12 Dec The work-at-home-parent’s school holiday survival guide
Or how to keep a freelancing business going when the kids are at home
Here in NSW, it’s the last week of the school year and we’re staring down the barrel of six weeks of summer holidays. Here’s my work-at-home-parent’s school holiday survival guide!
Of course, the great thing about being a self-employed, work-at-home-parent is that you can fit work around the kids. It’s a degree of flexibility that I’m very grateful for! But on the flip-side, there’s no paid holidays and six weeks is a long time not to work. It’s also a long time to book in vacation care if you aren’t absolutely sure that you’re going to have the work coming in to justify and pay for school holiday programs.
So, without further ado, I present to you the ways to make working from home work for you and your kids these summer holidays!
School holiday tip #1: The time-shift
OK, straight up off the bat, let’s recognise that there’s no way you’re going to be putting in a full day of work with your kids underfoot. It’s not going to happen, especially not for the primary school and preschool set (and that’s my only area of expertise at this point in time).
But what you can do is split your day. For me, I find getting up early and pumping out a few hours of work first thing is the best approach. My kids know that if they amuse themselves for a few hours, then we can all go out and do something fun in the afternoon. Alternatively, you might find it works better to go out in the morning, burn off some energy, and then come home for work (for you) and quiet time watching a movie or reading (for your kids).
Whichever approach you choose, I’d recommend scheduling work times in. Otherwise, work will end up needing to be done in that mysterious time of “later” – ie between 10pm and 4am the day of your deadline. And no-one wants that!
School holidays tip #2: Don’t work (every day)
Don’t expect to work every day! Plan some fun outings with the kids. You might set aside full days, or agree a schedule like you do a few hours work in the morning and then head out to do something fun after lunch.
And outings don’t have to send you broke. These summer holidays we’re challenging ourselves to see how many beaches between Palm Beach and Manly we can hit – low cost, outside fun for everyone! Other free or low cost outings include a trip to the park, a picnic lunch, and going for a bike ride or bush walk.
School holidays tip #3: Let your children embrace boredom
You do not have to be your child’s entertainment coordinator! Boredom encourages creativity. Give them a couple of suggestions, then leave them to it for an agreed amount of time. (NB – this strategy works better now that my school aged child is 8, might not be so successful with pre-schoolers and kindy kids).
Why not try a ‘bored jar’ to inspire your children with different things to do? Include a mix of fun stuff and chores, and impose a limit on the number of times your child can change or decline an item (ie if you don’t like your first pick, you only get one more chance).
School holidays tip #4: Fed kids are happy kids
If you are a work-at-home-parent like me who is trying to work with your school aged kids at home during the holidays, here’s another tip that works really well for me: Pack a lunchbox. Yep, even though you aren’t going anywhere, have food ready to go for the kids because I can tell you the number one reason why my daughter needs me when I’m trying to work is wanting something to eat. Make it easy for them to take care of themselves for a couple of hours by having food ready to go.
School holidays tip #4: Book ‘em, Mama (or Dada!)
Don’t feel guilty about booking the kids into vacation care. For the first year and a half of school, I fumbled through the holidays with a mix of early mornings, late nights, play date swaps and grandparent care.
And while it worked, there’s a lot to be said for dedicated school holiday programs.
My daughter LOVES going to taekwondo camp for one week of the school holidays. In my local area, we’re also blessed with council-run vacation care, loads of art and sport programs, and heaps of other options.
If you know you will be juggling and struggling to keep the balls in the air these holidays, take 15 minutes today to do a Google search of options and try to get a couple of last-minute bookings made.
School holidays tip #5: Hope Santa brings some books
Summer days are made for reading. Cross your fingers that Santa or a loving relative gets your children some new books for Christmas. Discovering and losing yourself in a great book is one of life’s great joys and the love of reading is one of the best gifts you can give your children.
Over to you
So that’s some of the strategies I’ll be using to keep the fires burning and the copy flowing these school holidays (after returning from my break on Monday 9 January!). Let me know your school holiday survival tips in the comments.