How are you managing the school holiday and work juggle? Gone are the days when one parent stays at home and looks after the children in the school holidays. Every family is different when it comes to balancing work and children in the school holidays and there is no one size fits all.
Where some parents can work from home, some must find childcare and the juggle of childcare and work coupled with the guilt that you are not spending every minute of the school holidays with your children is real for every parent. Especially, when you consider that we have eighteen summers with our children before they become adults and we want to make each one count. The rise in holiday childcare doesn’t help either.
Finding the balance and getting it right for work, clients and your children is difficult so the most important thing is to manage everyone’s expectations including your own. It’s a different balancing act working from home or if employed and expected to be in an office. It also depends on whether you are employed or self-employed as you may have more autonomy and ability to manage and stagger your workload.
It’s tricky when your children are bombarded with images of social media from their friends, especially if they see their friends having amazing outings and holidays. So, it’s important to explain to them that people only put the best bits of their lives on social media, and try and make sure you do spend one on one time with them. If you are having a staycation then check out our brilliant list of things to do in London and places to swim in London.
We worked with Dina Maktabi at Kensington Mums who gives her top tips for managing the juggle and making the holidays enjoyable for everyone.
1. Manage expectations of availability for clients, work and family. If you know you are going to have to spend the morning working tell your children so they don’t expect to be going out. Set them up with an activity and plan ahead for when you are working at home.
2. Set work boundaries and times that you will be working and don’t let the normal routines slide out of the window, make sure that everyone is up at normal times and doing their jobs to help around the house. If the children don’t generally help out at home then the holidays are a great time to start a new challenge or routine for them. Emptying the dishwasher, tidying the hall – coats and shoes, sorting the clean washing, tidying bedrooms etc.
3. Try to stop looking at what everyone else is doing and feeling bad that you aren’t doing the magical zoo trip or holiday. Avoid the whole Instagram envy and stop comparing how you are managing the summer holidays compared to others.
4. Make a list of where you would like to go and some holiday goals. Keep the list of the local swimming pool, cinema times and local activities to hand in case you need inspiration. Encourage the children to add to the list.
5. If you work from home or yourself, can you slow work right down and tell clients that you will be away or in holiday mode? Then they won’t be expecting a reply straight away. Put an out of office on to say that you will be checking emails at specific times and if it’s urgent to message you.
6. Manage the expectations of your children, tell them how and why you are working and plan your day if you are working from home.
7. Think about when you work best. Is it early morning? If so try and get up before the rest of the house wakes, or do you work best in the evening? When do you have the most focused energy for work?
8. Tell friends and family that you are working from home and let them know your availability rather than working around theirs.
9. Chances are you have friends in the same predicament. Can you have a rota between you where you all help each other? Set up a Whats app group where you can all communicate any childcare requests for help. Wherever you can take up friends and family on offers of childcare help.
10. If you need to be in an office – Speak to your employer, explain any childcare difficulties you may have over the holidays. Is there a way to potentially work from home on one day a week?
11. Plan as much as you can for childcare but also take each week at a time. Six to eight weeks can seem like a long daunting amount of time to fill if you look at it as one big block of time, instead break it down into manageable chunks of time.
12. Consider holiday camps and voucher schemes at work to help offset the costs of these.
13. Willing grandparents? Ask them if they will help, but be honest and tell them what you need them to do, if it’s just a day or an afternoon or if it’s a week. Manage their expectations on how long and when.
14. The fear of being over dependent on screens and preventing them from spending the whole holiday on their tablets is a real dilemma for parents in the school holidays. So use the screens when you need the children to have them. Don’t let the screens become a habit in the holidays. If you only allow an hour during term time then continue this through the holidays too.
15. Make the screens work for you. Set the children a challenge and have a digital detox and digital curfew and if they have to be on screens when you are working then get them on some educational apps – see our list here!
16. Try not to over commit, saying yes to every invitation and inviting everyone round will put unnecessary pressure on you and you may end up having to cancel. A good rule of thumb is to try and plan no more than two activities a day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Ultimately managing everyone’s expectations and your own will go a long way to managing the work and holiday juggle. Remember your circumstances are completely individual and you shouldn’t feel that you should be doing everything. Take the guilt away from all the things you feel you should be doing and enjoy what you can do and avoid comparisonitis!