage and clearly set out the expectations for the day (“we’ll be at home this morning while I do some work, and then we’ll be spending the afternoon together”).
And remember, you’re not a bad parent if they spend the odd wet afternoon watching a movie! The holidays are, after all, their downtime as well.
6. Planning school holidays with your partner
If you live at home with your spouse or partner, this is really important. Even if you have different levels of work commitments between you, it’s all about teamwork. It might not be the most romantic hour you’ll ever spend together, but a good diary session over a glass of wine might just help see off a last-minute panic mid-way through the holiday.
Flag up in advance any weeks when one of you has a significant deadline. And if you’re both homeworking, try and broadly agree on a daily schedule for who is working when. (Oh, and don’t forget to schedule a date night while you’ve both got your diaries handy!)
7. Involve them in your work
This is very dependent on what work you do, and the age of your children. But involving them in your work could be a great way to keep them entertained, let them see what you do, teach them new skills, and get work done all at the same time. You could even offer a small wage in exchange for helping you out.
8. Plan your time
This is probably the one that is most critical for me. It’s all about knowing how you work best and planning accordingly.
It may sound obvious, but work out what you need to get done over a week and map out the time available to best get it done. We all know which tasks we can stay on top of ‘on the fly’ and which we need dedicated (child-free!) thinking time for.
My ideal day starts with getting up before the rest of the family. Even if I only get 30 minutes or so first thing to have a coffee in peace, clear the decks and sort some admin, it can make a huge difference to how the rest of the day pans out.
What do you think? Are you a working mum and do you have any school holidays survival tips to share?
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And finally, enjoy your holidays!