How do working parents organise our lives in the school holidays? Well if you are the one who carries the lions share of child care and house hold care…it’s a hell of a lot of juggling!
Sometimes I think it would just be easier to put the kids in a school holiday programme. However, I know my children would not like to be in a programme. My kids are pretty free range and like to be able to plan their own time. One of them is just too old for school holiday clubs.
As they get older they manage to organise their own play dates, hang outs etc. I am just the contact person, the food person, the taxi driver, the sock finder, the injury attender and the emotions soother.
This also means that everyone goes in different directions, so unlike when they are younger and have to go where you go, I have to keep track of all the different paths.
For me it is a roller coaster of stressful juggling of work, kids, household chores and holiday fun….Oh and a bit of laziness squeezed in there as an essential part of the ‘school holiday’ experience!
My feelings about the school holidays are mixed. Both difficult and stressful, and quite nice. It is a break from the routine of getting up at 6am and getting kids sorted for the school bus by 7.45am. This is a welcome change.
In the holidays, regardless of whether I am working (in a paid job where I have to get dressed and attend) or not, I can get up at 7am and make myself a coffee and take it back to bed for a luxurious extra half hour of laziness.
For a busy mother of three I do think there is great value had out of a little bit of laziness every now and again. It’s actually more accurate to call it ‘self care’, or ‘time-out’.
But back to the juggling….
I love the business and liveliness of our household and the personalities within our walls.
Unfortunately, I get very tired juggling all the things I have to juggle. In fact I don’t even like the word…”juggle”!
Just like real juggling, unless you are really good at it, it quickly gets out of control and feels chaotic and comes crashing down all around you.
I’m not that good at it.
I used to dread the holidays when I had to work. It seriously feels like you are missing out on your children. It feels awful that you can’t go away, and I felt guilty almost all of the time.
Even when your work understands the difficulties, it helps but it still feels bad. I do think that when you have to work in the school holidays that your mind it not always completely there. There’s quite a bit of anxiety around it. At least that is what it was like for me.
Working for myself doesn’t always work well for me either, although it is more flexible if you are not too strict a boss…of yourself!
I don’t have the same benefits that I would have if I was an employee. I don’t have sick pay or annual leave for example. But I do have more freedom, more flexibility with my hours. I can schedule out days or times I don’t want to work, and I don’t have to explain it to anyone really.
So here’s a few tips from one who certainly doesn’t have it expertly under control, but who has had many years of experience of juggling three children, running a home, paid employment, volunteer work and paid self-employment (whew!).
- If you can, take time off work in the school holidays. If you have an understanding employer this is easier. If you can afford not to be paid then take unpaid leave. It’s important. In my last paid job I just told them at the interview that I can’t work in the school holidays – take it or leave it that as my bottom line. They took it and it worked. This may not be easy for everyone to do though.
- If you are self-employed like I am now, try to put all your work into one day each week during the holidays. Don’t take more work than this until after the holidays are finished. I work part time so this is easier to do, although I yet have to learn to NOT schedule meetings (the idea that the kids can go somewhere during your meeting, like the movies etc is still a lot of organising and effort).
- It helps to have a partner/other parent who is able to share and is supportive of how hard the holidays can be. Share the load if you can. You won’t feel so alone with it and you will also have your closest mate understanding how hard it can be.
- Family holidays help reduce stress and burnout for all family members, but not everyone can afford it. Try to have some day trips and fun times close to home.
- Do your schedule for the next term, enter all the dates and appointments you will need for the whole term so that you are prepared. This will help you to get some perspective around what you will realistically be capable of. Are the children in too many activities outside of school? See my previous post on “How much is too much” and why it’s so important that children have down time – the idea of doing nothing in particular. http://www.therawparent.com/how-much-is-too-much/
- Make sure you cut down on as many commitments as possible whilst still keeping healthy and connected to people.
- Most of all have some fun and laughter while you are not rushing as much!
So here’s the challenge for my next school holidays – I’m going to look at the dates and plan well in advance leading up to them so that I am not caught out when they suddenly appear on the last day of term and I look with a sinking heart at my paid work schedule for the next two weeks and wonder how the hell I am going to do it!!
Ka kite – with love Aroha mai